Gulf carriers are struggling financially and are looking for ways to cut down on services and costs and to increase revenue. A few years back, Etihad started selling lounge access and the complimentary chauffeur service drove itself out. Qatar Airways removed lounge access for those who upgraded using miles and started selling lounge access for a fee. Even Emirates started selling lounge access to passengers for a fee if they weren’t eligible for complimentary lounge access.
Emirates hinted at unbundling business class back in 2016. Looks like that is a reality now. A few days back, Emirates introduced a new business class fare, placed below saver level, known as Special Fare. Passengers booking Special level business class tickets,
- Won’t have complimentary Chauffeur service
- Won’t have complimentary Lounge access, unless they have access via status
- Cannot upgrade to First class using miles
- Seat selection is restricted except for Platinum members
- Steep change and refund fees
- Miles earned equivalent to Flex Economy fares
This is the first time that an airline is removing lounge access for a paid business class ticket, of course, if you remove the instance of Jet Airways during its financial doldrums. Usually, we have seen airlines not allowing passengers who upgraded from one class to another to access a lounge.
Another restriction is seat selection. While airlines around the world allow advance seat selection, at least for a fee, Emirates is restricting it completely in this case. Passengers booking Special level fares won’t be able to select their seat until the check-in window opens up. This sounds much like Vistara lite fares but on a Business Class level.
For now, the Special level tickets are available only on some routes like Dubai – Newark, Dubai – Muscat and so-on. It is not available for ex-India departures or arrivals even if you are travelling to places like Muscat or Newark or those where special level business class fares are available for now.
This is sort of similar to what carriers in the USA did when they launched basic economy fares. Emirates is expecting people to pay some extra to book saver level business class fares to avail lounge and chauffeur services. This might not be a real attempt by Emirates to sell these fares, but rather to create a new product at the lowest fare class so that people pay more for the privileges they earlier got as a part of their ticket. It might create confusion for those who do not book their tickets themselves. Imagine holding a paid business class ticket and being refused entry at the lounge.
What are your thoughts on Emirates unbundling business class fares?
(H/T One Mile At A Time)