Last month, Emirates announced unpackaging its business-class fare. While I would not call it a true unbundling yet, it was indeed a first step. And there were several changes – some rather surprising.
Emirates introduced a new category of fares – Business Special. This is also known as H-Class or H-Code fares. In this post, I will deep-dive into the category.
Difference between Emirates Business Special and Emirates Business Saver Fares
Emirates Business Special fares are priced lower than a standard business class fare. Compared to a Business Saver fare, these fares had the following difference
- Lower earnings for miles and tier miles
- No upgrade to first-class using miles
- Higher fee for rescheduling flights
- Higher cancellation fee
- Paid seat selection
- No chauffeur to and from the airport
- No business-class lounge access
To clarify, there are no changes in on-board services and you still get priority boarding. These restrictions remind me of the first time economy sale fares were introduced. In fact, you would see conditions 1-5 in economy sale fare across airlines. So that is hardly surprising.
I also understand condition 6 as it may cost the airline $100 or more each-way for the service. In any case, I feel that chauffeur service should be replaced with ride-sharing apps (e.g. Uber). If Emirates were to give me a coupon that covers my ride to and from the airport in an Uber Black, I would be happy. And the economics may turn out better for them. In fact, Emirates is already offering 50% discount on Economy Flex and free rides on Economy Flex Plus fares through Uber.
I fail to understand the point of condition 7 though. If you are a repeat customer for Emirates and travel business class, there is good chance you are at least Emirates Skywards Silver. And one of the perks of the Silver tier is access to business class lounges.
Perhaps, Business Saver fares are meant for first-time travelers on Emirates.
Routes where Business Special Fares are Bookable
When the business special fares were announced, they were immediately bookable. However, the sectors on which these fares are available were not clear. I looked at the popular routes of Emirates and checked if these fares are available. Also, what would be the difference between these and Business Saver fares.
Dubai <-> Kuwait
Dubai <-> Mumbai
Dubai <-> London
Dubai <-> Paris
Dubai <-> Bangkok
Dubai <-> New York
Note: I could not find availability of Business Special fares between Dubai and Sydney in the few dates I tried.
As a general rule, rescheduling fee and refund fee in Business Special is double that of Business Saver.
As you can see, the difference between Business Special and Business Saver fares vary according to the route. In fact, the difference is directly proportional to the fare itself. It is only AED 250 ($70) for Dubai to Mumbai while it is AED 1,500 ($400) between Dubai to New York. In other words, higher the fare, higher the difference.
Now here is the thing, the two biggest difference between the two categories are – lack of lounge access and no chauffeur ride. I would expect that both these benefits are at fixed cost to Emirates irrespective of the distance traveled. Even as a passenger, I should be using the lounge and chauffeur ride irrespective of where I am going – Mumbai or New York.
Let us do some calculations here. Assume chauffeur rides from Dubai and Mumbai to your destination would cost you $60. Emirates charges $100 for access to its business class lounge at Dubai Airport (DXB Terminal 3). Adding the two up, the benefits are worth $160. While the difference in fare is only $70.
Like Etihad’s unbundled Economy fares, I like this move by Emirates. In fact, my primary reason to travel business class is the lie-flat seat. The second reason is better food. If I am getting both for a lower price, I am happy.
Emirates would need to work on its pricing though. More so, with premium economy expected to come in 2020.