Airlines are unbundling their business class fares to attract the luxury leisure travel market, according to a trends report by Amadeus.
The fourth Amadeus Travel Trends report, which identifies key trends for 2024, says with more travellers wanting to fly at the front of the plane, airlines are offering more affordable and accessible “unbundled” business class fares.
Calling it ‘Business luxe-lite’, Amadeus says the trend was started Emirates in 2019 when it launched ‘special’ business class tickets with no lounge access, restricted seat selection and no upgrade abilities.
Qatar Airways followed, unveiling a Business Class Lite fare with passengers asked to pay extra for lounge access and date or route changes, while they also earn fewer Avios/Qmiles.
Zipair of Japan and Finnair began offering basic business tickets in 2021, while Air France and KLM added Business Class Light fares in 2023.
The report said at the other end of the scale, airlines are also installing more comfortable, private ‘luxe’ business class seats and added amenities.
“Examples include Japan Airlines’ A350 business class, Air India’s business class and Cathay Pacific ‘Aria’ business class, featuring features such as a 1-2-1 seating layout, sliding privacy doors, wireless charging apparatus, large 4K screens, and advanced Bluetooth audio streaming options,” it said.
Amadeus predicts the trend will continue next year, with Air New Zealand adding either four or eight rows, along with sliding privacy doors, a storage cabinet, vanity mirror, and a spacious side shelf of its Business Premier Luxe product.
Using the latest propriety data, industry-leading insight, and expert analysis from across the organisation, the annual Amadeus Travel Trends research also predicted the growing use of generative AI in online travel planning.
“Instead of selecting filters to fine-tune a search on a metasearch site or online travel agency (OTA), travellers can simply provide a brief to a chatbot in the same way you would a human advisor,” says the report.
“For example, a new ChatGPT plug-in from Expedia acts like a virtual travel assistant, listening to customer needs and delivering instant hotel and itinerary recommendations, with links to book.”
The report said the next generation of GAI-powered customer service will be delivered with “greater patience and empathy”, reducing the workload of agents to deal with the bulk of after-sales servicing and customer review management and giving them the bandwidth to provide “the human touch on more specialist issues”.