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Pros and Cons of Cheap Business Class Flights to the UK and Europe

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When it comes to deciding whether to book one of the cheapest Business Class flights from New Zealand to the UK and Europe, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of the available options.

When we prepared our 2019 ranking of the Top 5 Business Class Airfares to the UK and Europe, what  stood out was that the Top 5 were all what we would consider “premium airlines”.  Although we promoted and offered cheaper Business Class options, on balance the benefits offered by the premium airlines outweighed the price savings.  So we thought it was a good time to reflect on the pros and cons of the cheapest airfares.

Cheaper Flights Aren’t with “Low Cost” Carriers

The airlines that we reference in this article offer consistently cheaper Business Class airfares to the UK and Europe – generally below $6,000pp return and some below $5,000pp return.  Although the airfares are cheaper than the likes of Emirates, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines, these airlines are not “low cost carriers” in the same vein as a Jet Star.  For various commercial and tactical reasons they are willing to offer Business Class airfares at a greater discount than other carriers.

The Pros

The Price

Eiffel tower, Paris. France

When the cheapest Business Class airfares to the UK and Europe can be less than half the price of a full priced airfare, price is clearly a benefit.  Although it’s tempting to think that price is the sole consideration when choosing a Business Class airfare, generally it is value for money that wins out.  In many cases, clients are willing to pay more for the value offered by the premium airlines and to avoid the cons below.

Limited networks can also mean that additional flights (or rail) is required to get you to and from your preferred destinations, so the overall price may end up being pretty close to the price of a premium airline that services that airport.

Lie-Flat Seats

Korean Prestige Suite Business Class

When some of the first airlines to offer cheaper Business Class airfares started flying to New Zealand, we saw an uptake from clients who had previously flown Premium Economy.  The reason they gave us was the need for a lie-flat seat for the long journey and the discounted Business Class fares were around the same price as Premium Economy.

Whether it is to arrive refreshed, or because of lingering back or hip pain, being able to stretch out and sleep on a long flight makes the world of difference.  With only very rare exceptions now, all the airlines we work with offer lie-flat beds on all flights.

The Onboard Experience

Prestige Class MealsThe Onboard Experience can be a Pro or a Con depending on your expectations before boarding.  As these airlines aren’t low cost carriers they still approach their Business Class offering with the goal of providing a premium experience.

Business Class clients who fly Korean Airlines for the first time frequently comment that the Business Class meals are they best they have experienced when travelling.  On a recent trip to China one of the Fine Travel team discovered that Hainan Airlines have a dedicated member of the crew who cleans the Business Class toilets after every use.

The onboard experience may not have the consistent polish of the Emirates, Qatar Airways or Singapore Airlines crew, but it is still a Business Class experience.

The Cons

A Longer Journey

Seoul, South Korea at the Bukchon Hanok historic district.

There are two aspects to the first “con” of cheaper Business Class airfares – forced stopovers and more stops.

Stopovers can be a great way to break up a journey and add a new experience to your itinerary. Take the time to explore a city you might have always wanted to visit (or go back to) without dedicating specific holiday time to.  A couple of days exploring Seoul may be all you’ve wanted to do, but flying all the way there and back for two days isn’t worth it.

With the cheapest Business Class airfares there is generally a forced stopover at the regional hub because the flight arriving from New Zealand doesn’t connect with an onward flight to the UK and Europe (and potentially the same on the return).  Generally the airline provides a day room or a hotel room for longer stopovers and there is the option to take a day tour (the tour may cost extra).

In addition to the stopovers you may also end up going “around the houses” to get to your final destination.  Often this is because the airline needs to fill the aircraft and so flying via Australia before getting to the regional hub and then the UK / Europe is necessary (and then the same on the way home).

Fewer Routes into the UK and Europe

With the larger / major airlines, there are often more routes from their regional hub into the UK and Europe (and a greater frequency of flights).  The airlines offering cheaper Business Class airfares to the UK and Europe are more likely to service fewer major cities.

If you’ve got a more comprehensive itinerary (such as joining a cruise or a tour) you might want to fly into (or out of) a specific city (we addressed these savings in our article on Open Jaw airfares).  Adding the cost (both in time and dollars) of that additional domestic European flight may not outweigh the benefit of the original discount.  The domestic European flights also introduce the complication of transitioning a baggage allowance from an international Business Class flight to a domestic flight.

Availability on preferred travel dates

Often what we see with the airlines offering the greatest Business Class discounts is that they have very strict and detailed restrictions around the dates that the airfares are available.  This has advantages if you are flexible, and disadvantages if you are not.

Schedule changes

Image of businessman at airport looking at airplane taking off

Airline schedules changes are an unfortunate part of air travel and no matter which airline you choose there are no guarantees that unscheduled maintenance, weather delays or other unforeseen circumstances won’t affect your plans.

In our experience, schedule changes are more frequent with the airlines offering the cheapest Business Class airfares and therefore some level or disruption or inconvenience is more likely to occur.

Limited Frequent Flyer Membership

Often the the airlines offering the cheapest Business Class airfares to the UK and Europe are not members of either the Star Alliance or One World Networks.

Choosing the Business Class Airfare that Works for You

Overall we are fortunate to have a range of airlines that fly from New Zealand to the UK and Europe.  This allows us to work with our clients to find the right mix of price and quality to meet their expectations.

On our Business Class Specials page for the UK and Europe we maintain a selection of the latest Business Class and Premium Economy specials to the UK and Europe offering a range from the cheapest through to the discounts offered by the premium carriers.