In the past few years, “basic economy” fares have become practically ubiquitous: Appearing on major airlines such as American, Delta, United, and British Airways, they allow customers to book cheaper fares without privileges such as seat selection and priority boarding. Now, one airline is tackling the other end of the fare spectrum, offering stripped-down business-class fares for those who still want the comfortable seat, but not necessarily all the perks.
As of June 10, Dubai-based Emirates has started offering “Special” business-class fares, as first reported by the aviation blog One Mile at a Time. This ticket type does include a free checked bag and two carry-ons, which is standard on Emirates, but it doesn’t factor in typical lounge access or a chauffeur to and from the airport, both of which are perks of flying Emirates’ other business-class fare types today. (There are four total, each with varying amenities and restrictions.) The “Special” fare class also doesn’t allow for first-class upgrades, and there are restricted seat assignments, which means fliers booked on the fare can only select their seat after check-in opens. With the move, Emirates is the first major airline to sell a “basic” business-class fare.
Currently, these “Special” fares are limited to select routes. On a flight from Dubai to Muscat, for example, the “Special” business-class ticket is around $100 cheaper than the next-lowest level of Emirates’ business-class fare, “Saver,” which does include lounge access and chauffeur services. An Emirates spokesperson told the business magazine Fast Company that the new fares will “be offered on certain routes based on seasonal trends in travel demand.”
Emirates has hinted at a move of this type since 2016, when CEO Tim Clark said in an interview with Skift, “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.”
Some aviation insiders say that a basic business-class fare class will ruffle fliers who are used to the bells and whistles of business class, while advocates say it allows fliers to pay for what they actually want. Regardless, even though no other airlines have (as of yet) hopped on the “basic” business-class bandwagon, we doubt Emirates will be the only carrier with this option for long.