It's remarkable to look back at the articles we published in 2016 about low cost Business Class airfares from New Zealand to the UK and Europe and whether booking one of those Business Class airfares would mean missing out on some of the premium cabin benefits clients would normally enjoy. Business Class for less than $6,000 pp return seems like a different world... that is until China Southern released a jaw dropping Business Class airfare of $6,000* pp return to London (before professional travel service fees) and for some dates in November we found it to be even cheaper. As of 11 October 2023 this fare has expired and we are waiting for an update from China Southern.
Is this too good to be true?
We have to set expectations up front. As we detail below, there are very few seats at this level and the eligible travel windows are very tight. The purpose of this article is to highlight the potential trajectory of Business Class airfares to the UK / Europe and where this airfare sits in the context of pre-2020 Business Class levels and the levels since our borders reopened in 2022.
Fine Travel clients who have read our review of China Southern and flown with them in the past found it to be an excellent alternative to Premium Economy airfares which, at the time, were around the same price point. With a full lie flat bed, priority boarding and lounge access it very quickly became a "no brainer".
So What's the Catch?
Normally with a Business Class airfare to London discounted to this level we would be singing from the rooftops - particularly when it is just over half what some of the premium carriers are pricing their Business Class flights at. However, we also need to be realistic - Given the tight travel windows and tight general availability, we need to be careful to set fair expectations. In this case the catches are:
- General availability - China Southern hasn't released many seats at this level and the next booking class up is significantly more expensive.
- Travel windows - Only available for specific departure windows between 1 August and 31 December 23 (Christmas travel commencing between 21 November and 24 December is excluded).
- Travel period - The maximum travel period is 1 month from the date of departure.
- Advance purchase - China Southern has in the past included a 28 day Advance Purchase requirement (i.e. you can't book these flights within 28 days of departure). Although there are currently no advance purchase requirements on this fare, they could be introduced at a later stage.
The reality is that if you are looking to travel Business Class from Auckland to London in November and December this year (excluding the Christmas dates noted above) with advance planning, flexibility on your departure and return dates, and a modicum of luck, it may be possible for us to secure Business Class flights to London with China Southern for less than $7,000*pp return (plus professional travel service fees).
Transiting Guangzhou, China
China was one of the last countries to open its borders to tourists and some health restrictions still apply to international travellers transiting Guangzhou. The main requirements at the time of writing are:
- Completion of a health questionnaire.
- Completion of a RAT within 48 hours of departure and have a time stamped photo of a negative result.
These requirements may change so need to be confirmed prior to booking and again prior to travel.
What does this tell us?
This China Southern airfare suggest that some airlines may have an appetite to deeply discount Business Class airfares from New Zealand to the UK / Europe to gain back market share. When we wrote about Singapore Airlines telling shareholders not to expect airfares to remain sky high when they announced record profits, we expected to see this come into play already.
As we approach the traditional 2024 UK / Europe Earlybird season we will watch airlines like China Southern and Korean Air with great interest.