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