Airlines are breaking down their business class fares into ‘unbundled’ tickets, in a similar way in which customers have come to expect from economy over the years. These tickets typically cost a couple of hundred dollars less than the full fare, depending on the airline and the flight route.
Some love it and some hate it. But whatever your take, it looks to be a trend that’s here to stay, with the technique spreading across the industry faster than you can say “hold my Dom Pérignon.”
Qatar Airways first did it as part of a de-bundling in November 2020 (which has been even further debundled recently) so now you can get all kinds of business class fares.
There’s the full English (for full price). This is called ‘Elite.’ Then there are a bunch more options, with fewer perks (and cheaper prices) like ‘Comfort’ and ‘Classic’ (think: the full business class experience, but with, for example, no seat selection). Then there’s business class lite which is business class but without lounge access and without seat selection.
Watch what it’s like to fly Qatar Airways business class in the video below.
Qatar Airways isn’t the only airline doing this. Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific is currently rolling out an unbundled business class experience (although the airline says it’s more in name than anything, with perks like seat selection and lounge access being set to remain even for unbundled tickets).
Finnair, too, has cut its business class fares into categories, with an unbundled ‘light’ ticket now being an option, in an attempt to cater to a growing demographic of leisure travellers who don’t need more than a carry on suitcase and a bag, and aren’t that fussed about lounge access.
Earlier this year, Finnair’s Chief Commerical Officer, Ole Orvér, said: There is an increasing need to personalise the travel experience, and our new ticket types offer opportunities for choice and tailoring. We want to offer our customers journeys that look like them, and we will be adding more choice and personalisation opportunities to our offering as we re-introduce services and prepare for ramp-up of our operations.”
Oh, and, how could we forget: Emirates. Emirates was one of the first airlines to introduce an unbundled business class experience, with its ‘special’ fare. Emirates’ special fare is cheaper than full service business, but means you can’t select your seat until check in opens, don’t get chauffeur priviledges, have no lounge access (unless you have eligible frequent flyer status), are not eligible for upgrades to first class, and have a lower rate of mileage earn.
Speaking of which – it seems one of the big reasons to unbundle business, other than to give travellers more options, is to give airlines more flexibility and offer customers more choice as the frequent flyer points industry booms. As more and more people jump on the bandwagon, airlines need to give people more things to spend their points on. This also gives them an element of control. When they anticipate lounges will be full, for instance, they can simply offer more ‘lite’ business fares online, rather than full service ones.