The pandemic has thrown a number of conventions out the window. No longer do you smile at your barista – you attempt to convey your appreciation with your eyes. No longer do you sit on a bus for an hour a day – you waste that time ‘doom scrolling’ on your phone. No longer do you book economy flights – now you just don’t go anywhere…
Sound familiar? If you live in a locked-down part of Australia right now, much of that might ring a bell.
But what about when the pandemic ends?
A recent poll conducted by DMARGE on Instagram suggests some Australians are now more likely to try to fly business class on their first post-COVID international flight.
When we asked our 51k followers: “Are you more likely to try to fly business class on your first post-COVID international flight?”, 64% of respondents said “Yes.”
This comes after many people have, over the last twelve months, shared their experiences flying business class for the first time during the pandemic.
Some did it to reduce their chances of getting COVID-19 on a flight. Others did it due to economy passengers sometimes being booted from flights, due to passenger caps, making business class a safer (if much more expensive) way of getting home.
Industry experts are still open-minded, however, as to whether the business class boom will continue when the pandemic subsides.
Karl Schubert, a spokesperson for Singapore Airlines, told DMARGE, “There is no denying there is pent up desire for travel, but one cannot be certain how this pent up desire will translate into actual ticket sales once borders open.”
“There could be an initial rush for travel, which may subside and then build again as the market gradually returns to normality. Or it may be a case that while many have a strong desire to travel, it will take some time for customers to feel comfortable to book, as such it will be a slow burn.”
“A strong determinant of demand will be where Australians are permitted to travel to freely and what other requirements may be put in place.”
“Similarly, the impact the pandemic has on travel preferences, outside of a greater focus on health and safety, remains to be seen.”
On the other hand, luxury travel hacker and Flight Hacks owner Immanuel Debeer told DMARGE he thinks there will be an increase in business class bookings – potentially making for more ‘business class slammer‘ (a burgeoning business class champagne trend) recruits: “I think a lot of people will be seeking out the pointy end of the plane for a variety of reasons.”
“However, let’s be honest…most will do it just to have more personal space between them and that one potential covid zombie.”
As for whether he will be more likely to fly business class post-pandemic, Immanuel told us it’s a moot point, as he would typically fly at the pointy end anyway.
“The majority of my business and first-class tickets cost far less than what the person down the back… next to the toilet paid for their economy ticket. And the reality is that anyone with time to watch TV can educate themselves to do the same.”
What will business class look like coming out of the pandemic? Schubert told DMARGE a number of small things will have changed for Singapore Airlines: “Over the past 18-months we have had a strong focus on re-designing the entire travel experience to ensure when customers do return to the air, they can do so with confidence.”
“We have invested heavily in digital solutions that have seen inflight menus and magazines removed from the cabin and available on your own personal device.”
He added: “The MyKrisWorld inflight entertainment system, can also be controlled using your personal device, removing the need for customers to touch the inflight entertainment screen or handset. We have introduced KrisShop to our inflight entertainment system, allowing customers to purchase their inflight duty free, prior to or during their flight from their own personal device.”
“In addition to all this, we’ve continued to enhance our SingaporeAir app, allowing customers at select destinations to check-in online, receive a digital boarding pass and receive important updates regarding flight status and other travel information.”
“We have also implemented enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures, both in-flight and post-flight, while changes have also been made to the inflight dining experience to ensure we adhere to COVID-safe restrictions and regulations. Despite these changes, the one thing we haven’t changed is our focus on exceptional customer service.”
Qantas said it was too early to comment on what their business class might look like when international flights resume, but that there could be further news on this in August.
What we know will be different on Qantas, across all classes, is the introduction of a health pass for all passengers.
Immanuel said he imagines business class “will be much of the same when they eventually start the longer routes again, maybe even a cut back here and there for ‘safety’ reasons.”
“On the West to East routes, I flew recently there was a lack of welcome drinks and blankets in the name of our health so let’s see…”
Only time, health restrictions, and ticket sales will tell.