“Unbundling” is a favorite topic of airlines, it means charging additional fees for things like checked bags that used to be included in the price of a ticket.
In theory this should be good for travelers – you pay for only what you use – though in practice most passengers hate it and see themselves as paying more.
Much of unbundling, in the US at least, is driven by the tax code.
Although premium cabins continue to have most services included – checked bags, meals, priority boarding, and often even more flexible changes. That’s not universally true — Spirit Airlines markets “the Big Front Seat” which is just that — a bigger seat — and doesn’t buy you out of other fees such as carry ons that don’t fit under your seat.
It could also bring with it unbundling of business class fares.
Newly-minted Malaysia Airlines CEO Christoph Mueller tipped the new “pick’n’mix” scheme on the sidelines of this week’s International Air Transport Association meeting in Miami.
“Customers might book a business-class seat, but opt out of the miles or lounge access,” Mueller tells Aviation Week.
Malaysia Airlines doesn’t today have IT systems that will support this modularity. But it would be a step beyond what most other carriers have done, if they bring it to fruition.
And if discounted business class tickets don’t come with lounge access, would award tickets?
You may think elite status will at least get you lounge access, but fellow oneworld member British Airways wants to exclude lounge access and priority boarding from its lowest fares.
This would be an extension of BA’s ‘handbag only fares’ that unbundle checked baggage and eliminate the free checked bag benefit for elite members. This exclusion is spelled out specifically in oneworld elite benefit rules as well, meaning that an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum does not receive a complimentary baggage allowance when flying BA on one of these fares.
It’s a brave new world, and business class may not be exempt for long.