Air France and KLM start their Business Light fares, without lounge access, without advance seat reservation and limited baggage allowance

Without prior announcement, the French and Dutch national airlines are launching their Business Light fares, which are available for booking from today, including on long-haul flights.

The european airline group is thus giving in to the pressure of unbundling, launched by certain Gulf airlines and other smaller airlines such as Finnair.

What are the consequences for the passenger? Here’s a quick analysis.

A new Business fare without the usual services

What does this new Business Light name hide? A Business class ticket, but without the usual ground services. While these fares do provide SkyPriority services, they do not include access to the pre-flight lounge, checked baggage or seat selection before check-in opens.

One checked bag, no lounge and no seat selection before check-in is open

This fare is only offered on certain destinations for the moment, but on both Air France and KLM. However, I find Air France a bit late on the topic, knowing that many airlines are already starting to revert their changes.

A trend launched by the Gulf airlines and followed by some European airlines… But it’s already on the decline!

One of the pioneers of this phenomenon, modestly called unbundling, was Qatar Airways, which has been voted best airline in the world for several years. But this best airline in the world wanted to preserve the exclusivity of its Business lounges and rightly so: the experience is truly above the rest.

Qatar Airways has just opened its new Al Mourjan lounge in the new terminal extension at Doha-Hamad airport

But since then, the Qatari airline has reverted that change, and their Business Classic fares include again access to their premium lounges

While Qatar Airways’ Business Classic fares did not include lounge access at launch, this has now become standard, even if the choice of seat has remained at a premium

Its competitor Emirates also launched its unbundled Business fares a few years ago, just before the COVID crisis, without lounge access or chauffeur service.

4 Business fare levels on Emirates: and the famous Business Special fare, which does not include the iconic chauffeur service, nor access to their high quality lounges
Emirates, known and recognized for its chauffeur service on departure and arrival initially included in all Business and First fares and now not included in this “special” fare

Other European airlines quickly followed the lead of these two Gulf carriers, such as Finnair, which offers a Business Light fare without any priority services.

Finnair also offers a Business Light fare, stripped of all priority services

The majors offer Light fares in Business and sometimes even in First, but access to the lounge remains included at Lufthansa Group or IAG.

At Lufthansa Group, the notion of a “Basic” fare in Business only affects the flexibility of the ticket, at least for now.
British Airways does not even offer a Light option for its long-haul flights

American carriers have not yet given in to this unbundling trend, nor have Asian airlines.

What are the consequences for loyal passengers?

While this will require infrequent Business passengers on French and Dutch airlines to pay separately for these services, one can expect these benefits to be “restored” for SkyTeam Elite Plus passengers traveling on these Business Light fares on Air France and KLM: lounge access of course, but free second baggage and advance seat selection.

SkyTeam Elite benefits will be maintained on these new fares.

We asked Air France press office this morning that confirmed this information. It is a big plus compared to some fares at British Airways or Lufthansa where loyalty programs benefits do not apply.

Why such a deployment?

Obviously, the answer seems obvious: to bring new sources of revenue to the sale of Business tickets, and incidentally to better position itself in terms of price to come out ahead on online comparators and corporate GDS. All this in the context of a price war in Q3/Q4, after a deadly summer in economy class.

And obviously, the old all-inclusive fares will become the new Light fares…

Stay tuned!

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.
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