Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Is Business Class the new 'medium drink'? (

GreenDragon May 4th, 2006 11:20 AM

Is Business Class the new 'medium drink'?

This is the third new transatlantic airline to offer business only service.

I remember when the 'small' sized drinks at fast food restaurants were tiny. There were three sizes, small, medium and large.

Now, the smallest you can get is what used to be called 'medium', and you can get huge drinks on the higher end.

Is this new emphasis on low-cost business class airline service going to be the cheapest we can get in the future? Will 'coach' be phased out, not even used anymore? Will there be an emergence of a 'super premium' service to be even better than the current first class?

I think we are definitely on a trend here. What do you think?

CotswoldScouser May 4th, 2006 11:41 AM

Actually, the interesting thing about long haul in general, and the high-density London-based routes in particular, is that they've kept Ryanair clones at bay largely because their economy fares are subsidised by the profits from premium classes.

Not altogether: there is now a significant low-cost sector on London-Canada and UK-Florida.

Even though it's virtually certain that one of these lowish cost business-only airlines won't be around in a year, they'll obviously take some of BA etc's cream.

So the question is: will that leave a bigger gap for real low-costs to extend to long haul (there already is a reasonably successful low-cost operation between London and Sydney!!) And on the shortish long hauls, especially UK-US East Coast, does that mean we'll have a Ryanair-like operator really slashing fares?

Personally I doubt it. BA et al have never really wanted their short hauik business and have been happy to have an excuse to fire the perople operating it. But they make their money on long haul. And they've seen off an awful lot of competitors (remember Laker? Remember British Caledonian? No: no-one else does either)

In the real world, when it comes to a fight between the 800lb gorilla and the seven-stone punk, my money's on the gorilla every time.

But the fight's worth watching. I just wouldn't expect to see an improvement in the quality of economy long haul flights. Those standing-room only planes may still come into service.

GreenDragon May 4th, 2006 01:37 PM

Cotswold, I'm thinking you are right. And I'm thinking that economy service will continue to decline until no one wants it, or very few -- and only a couple airlines will offer it for long-haul flights. Therefore the new 'economy' class will be, in fact, business class.

CotswoldScouser May 4th, 2006 01:59 PM

Of course people will pay for real economy. That's what most British "charter" operators offer on flights to Florida, West Africa, Egypt and Australia.

Operating to high safety standards, just adequate comfort, and stripped of nonsenses like free booze and FF miles there's a real niche for proper low-cost long haul.

Lend me a few million and I'll even launch it myself.

Barbara May 4th, 2006 02:35 PM

I remember British Caledonian. I liked flying with them.

Gardyloo May 4th, 2006 03:37 PM

Aer Lingus is out front in using LCC pricing models on transatlantic traffic. Once this summer (full planes, fuel surcharges being applied like mad) ends, there will probably be a reallignment of service levels and cabin mix in a number of markets.

When AA got rid of its "more room throughout coach" economy product, that choice was driven by domestic yields, not intercontinental yields. It's true that most legacy carriers operate longhaul economy at a comparative loss, with premium seats taking up the slack. But with so much market segmentation afoot across the Atlantic now (premium-economy service on BA, Virgin, Air NZ, BMI, United's Economy Plus, EOS and MaxJet et al) and probably more on the way, it may well be that consumers will take a different view toward "coach" across the water than they do for shorthaul domestic flights. Three hours with 31" pitch is real, real different from seven or nine hours, and people may not necessarily be as insistent on lowest price in all cases, especially if the margin for more comfort is 20% or so (versus 50% at the moment for World Traveler Plus or similar premium economy products.)

In real dollar terms, transatlantic economy-class travel is not much more expensive than it was 10 or 15 years ago; with so many "I" and "Z" fares, neither is Business-class.

I think First Class is short for the world, and in fact is being discontinued right and left. I see a three-class pattern as dominating the next 10 years - business (which will be renamed), premium economy, and discount economy. I imagine more business and economy + seats, and fewer economy - ones over time. Starting now.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:30 AM.