Is ‘Business Minus’ The Next Game-Changer In Cabin Class Evolution?

As first class becomes a distant memeory, airlines are figuring out how to fill the void.

Is ‘Business Minus’ The Next Game-Changer In Cabin Class Evolution?

Image: @BermudAir

Could Riyadh Air’s “business minus” be the long-awaited champion we’ve all been waiting for in the post-first-class era of travel?

The current cab-class shake-up has been a long and often controversial process. As airlines abandon first class — which, though always shiny and exciting, draws more eyeballs than it does hard dollars — and look to provide premium business class services as their top-level product, it leaves a question of how to fill the emerging void between these newly elite travellers and the mere mortals riding back in cattle.

Many have attempted to answer that question — business-only airlines, such as the one pictured above, are one example of many — but a new contender has just emerged… Dubbed “Business Minus,” this new approach promises a premium experience without the hefty price tag of traditional business class. But what exactly does “Business Minus” entail, and how might it revolutionise the way we fly?

What Is ‘Business Minus’?

“Business Minus” is a term coined this week by Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas, encapsulating a class of travel that offers amenities and comfort levels that fall somewhere between premium economy and business class. This concept aims to deliver many of the benefits of business class — such as enhanced comfort, superior service, and always-welcome privacy features — at a more accessible price point than the pointy-end proper.

Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas. Image: Riyadh

The idea isn’t entirely new; some airlines have flirted with similar concepts, branding them as ‘premium economy plus’ or ‘economy comfort.’ However, “Business Minus” aims to push the envelope further by integrating features traditionally reserved for business class. This includes more spacious seating, advanced entertainment systems, and possibly even features like privacy partitions and enhanced meal options…

Could ‘Business Minus’ Be a Game-Changer?

Comfort And Privacy

One of the key selling points of “Business Minus” is the significant upgrade in seating comfort and privacy compared to standard premium economy. Airlines exploring this model are considering seats with greater recline, increased legroom, and potentially even mini-suites that provide passengers with a higher degree of privacy… but these seats are decidedly not lie-flat.

For instance, while Riyadh Air has chosen to elevate its business class experience to near-first-class levels, it’s also focusing on making its premium economy — what could be considered “Business Minus”— a cut above the rest:

“When you are looking at premium economy, is it ‘business class minus’ or is it ‘economy plus’?… is it closer to other people’s business or is it closer to other people’s economy? I would like to think our premium economy is better than other airlines’ business class.”

Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas
Image: Riyadh

Value for Money

As stated above, the economic viability of first-class travel has long been up for debate, with many airlines phasing out these luxury suites in favour of more versatile business-class options. “Business Minus” offers a middle ground, delivering an apparently superior experience without the prohibitive costs associated with first-class.

As Douglas aptly puts it, the commercial sustainability of first-class suites is often untenable:

“Many global airlines have gone that route because the commercial economics of first class struggle to consistently sustain themselves, and we want to be financially sustainable as well as environmentally sustainable…”

Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas
The new cabin class will apparently take cues from its sleek uniforms… Image: Riyadh

The Future of Air Travel

As the aviation industry continues to evolve at a more rapid rate than ever before — with both the climate crisis and the cost of living crises posing somewhat existential threats — the introduction of “Business Minus” could represent a significant shift in how airlines structure their cabin classes.

By blurring the lines between premium economy and business class, “Business Minus” could potentially become the new standard for air travel, offering a compelling option for passengers who want more than economy but don’t wish to splurge on business class. With major players like Riyadh Air already paving the way, it’s only a matter of time before we see more airlines pile in behind…