Emirates’ Business Special fares are a little bit cheaper than the Dubai-based airline’s regular tickets. But they also exclude many of the perks that traditionally come with a Business class ticket.
What you’ll get on a discounted Emirates Business Special ticket
Emirates customers booked on Business Special fares will still receive a Business Class seat and service on board the flight. But these tickets exclude lounge access, Emirates’ chauffeur drive service and advance seat selection. Business Special fares are also ineligible for First Class upgrades and earn fewer Emirates Skywards miles than regular tickets.
Eligible frequent flyers that normally receive lounge access based on their Emirates Skywards Gold or Platinum status – or Qantas Gold, Platinum or Platinum One status – will still be able to use the lounge when flying on a discounted Business (or any other) Emirates fare. Passengers just won’t be offered lounge entry as a perk of their ticket.
Seat selection on these tickets will only be possible after online check-in opens 48 hours before departure. This could result in getting stuck in a middle seat if you’re booked on a relatively full Emirates Boeing 777 flight with a 2-3-2 Business class configuration. However, complimentary seat selection ahead of time will still be offered to Skywards Platinum members.
The Business Special fares from Emirates book into “H” fare class. For passengers crediting to Qantas Frequent Flyer, Emirates Business Special tickets are not eligible to earn any Qantas points or status credits. Although, it is already not possible to earn Qantas status credits on Emirates-marketed flights with an “EK” flight number anyway.
Are the savings worth it?
So far, Emirates is only offering unbundled Business class fares on tickets originating in Dubai. For now, Emirates Business class tickets bought in Australia continue to come with the usual full suite of benefits. But Emirates could soon expand the model to other markets.
So, just how much cheaper are these new tickets? If we look at a return ticket from Dubai to Sydney as an example, the Business Special price is $7,326. The Business Saver fare, which comes with seat selection, lounge access and chauffeur transfers, costs $8,118. That’s around 10% or $800 more expensive on a return ticket.
Are the savings worth it? That will depend on the customer.
A likely reason for the change is that it allows Emirates to undercut competitors on price. Many companies have a “best fare of the day” policy that looks only at the price and may not care if a fare doesn’t include lounge access or frequent flyer points. It could also be the case that some flyers are happy to pocket the savings in exchange for accepting fewer benefits – most of which cost the airline money to provide.
A concerning trend
It is not unusual for airlines to un-bundle their Economy class offering, charging extra for things like baggage, meals and seat selection. But, with the exception of British Airways which charges for seat selection, this is very unusual for Business Class.
Jetstar is one airline that already offers two tiers of Business class fares. The airline’s Business Starter tickets do not come with frequent flyer points, status credits or lounge access – benefits reserved for passengers with a more expensive “Business Max” bundle. But Jetstar is a low-cost carrier; Emirates is not.
Other airlines will almost certainly be looking on to see whether this concept is a success for Emirates. As one of the world’s largest airlines, Emirates is a trendsetter. So it would not be surprising if other airlines soon copy. Etihad, which is in cost-cutting mode and recently began charging for snacks and drinks in Economy, could be one of the first to do so.
Emirates President Tim Clark signalled back in 2016 that the airline was considering offering cheaper Business class tickets that include only the lie-flat seat but exclude Business class meals, champagne, baggage and other extras. At least, in practice, these cheaper tickets still come with the full Business service once on board the plane.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Emirates’ new unbundled business class fares