In the last few years, a major trend was emerging: micro trips. With cheap flights, even to the farthest reaches of the globe, aspiring travelers could afford a few hours in economy, for frequent, priceless getaways. For some, it was nearly every weekend, and even 24 hours of exploration was better than none. Then the clouds fell out of the sky.

With travel in a literally “virtual” standstill and social distancing an increasingly popular topic, will micro trips die, in favor of trips with more comfort and safety built in to each juncture?

There’s a bit of a fallocy when it comes to business class, mostly around always being 10x more expensive than economy, or worse. There are plenty of times that’s true, but for those who follow travel deals, it’s commonly somewhere between double, and triple. With 1/3 of the trips, that could take care of that.

Moving to a fully flat bed, some of which even include privacy doors, from a cramped economy seat is quite an attractive proposition in a world increasingly concerned with social distancing and health. For many, less impacted by financial instability, it may be the way forward.

Since airlines are already unbundling the amenities offered in business class, there’s also more opportunity to tinker with pricing and what comes with the heavenly seat-slash-bed. Fewer trips, more space, more comfort, less social contact? Who cares about airplane food? For a lower price, probably not you!

If the travel budget all evens out at the end of the year, there’s a lot to love.

Once a year travelers aren’t likely to move the needle for airlines as easily as airlines might like, but increased demand from leisure travelers for seats up front could represent a crucial pivot in the space, particularly with business travel unlikely to ever return to previous volumes.

With each day at home, more and more businesses realize that the “meeting” half way around the world could’ve just been a video chat, and compared to $5,000 refundable airline tickets, hotels and client dinners, a whole lot less expensive too. Bill Gates agrees.

If a larger segment of economy travelers are trying to push up front, it’ll leave plenty of seats down the back for those who care less about social distancing, and with lots of inventory, it should mean cheap fares remain in good form, even if fewer airlines come out the other side.

Datapoints suggest younger travelers aren’t taking social distancing nearly as seriously, and with typically lesser means to upgrade, and a hungry apeitite for travel, millennials and Gen Z’s will likely stay happy with the status quo, with designer face masks for good measure.

Ultimately it will come down to price, and that’s where unbundling could really be the way forward. Finnair recently launched business class fares which don’t include checked bags, but save big on price. There’s no reason an airline couldn’t further differentiate and unbundle things to give people the seat they crave, but perhaps without expensive things they just don’t need.

Basically, the business class experience may not include quite the same perks it once did on the cheapest fares, but it will always include one of those big, heavenly and most imoportantly – private – seats. For many who will travel less, but hope for more, that could be just the ticket.

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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3 Comments

  1. I can see older people and those immunocompromised opt for business class seats in the post covid-19 world but for younger folks who tend to backpack or leisurely travel, I think they’ll most likely travel in economy, wear a facial covering, and hope the plane is not full so they can get an economy couch!

  2. Not forgetting of course that the virus lives on hard services for a good period of time so where ever you lay your head, wipe your hands over the seat belt buckle, tray table, screen…, perhaps only 2 hours since the last passenger on a long haul flight. .. then there is the issue of insurance ( health) much of which is being corvid 19 excluded…

  3. I don’t care about being picked up in a limo.
    I don’t care about “private lounges”, with “free food and drinks”.
    I don’t need cancelation privileges.
    All I want is the big comfortable seat. It’s all the extra stuff that drives the price so high that the common folk can’t afford it.
    Unbundling is a godsend to people like me.
    On the other side of the coin, I can see frequent fliers being in a real tizzie! If airlines make it more affordable for us to buy a better seat, there won’t be anymore automatic upgrades because there won’t be any available!

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