Business class-only flights are taking off

By John Walton, July 19 2011
Business class-only flights are taking off

Hong Kong Airlines is joining the 'all premium' push – flights which are fitted tip to tail with business class – with the Chinese-owned carrier planning to debut the daily service between Hong Kong and London next year.

Its Airbus A330-200 planes will carry just 116 passengers, with wide lie-flat seats and high-end service on this competitive but lucrative route.

The specific seats haven't been announced, but parent Hainan Airlines uses these angled lie-flat seats in business class on its Airbus A330 flights.

While comfortable, these business class seats aren't the best in the world.. McLaren Shen
While comfortable, these business class seats aren't the best in the world.
McLaren Shen

This is the latest development in a very positive trend for business travellers and frequent flyers. Which other airlines and routes play the all-premium game?

British Airways: London City to New York

British Airways' Club World London City flights run between New York's JFK and the tiny London City Airport, which is just 15 minutes from the Canary Wharf business and financial district.

At City, check in and arrive at the airport just 15 minutes before departure if you're travelling with carry-ons only, or 20 minutes if you have hold luggage.

The Airbus A318 on the route has only 32 business class seats in a 2-2 configuration, and can't quite carry enough fuel to make the westbound journey against the North Atlantic jetstream.

So it lands for 45 minutes at Shannon in Ireland to refuel, and takes advantage of a deeply useful US-Ireland arrangement where passengers can clear US customs on departure from Ireland.

The trans-Atlantic portion of the flight is then treated like a domestic US flight on arrival into JFK, which means no enormous customs queue -- a massive timesaver.

With the more convenient location and shorter check-in times at London City (especially when compared with Heathrow), no on-arrival immigation makes the flight a firm favourite among frequent US-UK business travellers.

Singapore Airlines: Singapore to New York & LA

Singapore Airlines takes the idea to a new extreme, with big long-haul Airbus A340-500 planes containing just 100 of the airline's popular ultra-wide business class seats on the longest scheduled passenger flight in the world.

That route runs from Singapore to Newark airport across the river from New York, and takes an astounding 19 hours. (Now you see why there's no economy class.)

The all-business planes also fly between Singapore and Los Angeles LAX airport.

Singapore also offers A380 flights where the entire upper deck is business class, which almost feels like an exclusive plane.

But that's not all...

You'll also find a Boeing 737 from All Nippon Airways (ANA) jetting between Mumbai and Tokyo. And charter operator Privatair has been flying all-business shuttles for Lufthansa, Swiss, KLM and Gulf Air for years.

We've yet to see any all-business class shuttles operating from Australia, but if there were: which airline should operate them, and where should the flights go? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and join the conversation on Twitter with @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

Wasn't there an airline which tried to do all business class flights between Sydney and Melbourne but failed miserably? I don't think an all business class flight would be sustainable over such a short distance, it needs the right combination of travel time plus a high pasenger load. Maybe Sydney-Perth or Trans-Tasman, those are the only two I can think of in Australia where it might work.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

I agree with you. I reckon the only way an all-business airline works on flights that short is if it's from a ridiculously convenient city airport to another ridiculously convenient city airport.

Perhaps a seaplane service taking off from the Yarra and landing on Sydney Harbour...might be some mileage in that!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 785

Yes, Paul Stoddart's OzJet. All brand-new business cabin in almost vintage 737-200s.Their market research and surveys said it would work, but people ended up staying with QF for the points, status credits, connections, etc. 

20 Jul 2011

Total posts 72

Not quite right - the LCY-JFK flight has to land at Shannon since the runway at LCY isn't long enough for an A318 to get airborne with a full load of fuel.  The aircraft itself has the range.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

Actually, it has more to do with the angle of ascent and descent required for London City operations. The A318 can't ascend fast enough with a full load of fuel, rather than needing extra runway to lift off because of fuel weight.

What's more, the trans-Atlantic Jet Stream is often strong enough for range to become a factor without the Shannon stop. So BA has (I think rather cleverly) built the stop in every day as at least a neutral on time, rather than having it be an irregular operations problem that they need to solve every so often.

Of course, this all gets way too deep into the realms of "interesting detail but alas irrelevant to the story at hand", but thanks for keeping me on my toes -- I always appreciate it!


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