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…
Earlier 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.
When 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.