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Business Class Now Comes With Fewer Perks. Should It Be Cheaper?

Business Class Now Comes With Fewer Perks. Should It Be Cheaper?
Marcy Knaves

As long as planes are still flying, passengers will be on board. And, especially since upgrading may be the best way to social distance, it makes sense to fly business class if you have the points or cash to afford it. But, while business class fares are still flying, the perks they offer just aren’t the same.

Reduced Service

Many lounges are closed, and food and drink service once you board is severely curtailed if not altogether absent. Or, as the FlyerTalker who posed the question put it:

Food offering minimal, no alcohol, no Concorde room lounge or food or drink, no showers, no cabana, no spa treatment, no arrivals lounge or showers or breakfast facilities etc.

I completely support these decisions on the basis of health and safety, so I have no complaint here on that nor expectation of compensation.

And, it should be said, this FlyerTalker is talking about a non-refundable cash ticket, purchased before the lounges closed and other amenities were cut back. So, should they be compensated or partially reimbursed?


Let us know in the comments section, or see what the Very Frequent Fliers in this FlyerTalk forum thread have to say.


[Image Source: FlyerTalk]

View Comments (25)


  1. cmd320

    April 3, 2020 at 7:52 am

    With aircraft essentially empty and all services being stripped away from premium cabins it really doesn’t may much sense to buy a J or F ticket at this point. Buy a Y ticket and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a row to yourself.

  2. jrpallante

    April 3, 2020 at 9:12 am

    In recent months, I have only flown domestic, but the price of first class tickets is waaaay down. I used to have to seriously think about whether I was willing to pay the higher fare for First Class, but now it’s a no-brainer. As always, the market will determine the price of Biz/First seats, as well as any potential decreases due to reduced services or amenities.

  3. BigChiefToiletPaper

    April 3, 2020 at 9:16 am

    No Question whatsoever should partial reimbursements be issued. If you paid to sit on the front row but get moved to the back of the stadium, the “service” you mostly paid for was the view. That has now been compromised.

    Buying a business class seat is more than just a lie flat seat. It is all of the amenities that come with it. The “service” has not just changed by losing one provision, but a multitude of services.

  4. HGB

    April 3, 2020 at 9:16 am

    One can perfectly understand that in these difficult times some services have to be cut bak but when it is to the extent described (it must apply to BA as Concorde Room, the First class lounge at LHR is mentioned) there should definitly be a substantial cash (not miles) refund.

  5. chadbag

    April 3, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Yes there should be compensation. You agreed to a certain level of service for a certain price. If the airline changes that level of service after the fact, then the price is open to negotiation or reconsideration as well, since they are not providing the service contracted for.

    Say you contracted with a plumber to install a certain sink. The price was $1000 including the labor to install. The sink itself is $500. The plumber comes and installs a cheaper sink, saying the manufacturer had discontinued the more expensive one. He still wants his $1000 that was the quoted and agreed price. No way would I pay him the $1000 since the agreed sink was not installed (and it is not his fault, the sink was not available). Same thing *should* apply to flights. They offer a set of services and if they change it, they should renegotiate the price since the price was paid against a certain level or service. Now, there is probably some small, fine print somewhere saying that they can do this without any recourse by the passenger.

    Airlines need our help and compassion now as they are hurting badly. However, after a decade of crappy service, being nickel and dimed to death, reduction in seat pitch and width to where you are uncomfortable the whole way packed in like sardines, reduction in service quality, and a general lack of caring by the airline for their passengers, I am having a hard time wanting to give the airlines any “pass” right now. They squandered all the good will of most of their passengers trying to squeeze the last dime out of them — let them boil in their own juices. If they go bankrupt, new airlines will appear to take their places.

  6. awayIgo

    April 3, 2020 at 9:27 am

    I came back from Israel 2 weeks ago. Paid business! (El Al) On board food was there, lounge was closed, everything in departure area was closed but one store. We will not discuss what I paid for a bottle of water.

    The last thing I thought of, in fact I didn’t think of it at all til, this article, was looking for compensation.

    Airlines are hurting, employees are being laid off without salary. MOST of us who pay business can afford it. I’m not going to start demanding compensation. Sometimes you need to be grateful if you are alive and healthy and just suck it up!

  7. Scott Kiwi

    April 3, 2020 at 9:36 am

    No, of course not. The airlines are being kind in allowing the Business Class option to continue to be there for travelers. They likely have to add a staff person to work that cabin. A few drinks or some food is not an essential aspect of the travel. And, of course, I am just kidding! Lower the rate when you lower the service.

  8. Tsun

    April 3, 2020 at 10:10 am

    They should. But considering that most airlines are refusing to even refund tickets for cancelled flights (what is their legal obligation in most cases), there’s no chance in hell that they voluntarily will.

  9. dliesse

    April 3, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Emotionally, it seems logical to offer some sort of compensation. Legally, no — the contract of carriage guarantees nothing more than a seat between points X and Y. You could argue about not delivering what’s advertised, but there’s also that pesky “force majeure” clause in the contract.

    A good compromise in my mind would be extra points/miles/whatever-your-program calls it in the amount of the difference between what you’re already getting and what you would get for the most basic fare (since that’s pretty much the difference in your service right now).

  10. rundmc

    April 3, 2020 at 10:41 am

    So, maybe I haven’t been keeping up on the news as tightly as others, but why no alcohol on flights anymore? Is it carrying the virus? I can get all kinds of liquor at home and I live in Seattle which is one of the epicenters. So, not sure why you can’t get alcohol if you happen to be flying to begin with.

  11. Morgacj2004

    April 3, 2020 at 11:39 am

    The airlines are reducing services and amenities in the name of safety COVID 19. This is an excuse to save money. Clearly you are entitled to a refund or compensation if you booked the ticket prior to these reductions. Getting that compensation is another story!

  12. kkua

    April 3, 2020 at 11:56 am

    Problem with serving cocktails is the fact it requires manual handling to open the containers, filling glasses with ice, partially filling with mixers, etc… there’s just too many points of hand contact. And by law, it’s not self serve so the quantities can be monitored by the crew.

  13. 2old4coach

    April 3, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    I have not seen an appreciable reduction in business fares on domestic flights I used to fly on a regular basis on AA of DL. Perhaps $100-$200 on what was usually a peak demand flights. I see AA doing everything they can to make the business class experience as cheap and uncomfortable as possible for domestic flights.

    I have Lounge access though a very expensive AA credit card yet I see no offer of a reduction in cost or compensation of accommodation. No offer of a future lounge pass or terminal drink coupon. ( if you can find anything in the terminal.)
    All the airlines are saving on catering and booze.
    They seem to have no problem sticking it to us when times are good, now when they need us they will continue to stick it too us because they can because we are stupid enough to pay the premium for business…

    Yes the fares should be lowered domestically. I have seen some very good international fares in Business class but NOT on AA or DL

  14. PlaneSpeaking

    April 3, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    And if we bring our own “refreshments” and perhaps a bottle of wine to enjoy with our egg sandwich… what happens then?

  15. Flyermarin94941

    April 3, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    I too believe that if a lower level of service is provided a low fare should be charged
    The respondents who have commented upon ” the good times” fee gouging and seat
    size shrinking etc are “right on”
    Also CEOs and upper level management should MARKEDLY reduce their compensation
    and benefits— these savings could then be applied to the front line airline staff who are
    being greatly impacted by the pandemic

  16. Wing It One World

    April 3, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    I asked this question back in the middle of March, when flying back from Tirana, no lounge no options of any water refreshments nothing. No response from BA, To be fair I get both sides of the coin but I have just had 1000 Avios removed due to there T and C’s so the operative stated and sent me a link to them. I get that but it’s seems acceptable that BA can ignore these if it benefits then and you are waiting over 2 weeks for a refund from a flight they cancelled, and nearly 4 weeks for a response regarding lack of lounge. I guess we are just numbers and they really don’t care, or the service is so poor one has to choose more wisely which airline to fly with in the future. Stay safe and be happy😀😀😀

  17. CaptRogerMurdoch

    April 3, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    I don’t think cash refunds are in anyone’s best interest now if we want airlines to survive.

    I had a personal trip, non-refundable DL/VA Upper Class London flight canceled – would be in London now – and now have a substantial credit. Part of the reason I sprang for Upper Class is the LHR T3 VA Clubhouse. Now the challenge is to spend all that on an assortment of US Domestic flights by late November (1-year from orig purchase).

    If I had gone to London and all the VA Upper Class perks disappeared, I definitely would expect some substantial non-cash compensation. A voucher credit, or miles, or future Upper Class or Delta One upgrade (from, say, Premium Select).

    However, the miles, voucher or upgrade might disappear, along with my current large credit. All in all, I’d rather see VA survive. I’ll get over my smug luxury travel entitlement attitude.

  18. bloomz

    April 3, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    I flew thru HGK 3 weeks ago and the Pier was open, the other closed – but there were about 10 people in the lounge that is big enough for a couple hundred. I did figure HGK airport was one of the most disinfected places in the world, FWTW.
    Biz class on Cathay I counted 40 seats with 4 of us in the whole cabin.
    Nothing was lacking to me – I’ve done this trip over 20 times and everything, meals etc were normal. I love Cathay’s biz class

  19. TheRealBabushka

    April 3, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    If prices are low it is a good way to clock up Tier Points/Status Credits to retain status, even with a downgraded service. The goal is to maintain status so you get treated better overall, not just on one flight.

  20. OZFLYER86

    April 3, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    there have always(at least for past 20 years or so) been 1/2 dozen different business class airfares on the same airline, same route.

    The cheapest fares always have less amenities.

  21. alangore


    April 4, 2020 at 8:09 am

    It would be perfectly logical to issue compensation for reduced J and F amenities on previously purchased tickets. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with airlines here. If they can see an opportunity to jerk the leash another notch tighter on passengers, they will take it.

    This situation is our own fault for not insisting on specified consumer standards in exchange for the bailout.

  22. Caesonia

    April 4, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    I think that first class has been reduced in a way that is ridiculous. It’s about service, not just the seat. CV19 should not be used as an excuse to not even offer a can of beer. Only bottled water. I think they can offer the beer and wine in a bottle/can and let you unscrew it. How is that any different than handing you a bottle of water from a ‘touch’ perspective. It’s CHEAP.

    Secondly, for those who have paid for lounge service, there should be something available, and it should actually serve food and alcohol and other fluids. Change the fare, change how it is offerd, but that money has been paid. It will keep people working, even if we can’t use it. Shutting them is a money saving action, moving the dollars we paid for that to other areas, instead of the actual service.

    Yes, if you are cheapening the experience to having to buy your own food? Then forget calling it 1st class. It isn’t. And it isn’t keeping folks safer or employed.

  23. mvoight

    April 5, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    CapRoger – If the airline canceled the flight you should be able to get a refund, even on a no refundable flight.

  24. mvoight

    April 6, 2020 at 4:29 am

    If people booked before the benefits were reduced they should be compensated.
    Of course, they are generally able to cancel, get credit, and then rebook at the current lower fares

  25. Lord Bowdon

    April 9, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Absolutely there should be compensation of some sort. Four days before the travel ban, I completed a round-the-world on One World on a paid business class ticket.

    Four intermediate stops, six lounges, 80 hours total travel time, 40 hours in lounges. If the lounges had been closed, it could be argued that I had lost “half the value” of my time, because I used those lounges to work, eat, drink, shower, sleep.

    Obviously that was not half the cost incurred by the airline, because they had to move me, but I would certainly expect to receive six non-expiring One-World lounge passes if they had been closed.

    International Business Class is always marketed with included (superior) lounge access, which is why 75% of the time, I buy it for international flights Removing it, for whatever reason, takes away a significant part of the experience and the passenger should be compensated.

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