Posted by: doorstoautomatic | March 20, 2010

Junior Business

A surprise addition to a couple of stands at the Business travel show was a premium economy section. Since the economy went tits up, companies who previously flew their staff business have downgraded to ‘prem-ec’, largely to be seen to be doing something.

As a general rule, if economy costs, say, 500, premium economy will be double that (1000), biz will be double that (2000) and the same again with first (4000). But because everyone is deserting business class, there is some serious discounting going on and one can usually find a biz seat for a premium economy fare.

If the company is buying, that’s largely academic, as they can’t send people business class as a matter of policy, which explains why Virgin, BA, Air France, Air New Zealand, JAL and Qantas have seen a big uptake in their premium economy business.

Virgin had an example of their cabin at the show and it raises a clear question – is this premium economy or junior business?

The names are a bit of a giveaway. BA’s product is called World Traveller Plus – i.e. you’re getting economy plus a bit. But Qantas and Virgin both put the stress on the Premium, and Doors To Automatic were very impressed with what you got in VS Premium Economy.

Dedicated check in, better food and much better seats with more of a ‘junior business’ feel. Virgin confirm that a lot of people being forced down to ‘prem ec’ have been nicely surprised at the changes that have been going on behind that curtain over the last few years. Qantas looks similar:

QF premium economy.

The seat looks a lot like the spacebed in QF biz. Again, marketing Premium Economy in this recession should be about saying ‘look, this isn’t too far away from business class’, rather than ‘look how much better this is than economy’.

In this respect, British Airways are well behind.

Their ‘slightly better than economy’ doesn’t look much different to Y class. Indeed it gets the same meals as economy and is so far removed from their biz product that they could be on different airlines.

Ok, you do get a separate check in and fastrack at LHR, but it’s still very much economy plus, rather than junior business.

It feels very 1990’s. In this economy, where people are more likely to be falling out of biz and into prem-ec rather than splashing out from economy upwards, BA, like in so many areas, have got the wrong end of the wrong stick.

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