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In April last year, Finnair announced that it would be introducing a new, stripped-down, Business Class fare called “Business Light” in the Fall of 2020. Then the pandemic came along and the new fare didn’t materialize…until now.
Finnair has finally introduced the “Business Light” fares that it promised last year and now that we can finally see what benefits the airline has stripped out to make the fare “light”, the news hasn’t been looking look good. The checked-baggage allowance and the lounge access that the regular Business Class fares offer are just two of the things that have been removed to create the Business Light fare, and the redeemable miles and elite credits that the new fare offers have been pared back too.
For the past few days, things have been looking pretty gloomy on the Finnair Business Class fares front, but a little bit of digging has revealed that the news may not be quite as bad as we thought. In fact, the news could have been a lot worse.
Some Elite Benefits Are Still Valid With Business Light Fares
Finnair is a member of the oneworld alliance and that means that if you hold elites status with a oneworld airline like American Airlines, British Airways, or Cathay Pacific, you’re entitled to a number of special benefits when you fly with Finnair.
For the past few days, it hasn’t been clear if by buying a stripped-down Business Light fare a oneworld elite flyer would have to give up all the benefits that their elite status gives them, and the fact that Finnair appears to have chosen to stay silent on the matter has done little to dampen down the speculation.
Well, I have good news. At least some of the oneworld benefits that Emerald and Sapphire elites have been used to are still going to come into play when they fly on a Business Light fare.
You’ll find a detailed breakdown of what all of Finnair’s different ticket types offer on the airline’s website and one key line stands out:
Logic suggests that if Finnair’s elites may be entitled to more benefits than their fare class usually offers, the same will apply to other oneworld elites….so I put that theory to the test.
I made a dummy reservation for a typical Finnair Business Light booking…
…and decided to see what the airline would offer me for free and what it would try to charge me for once I entered my British Airways Executive Club number (which would tell Finnair that I have oneworld Emerald status).
Things got off to a good start because even before I even had a chance to add my BA frequent flyer number to the reservation, the Finnair site let me know that my fare type didn’t offer a checked-baggage allowance but that oneworld Emerald and Sapphire elites are entitled to “one extra bag” when traveling on Finnair flights.
This is a standard oneworld benefit afforded to all Emerald and Sapphire elites but it usually means that where an elite flyer’s fare class allows 1 bag, their elite status gives them 2, or where their fare class allowance is 2 bags their elite status gives them 3.
More often than not, when booking fares that don’t offer a checked baggage allowance at all, this oneworld benefit doesn’t kick in.
After I had entered my details and my frequent flyer number into the reservation, Finnair offered me the chance to choose some “travel extras” which, on this flight were “extra bags” and “seats”.
The baggage option continued to indicate that my booking came with “0 free bags included per passenger” and when I added a bag to the reservation, the Finnair site indicated that it would come at a cost.
That didn’t look good.
Fortunately, when I moved on to the trip summary page (where the checked baggage allowance was still showing as zero), the website showed that Finnair Plus benefits (and therefore oneworld benefits) were not reflected in the baggage allowance.
I’m confident that this means that Finnair is honoring the oneworld benefit of giving elite flyers a checked baggage allowance of one more bag than their fare entitles them to which, in this case, would be a total of one checked bag.
Sure, that’s not as great as being able to check 2 or 3 bags as flyers have been able to in the past, but it’s still a lot better than not having a checked baggage allowance at all.
My confidence that this is what Finnair intends is based partly on the fact that the airline’s website clearly says that the baggage allowance shown doesn’t take into consideration any elite status benefits and the fact that oneworld elites can still select a seat for free (another oneworld benefit) when booking a Business Light fare.
Finnair doesn’t even give non-elites who purchase a “Classic” (regular) Business Class fare free seat selection, but I (as a oneworld Emerald elite) was able to select a seat for free when booking a Business Light fare.
Without actually flying on a Business Light fare (and with Finnair continuing to stay silent) I can’t tell for sure if the airline will continue to allow oneworld elites access to its lounges when they book a Business Light fare, but it stands to reason that if oneworld benefits like seat selection and a checked baggage allowance are still being honored, there’s a good chance that the lounge access benefit will be honored too.
Good News From American Airlines & British Airways
When Finnair first announced that it was going to introduce a Business Light fare last year, I pointed out that American Airlines and British Airways were going to have to change their earnings charts to account for the new fare.
Finnair’s Business Light fares book into fare code “I” – a code once reserved for Finnair’s standard Business Class fares – and the standard (“Classic”) Business Class fare now books into fare code “R”.
Now take a look at how American Airlines and British Airways treated those codes before Finnair introduced its Business Light fare:
Both American Airlines and British Airways already coded Finnair’s “I” fares as the lowest-earning Business Class fares but they also both coded “R” fares as an Economy Class fare.
Both airlines have had to recategorize fare code “R” as a Business Class fare and any excuse for an airline to start playing around with its earnings charts is usually bad news for flyers.
I didn’t think that British Airways would do too much damage (I speculated that Business Light fares may earn fewer Avios than Finnair’s cheapest Business Class fares had earned historically), but with American Airlines offering better earnings for Finnair’s cheaper Business Class than it offers for Business Class flights on a number of other partner airlines, I was concerned that the people at AAdvantage would see this as a great opportunity to cut the earnings on offer.
I need not have worried.
American Airlines and British Airways have both, as expected, recategorized Finnair’s “R” code as a Business Class code but, miraculously, neither has seized the opportunity to cut the earnings for Finnair’s cheapest Business Class fare.
Flyers crediting Finnair’s Business Light fares to the AAdvantage program will continue to earn a 25% Cabin Bonus, 2.0 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) per mile flown and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) earned at 25% of the distance flown, and flyers crediting their Business Light flights to the Executive Club will continue to earn Tier Points and Avios at the same rate as normal.
I’m amazed. I was sure one of these two airlines would make a cut somewhere so this is yet more good news.
Finnair may have introduced a stripped-down Business Light fare that offers flyers considerably fewer benefits than the airline’s standard Business Class fare, but it looks like Finnair plans to continue honoring at least some oneworld benefits on Business Light fares and it looks like both British Airways and American Airlines will be awarding the same number of miles/Avios and elite credits for Business Light bookings as they do for Finnair’s “Classic” Business Class bookings.
Considering how things could have been, Finnair’s Business Light fares may not be as terrible as we first thought…at least not for those of us with oneworld status.