Emirates First Class Champagne

When you think business class, you think “all the stuff”. The champagne, the flat bed seat, the big luggage trolleys full of suitcases, amenity kits and airport lounges. But what if you could save a whole bunch of money by choosing to skip out on just one, or a couple of those things?

After Emirates set the trend in 2019, yet another airline is offering an unbundled business class, and the offers could be compelling…

finnair_350Earlier in 2020, Finnair became latest airline to tinker with lower priced business class fares sans a few thrills, but the airline didn’t gone nearly as far as the first to make the move, Emirates. For starters, you can still access Finnair’s exceptional lounges before your flight, even on these “light” fares.

Now, another airline is taking the plunge. Japan Airlines owned ZIPAIR will now offer a fully unbundled business class experience, for those simply seeking a little extra space, in the form of a bed in the sky.

To most travelers, the only noticeable amenity lost with Finnair’s “light” business class fares is checked bags. You can’t bring any, unless your elite frequent flyer status with a Oneworld airline entitles you to. That may seem like a stark change, but many frequent travelers avoid checked bags at all cost. Why pay extra to “not’ bring them?

Other limitations include no ability to change or refund your flight. If you can’t travel, you eat it, and when it comes to earning points, you’ll earn fewer of those compared to ‘classic’ or ‘flex’ tickets too. You still enjoy priority check in, airport lounges, priority boarding and all the same meals and drinks on board as everyone else.

ZIPAIR however is going further, with the option to separate, or opt out of virtually everything. You’ll be able to enjoy a seat only experience, add meals, lounge access or bags and other perks. For the right price, a bed is a huge upgrade, and without the other amenities which cost airlines considerable change, it could be a steal.

And perhaps importantly to some, there’s no way for another passenger to know what fare you’re on. There’s no big giant sign above your seat saying that you bagged a bargain.

a food on the counter in an airplaneWhen Emirates introduced unbundled “H” fare business class to the world in 2019, their offering came with restrictions which mean you’re effectively just getting the seat. Airport lounge access was slashed, the ability to upgrade to first class was nixed and you could only select a seat within 48 hours of departure.

You’re basically buying the bed, food and drinks in the sky, but that’s where the luxury begins and ends. Finnair chose a different tact, keeping the end to end experience the same, with fewer perks in the background and of course, no bags.

Many travelers would happily pay a reasonable difference to sleep in relative comfort on the flight, particularly with increasingly grim economy seat dimensions. At the same time, many business travelers pass up on lounges anyway.

When economy fares are high, an unbundled business class could be just the ticket to book, and also allow airlines to price seats more competitively to highly sought after destinations, without compromising other elements of the business class experience. This would allow airlines to be more nimble in launching sales, and everyone loves a sale.

With covid-19, passengers value space to at least imitate social distancing more than ever, and with fewer business travelers in the skies, this provides an excellent pivot for more price conscious travelers who still want a better experience.

These moves are seen as a way of fending off low cost airline competition bringing innovative business class concepts to more and more long haul flying routes. The world expects JetBlue to innovate in the US-London business class market next year, and Norwegian has tinkered with business class cabins too. New airlines are popping up in Asia, such as Starlux chiming in with their own variation.

When it comes to pricing, there’s never been a better time to fly business class, or at least there won’t be when people actually travel again. It just might not feel quite the same, as a few odds and ends go missing.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I find that a FANTASTIC unbundling and will certainly move some of my business (no pun intended 🙂 ) to Finnair if these fares prove to be good value and should the routing be interesting as I rarely travel with checked in luggage.

  2. My #1 reason for buying business class (or better yet booking with miles) is to sleep in lie flat seats. Most of my flights are over 8 hours and overnight. I don’t care much about food, luggage (I get it via status) or lounge access (get it via status/PP). If unbundling reduces fares, I would be much more likely to book business class vs. premium economy. Thanks for covering this Gilbert!

  3. This is bad news for those of us who have agreements to travel in Business Class with our employers. Companies will drive to the lowest fare class, stripping away features that make the exhausting experience of traveling for work tolerable.

  4. Hi, not sure whether you can help but I need some advice re my status with Oman air.
    I’m a gold member which will expire end October this year. I’ve already flown to Bkk this year but with Emirates because I had to use 117000 skywards miles before they expired.
    Because of the virus I may not fly enough miles ( business) before the expiration of my gold card. They have given some leeway’ to those expiring in March but that’s no good to me. Messaging Oman is a waste of time.
    Can you help please.

  5. Sounds a good idea to me depending on the details.
    I travel UK to Thailand twice a year although that might go up or down depending on changing circumstances. I usually fly economy and via ME, Qatar Gulf ect. I don’t fancy 9 to 12 hour flights. I’ve looked at premium economy but that’s not available on my routes although I might use it to return to the UK direct to avoid transit issues due to the virus.

    I’ve been upgraded to business twice on Jet Airways for one sector and I paid on one sector with Qatar (not Qsuite). I also travelled business on Gulf Air (787) with my wife last year which I paid for.

    The main advantages for me are the flat bed. I wouldn’t worry about sector length or flying direct in that case. The better food is nice but economy is ok but it’s the extra room to eat that stands out for me which you’ve got anyway so economy food in a business seat is fine. Lounge access is good but it depends on how busy it is and unless it’s a long layover then that’s not a problem as I could pay if needed. I don’t need alcohol and in fact I can’t remember ever having any on a flight so no problem there.
    I do have checked baggage but it’s only about 13kg so I don’t need the extra allowance. I could probably go carry on only if needed as I have clothes at both destinations. I only use a slightly larger than cabin sized bag as I sometimes take gifts and even then I often end up taking extra clothes just to fill the bag.

    I’ve previously looked at booking business just for the second sector where the discomfort trends to increase but that is often not much cheaper than full business class or even more sometimes.

  6. I am self employed so I spend my own money for business travel. I mostly care about comfortable (flatbed) seat and personal space. Other perks of J class are secondary hence I welcome unboundeling of J fares.

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