The release of discounted Business Class flights provides travellers from New Zealand with a wide variety of choices. The challenge can sometimes be finding the special that works best for you. The question we hear most often is whether there is a lie-flat seat. But does picking up a discounted Business Class airfare mean you have to miss out in other ways?
What's Driving the Business Class Discounts?
Airline competition has been fantastic for travellers to Europe and North America (the competition that Hawaiian Airlines brings to the Auckland to Honolulu route deserves special mention). Interestingly, rather than true "low cost carriers" driving prices down, the discounts are primarily being driven by competition between existing carrier and new carriers trying to break into the New Zealand market.
Qatar Airlines for example has an award winning Business Class and in 2017 when it arrived on the scene offered one of the cheapest Business Class deals to Europe.
Sometimes you are Just Getting a Good Deal
In our blog Plan Ahead for Discounts on Business Class Flights to the UK & Europe we covered how airlines "reset" discounted Business and First Class airfares at the start of the Europe Earlybird season and gradually increase the prices as high season in Europe approaches (and the advent of rolling specials).
So sometimes you are just getting a great deal on Business Class airfares. Cathay Pacific is a prime example. Our clients consistently provide positive feedback about their Business Class experience with Cathay Pacific which introduced a brand new A350 on the route between Auckland and Hong Kong, and it consistently has one of the best priced Business Class specials to Europe.
Is the Food Consistently Good in Business Class?
The airlines that are considered to be "true premium" carriers do try and offer a point of difference in the quality of the food and wine onboard. The most well known example is Qantas' collaboration with Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry.
Singapore Airlines Youtube series "There's No Detail Too Small" also provides an insight into their commitment to Business and First Class cuisine (and it's a fun clip).
Now that's not to say that every Business and First Class meal will be at the same consistent level of quality as you would find in a top restaurant on the ground. But if the onboard culinary experience is important to you, it's important that you work with a true premium carrier.
Do you Miss Out on Frequent Flyer Recognition?
This is a tricky one and has the unfortunate answer of "it depends". Generally if the airline you are travelling with is part of the same frequent flyer alliance as the airline you have membership with, you will receive recognition. How much recognition depends on the airline and often how much of a discount is being offered on the Business Class airfare.
The most common trap is that some airlines offer discounted Business Class in a booking class that doesn't accumulate frequent flyer points. So although you're travelling in Business Class, you don't get recognition for it.
So What Are the Downsides?
Putting aside finding an excellent discounted Business Class airfare on a premium carrier, the entry level price for Business Class to Europe is generally under NZ$6,000 per person return (and in some cases under $5,000 per person return), with some airlines such as China Southern and Korean Air releasing heavily discounted Business Class fares.
The good news is that at these prices you are generally getting the core elements of a Business Class experience. Some of the biggest differences:
- You might have a longer journey with an extra connection via Australia and then another stopover before Europe (although you may have this with Emirates and Qantas too). Sometimes there are longer connection times.
- On rare occasions you may have angled lie-flat rather than 180 degree lie-flat seats. Singapore Airlines Business Class from Wellington to Melbourne then Singapore and Emirates Business Class to Bali are good examples of this (but the flight angle in theory makes the experience still feel lie-flat). Most airlines flying from New Zealand to Europe offer lie flat Business Class seats as standard.
- The onboard service, cuisine and wine selection may not have the polish, selection or true quality of a premium airline.
- Communication may be less smooth where English is not the main language spoken onboard.
If the idea of being squeezed into an Economy Class seat all the way to London makes your stomach turn, the entry level pricing for Business Class becomes appealing - and you may be surprised with what is on offer.
Originally published on 26 November 16, and updated on 10 November 17 and 22 February 18, and 11 March 2019.