The commercial game played by airlines
Is this a commercial game airlines are playing? Do these different fare types add any value for business travellers or is the process being muddled unnecessarily?
Not all business classes are created equal
To answer these questions we need to look at why airlines offer different classes to begin with. The most compelling argument is to distinguish themselves from the competition. Add a little more legroom and a seat that can recline more and a new class is born. In other words, creating a new class isn't hard; however, changing how a traveller experiences that class is more challenging. A business class seat on a European flight offered by one airline can be completely different from a business class seat on an intercontinental flight offered by another airline. And yet the class remains the same. While one airline proudly introduces lie-flat seats as its new in-flight product, the other will top that with private suites in a more exclusive class. Travellers don't really care what the class is called, as long as the service and quality meet their expectations.
Knowledge is power
Achieving this requires knowledge. Business travellers can't be expected to know the difference between all classes offered by all airlines, nor can they be expected to know what does and does not fit within their travel policies. This is where the travel management company (TMC) comes in. Travel consultants track airline developments and know what each class has to offer. They also understand the needs and requirements of business travellers and work in accordance with their clients' travel policies. This combination ensures that a TMC can provide the necessary transparency in the confusion of classes and services.
To return to my previous question – whether these classes actually add value for business travellers or whether they simply muddy the waters – the answer is yes, the different classes certainly add something. Business travellers can definitely benefit from added legroom and the possibility of taking more luggage. But they also muddy the waters. All airlines have their own criteria, which makes them increasingly difficult to compare. A clear travel policy and the advice of an independent party, like a TMC, is therefore important.
How do you experience the different airline classes? I look forward to hearing your opinion.