Emirates cheaper business class 'special fares': What you get and is it worth it?

Emirates cheaper business class special fares: What you get and is it worth it?

Emirates has lately announced a new sub category in its business class fares special fares or H class fares in Emirates' own parlance. This special fare comes without many of the things you take for granted when you fly business class with a leading carrier like lounge access seat selection and a swag of air mileage points.

It's what the airline industry calls an unbundled fare. Normally signifies a bare bones flight and while this is a familiar concept among low cost carriers, a business class fare shorn of some of the frilly bits is completely new territory for leading carriers like Emirates.

But it sounds like a great idea right? You get what you really want which is a fabulous business class seat and onboard pampering without paying more for the stuff you can live without. And while it might seem like a game changer it's not in its current format. Which might be the reason that Emirates chose not to make a big deal about it.

What an Emirates Special fare does and doesn't get you

You will get the same generous baggage allowance as a regular business class flyer namely 2 x 32KG of checked baggage plus 2 x 7KG carry ons. Seat selection is restricted and it's not up to you,you will be allocated a seat by the airline with no possibility of a change.

Special fare flyers earn 50% of the air miles that a traveler earns with a full fare business class ticket. You can't use points to upgrade to first class on an H class ticket and the fee for a flight change is double what a passenger flying on a saver fare the next rung up the business class ladder would pay.

You are losing the cushy limo transfers as well to and from the airport and there is no lounge access when you get there. You will be mixing with the hoi polloi in the terminal's bottom shelf and you willl still get the same priority boarding privilege as any other business class flyer.

How much are you saving?

It's maddeningly difficult to find any special fares on the Emirates website and if you are thinking of flying aboard Emirates on a special fare from Australia tough luck "At this stage the special fares are to be confirmed for Australia" according to an Emirates spokesperson.

Based on figures supplied by Emirates flying return from Dubai to Paris in February 2020 the Business Class Special fare is AED7350 UAE dirhams. That's a saving of AED1500 on the next cheapest Business Class Saver fare or 17%.

If that same metric was to apply to Emirates' Special fares across the board, that suggests a Business Class Special fare of around $6240 for a return Melbourne Paris flight in February 2020. Which is about 1280$ less than a Business Class Saver fare on that route.

This is only 180$ less than a business class seat flying aboard Qatar Air same dates same route. And that comes with the full suite of Qatar's business class goodies. And, lest we forget, Qatar took the gong for World's Best Business Class in both the 2019 Skytrax World Airline Awards and 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards.

Emirates' premium economy

Emirates is betting there are enough economy and premium economy flyers who place a sufficiently high value on comfort that they are prepared to shell out for one of the best business class seats in the air but they are not prepared to offer that seat at a lowball fare.

Emirates might be treading cautiously is that the airline is planning to introduce premium economy seats on its A380s in 2020. Premium economy seats often sell at 2½-3 times the price of an economy seat.

There is a big leap in comfort food status recognition and personal service between premium economy and business class. Emirates would not want to jinx its premium economy seats by having them compete with their Special fare business seats and therefore the relatively high price of those seats.

It's a low risk option. Emirates can vary the number of these Special seats to offer more on routes and times when higher cost business class seats with the full complement of bells and whistles are unlikely to sell out. In peak season on a route where the airline is assured of a high number of business class bookings you can bet Emirates won't be offering any Special business class fares.

Is it worth it?

Emirates is in new territory with its unbundled business class seat for a comparison you might look at a low cost carrier that offers a similarly shorn service and AirAsia's Premium Flatbed is a likely candidate.

Baggage allowance for Premium Flatbed flyers is 40 kilograms you get a complimentary meal although don't expect it to be within coo-ee of an Emirates business class meal. You get to pick a seat priority boarding and priority baggage handling. You also earn AirAsia big loyalty points.

So much for the frills but it's the seat that really matters. It's a lie flat seat rather than a full flat bed which means there is a slight downward tilt toward the feet. The shell type seat has a pitch of 152CM extending to 195CM in full recline mode.

Although in terms of storage compartments and privacy the Emirates business class seat puts it in the shade. In common with many low cost airlines there are no seat back screens. The inflight entertainment feeds to a dedicated AirAsia Xcite tablet device and Sony noise cancelling headphones one free perk that separates AirAsia's Premium Flatbed passengers from their economy flyers. Configuration in the dedicated premium flatbed cabin on the Airbus A330-300 is 2-2-2.

AirAsia doesn't have anything like the global reach of Emirates but as a ballpark figure you could expect to pay around 2800$ return for a premium flatbed seat aboard AirAsia from Sydney to Bangkok in February 2020.

The cheapest return Emirates business class flight from Sydney to Bangkok in that same month is about 4223$. Discount that by 17% to approximate what you might pay for a special business class fare if such a fare was available and you would be paying about 3500$, or 700$ above the AirAsia premium flatbed seat.

AirAsia flight includes a stopover in Kuala Lumpur and the airport in Bangkok is the old Don Mueang not the newer Suvarnabhumi Airport and it's second rate. If it was an option the Emirates special fare would be worth considering although it's around 350$ more than you would pay flying business class with Thai Airways.

The tweaking of business class

Emirates is not the only player tinkering with its business class but while that airline is looking to unbundle its business class Lufthansa is heading in the other direction upbundling. When Lufthansa launches its Boeing 777X late in 2020 business class flyers that prepared to pay more could opt for a longer lie flat seat one that comes with wider wings on either side to create an expanded workspace even an upgraded menu.

Nor is Lufthansa taking the paring knife to lounge access or any of the other standard perks that come with a business class fare. The proof of this new business class plus concept will be in the pudding but if it's as good as Lufthansa is suggesting it could be another nail in the coffin of 1st class.

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