Finnair Is Introducing A New Business Class Fare (And You Should Be Careful)


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Recent news out of Finnair suggests that the airline is set to follow Emirates’ example and, from later this year, offer a Business Class fare that doesn’t come with all of the usual benefits associated with Business Class travel.

Fortunately, unlike Emirates, Finnair doesn’t intend to remove key Business Class benefits like lounge access from its Business Light fares and it will not be offering these unbundled fares on all routes, but that doesn’t mean that these fares shouldn’t be treated with caution.

Finnair Rebrands Its Fares & Introduces Business Light

The introduction of “Business Light” fares is part of a broader fare rebranding which the airline is undertaking to try to reduce the number of fare names that it uses across its network:

  • “Pro” fares have been rebranded as “Flex” fares
  • “Value” fares have been rebranded as “Classic” fares
  • “Light” Economy Class fares are being rolled out to more destinations (previously only offered within Europe).
  • The “Basic” and “Saver” fare names have been eliminated on routes where those fares were used.
  • “Business Light” will be introduced in Autumn (Fall) 2020

Here’s which fares will be offered on which Finnair routes:

Click to enlarge

As you can see, only short-haul flights within Europe and select Finnair routes to Asia (where the fare originates in Europe) will offer Business Light fares, so Finnair’s transatlantic routes (on which it’s part of a joint venture with American, BA, Iberia, etc…) will not be offering Business Light fares…at least not for now.

Business Light vs Business Classic

The differences between Business Light and Business Classic are mostly not particularly major…

  • Flights cannot be changed
  • Fights cannot be refunded
  • No checked-baggage allowance
  • Lower points accrual (award charts not yet online)

…but until we know what the points accrual rate will look like we won’t know for certain how much Finnair flyers booking Business Light fares will be giving up.

This May Be Bad News

If we’re all being honest, most of us don’t really care what Finnair does to its own award charts because most of us don’t credit our flights to the Finnair Plus program. What we really care about is how these fares will affect the accrual rates within the major oneworld loyalty programs…and this is where some vigilance will be needed.

Finnair’s fare rebranding and shakeup will see “Business Classic” fares using fare code “R” and Business Light fares using fare code “I”…but take a look at how British Airways and American Airlines currently treat those fare codes:

American Airlines earnings – Click to enlarge
Example of British Airways earnings – Click to enlarge

Both American Airlines and British Airways already code “I” fares as the lowest-earning Business Class fares but both also currently view “R” fares as an Economy Class fare.

This raises two possible issues:

Firstly, it’s very clear that both American and British Airways are going to have to alter their earnings charts to accommodate the changes that Finnair is making, and this may prompt them to change how many miles and elite credits the new Business Light fares earn.

British Airways is unlikely to change very much (it may reduce Avios earnings, I doubt it will reduce tier point earnings) but American certainly has scope to make things worse.

As things stand, Finnair’s cheapest Business Class fares attract the following earnings in the AAdvantage program:

  • 25% Cabin Bonus
  • 2.0 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) per mile flown
  • Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) earned at 25% of the distance flown

These are noticeably better earnings rates than the earning rates for the cheapest Business Class fares on a number of other American Airlines partner airlines.

Qatar Airways’ cheapest Business Class fares (for example) don’t earn a cabin bonus, they only earn 1.5 EQM/mile flown and they only earn EQD at 20% of the distance flown and there may not be much to stop American from using the same lower earning rates for Finnair’s new Business Light fares.

Secondly, if Finnair’s partner airlines don’t update their award charts in a timely manner (they have a lot of more urgent matters to attend to right now) it’s just possible that flyers may find themselves earning a lot fewer miles and elite credits when booking Business Classic fares.

If you’re booking Finnair flights and happen to be booking a Business Classic fare, be sure to check your earnings when they hit whichever loyalty program account you’re crediting your flights to – they may not be correct.

Don’t Be Fooled

I’ve already noticed that a few of the people I’ve spoken to about these fares are already repeating a mistake that people made when Basic Economy fares were first introduced – they think that this new Business Light fare will see Finnair offering cheaper Business Class fares.

It won’t.

Business Light is not being introduced so that Finnair can sell its customers cheaper fares, it’s being introduced so Finnair can offer its customers less for the same price that they’re currently paying. Admittedly they’re not being offered very much less, but less is still less.

Bottom Line

Finnair will be introducing Business Light fares from later this year and flyers crediting these fares to the major oneworld loyalty programs should make sure they check what earnings these fares offer before buying their tickets.

There’s a chance that Finnair’s participation in the transatlantic joint venture will mean that the likes of BA and American will not cut earnings on the new Business Light fares but, then again, how often do airlines pass up on a clear opportunity to give us all less? 🙂

[Thank you to the reader who sent me the link to Finnair’s new fares]

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