Could Basic Business Be Coming?

Gary Leff, among others, have written a bunch about Basic Economy, the concept that Delta has embraced, where customers essentially buy the seat. They get no advance seat selection, in fact, if they are elites, they are not even eligible for an upgrade. American is embracing this idea as well.

From a consumer perspective, I think this is just bad news. I’ve already had a few friends that have mistakenly purchased these “basic” fares and not realized it until they boarded. All have regretted the experience.

A recent Skift article, interviewing Emirates CEO Tim Clark, reveals even more concerning news with the trend of “basic fares.”

Emirates Basic Business Class

Credit: Travel Codex

Basic Business Class

Skift asked Tim Clark if he would focus on selling discounted business class seats. Here is Tim Clark’s answer:

Clark: I know certain segments will take [premium economy] straightaway. Baby boomers, the aging population of Europe. No mortgages, money in the bank, spending the inheritance of the children, that kind of thing. But they would prefer to have a bed.

You might just say, ‘OK, I’ll give you a special price, just for the [business class] bed. I won’t give you the incentives. I won’t give you ground. You’ll get the business product in the air only, and that’s it.’ No chauffeur drive, no business-class lounge, no expedited [security] search. No uplifting your baggage allowance, et cetera. You just pay for the bed. I’ll give you a price for that. Maybe, if you’ve got business class seats going begging, that’s the easy way to go, rather than create a completely new product, which is going to upend the distribution systems, upend service delivery and upend the logistical management on the operational side.

My read of Tim Clark’s comment is that he’s thinking of something very similar to the concept of Basic Economy, perhaps not as dire, but still concerning. We’ve seen that Emirates has already instituted fees for advance seat assignment. In fact, Tim Clark even mentions the unbundling of airfares, in a separate statement in the interview:

You could offer premium check-in. You can offer expedited [security] search. [We can offer] our chauffeur drive, on a pay basis.

My read is that many of these comments are pointed to unbundling Business class, in fact, embracing the trend that US and European Airlines are doing for economy passengers, and extending it to business class passengers.

A single statement as to why they might do it

While this quote is taken completely out of context, I think it is still very much a statement of the Emirates Business model. Furthermore, I think Emirates has proven that they are willing to buck the trend, and in some cases–such as the Shower on the A380–to lead the industry. That said, this statement makes me think that Emirates just might be ambitious enough to consider an industry shocking “basic business” approach:

The whole Emirates business model has been a complete destabilizer, disruptor to the aviation world.

And if you don’t believe me, just read what Tim Clark says about the onboard bar for Business and First Class on the Emirates A380:

Clark: [They said,] ‘No, no, no, we can’t do it.’ I said, ‘Watch. It’ll happen.’ People said, ‘No, nobody will use it.’ I said, ‘You’re telling me that nobody will want to get up and stretch their legs on a 16-hour flight?’ [They said,] ‘they’ll never use the bar. It’s waste of space. Put business-class seats in there.’ [I wanted] an upper deck of quality — a premium offering. A bit like a cruise ship there, on the top decks. The collegial, convivial atmosphere is great.

Wrapping Up

I hope I’m wrong. I sincerely do. But as I read the Skift’s interview with Tim Clark, so many things resonate with me. Perhaps even more concerning; I would be seriously considering this “basic business.” The idea of having a layflat at a discounted cost is great! Losing lounge access? Well, perhaps I would just arrive at the airport later. No Chauffeur? I’ll take Uber. If I’m going to fly business (which would be a first for me on Emirates), the thing that matters most to me, is the onboard experience. I’m talking first about the aisle-access, layflat bed–something that is lacking on everything but the A380–and the meal, perhaps even the bar experience, when on the A380.

Emirates Basic Business Class

Credit: Travel Codex

What do you think? Would you embrace a Basic Business fare?


10 thoughts on “Could Basic Business Be Coming?

  1. All I care about is efficient and unobtrusive quiet service in a clean cabin with a bathroom that works, food that is palatable and a wide lay-flat bed (too many biz seats are too narrow). Get rid of IFE (most people have their own devices in J). Get rid of the shower. Get rid of the bar. And teach stewards not to clump along the aisles while we are trying to sleep. And can’t they do better than crappy curtains to keep out the noise/light from the galley? Very annoying to hear clank of dishes when you’re sleeping.or glare of light into the cabin.

    • @Mser – lets be clear – Emirates is talking about a basic business, not talking about first class (which is the shower). Based on other parts of the article, I don’t see Tim Clark backing away from the bar. But, that said, I totally hear you on the clank of dishes… Even with super heavy drapes (like the kind that you have to push through), I was still hearing the clinking on OZ recently.

  2. I wouldn’t pay for it, but then again, I don’t pay for premium economy either. Is the extra space nice? Yes. But not worth the money to me, with or without the meals, entertainment, lounge access, etc.

    • @Becky – fair points. I do think a lot of people like the bed. I’m a huge fan of a layflat bed… Wish EK had that (other than on the A380!)

  3. If I can get a bed with fewer miles than not, well, why not? I don’t earn miles for riding J or F, anyway, as I don’t pay with dollars. I don’t REALLY need your business class lounge access anyway, as I have both Priority Pass and Amex Platinum; I can and do use the Delta lounge even if flying Basic Economy. I don’t bring more than one checked bag; I’d rather pay a laundry, if that’s all that’s available, than haul two checked size bags with me on a trip.

    The only thing that I would expect for my decent bed price in miles is the upgraded meal. But then, I expect that in premium economy, as well.

  4. I’m a perfect candidate for basic business.

    Most of the time I spend on a plane is spent sleeping. I don’t need IFE or amenity kits or FAs checking on me every hour. JUST LET ME SLEEP.

    I try to watch what I eat and drink. Therefore I always feel that I’m wasting the business class amenities compared to people who gorge and get drunk.

    I don’t need lounge access, I got that convered from amex platinum. Arriving 30 mins earlier is no big deal to me either. I will put on my headphones and rock to my tunes or be immersed in an audiobook

  5. Pingback: Morning Chai: Duckpin Bowling, Free Airport Wi-Fi, Czech Alternate to Delta and More - Rapid Travel Chai

  6. Pingback: Emirates Is Considering Unbundling Business Class | One Mile at a Time

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