Business Class Goes Basic: Emirates, Lufthansa Lead the Way

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Business Class Goes Basic: Emirates, Lufthansa Lead the Way

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No frills basic economy fares are the airlines' way of getting travelers to pay more for what was once included in airfare. Want to pick your seat? Pay up. Check a bag? More money, please. Change your fare? No chance.

And now it seems that not even high-paying (in cash or points) business class passengers can't even escape the weed-like growth of basic economy.

Emirates, one of the best airlines in the world heralded for its premium cabins, has begun selling what can only be called “basic business class fares,” according to One Mile at a Time. On a handful of routes, you can save a few hundred dollars on your Emirates business class fare by giving up the ability to pick a seat at booking or access a lounge.

Emirates calls them “Special” fares, but the only thing special about this that it's unprecedented. Business class passengers are some of the highest paying and loyal flyers. It's unclear if these new fares are actually cheaper than the previous business class rates. But asking some of your best customers to pay more to pick a seat or use the lounge is a cheap move.

And Germany's Lufthansa – another highly regarded airline – is doing something similar. Though the airline isn't unbundling business class fares, a Lufthansa executive told Australian Business Traveler that the airline will charge business class flyers to pick seats when its new business class seats start flying in 2020.

Just how it will work isn't clear. Lufthansa could charge to select any seat, no matter where in the plane. Or it could simply charge more to pick some of the best seats – the solo “throne” seats with more room and storage than the rest of the cabin.


Basic Business Class
Rendering provided by Lufthansa


If it's the second approach, that's not exactly unprecedented. SWISS charges flyers more to pick the more private “throne” seats, where you don't have a seatmate.

Only time will tell which way Lufthansa goes.


Our Analysis

Airlines just can't help themselves.

They've gone after every single penny they can squeeze out of flyers by charging more to check bags, and even jacking up the cost to avoid basic economy.

And while the average traveler may have little sympathy for the points- or cash-rich flyer who can afford business class, this is a troubling development. It's a sign that the quest for cash by unbundling is spreading even to premium passengers.

Emirates is looked to as a leader in luxury travel. You've all seen those iconic commercials with Jennifer Aniston flying Emirates first class.



For Emirates, of all airlines, to “lead” the way by unbundling business class is particularly troubling. What's stopping other airlines from copying them?


Bottom Line

It seems like a penny-wise, pound-foolish move to unbundle business class fares in the name of a buck. Let's hope this isn't the start of a slippery slope.

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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