Emirates’ new cut-price business class axes chauffeur, lounge access

By David Flynn, June 13 2019
Emirates’ new cut-price business class axes chauffeur, lounge access

Would you be willing to forego comforts such as free chauffeur drive, lounge access and a full serve of frequent flyer points for a cheaper business class airfare?

Emirates is betting that’s an appealing trade-off for many corporate travellers as it rolls out a new ‘business class special’ fare which removes core components of the airline’s business class proposition.

However, these discounted tickets won’t be offered across all Emirates flights or to all destinations.

“Our Business Class ‘Special’ fares will be offered on certain routes based on seasonal trends in travel demand,” a spokesman for Emirates confirmed to Executive Traveller.

Executive Traveller understands the Business Special fares  – which travel agents and savvy frequent flyers will see listed under the H ticketing code – will be offered under a demand-driven ‘dynamic’ model. 

This will be based not only on the popularity and past booking history of individual flights but potentially also the purchasing history and likely buying tendencies of travellers who search for fares when logged into Emirates site through their Skywards frequent flyer account.

Some examples of the discounted Business Special fares show a 33% saving when compared to mid-range Business Flex bookings, albeit a less-compelling 15% cut against the standard Business Saver tickets.

Additionally, Business Special fares are available only for a direct purchase – Emirates Skywards Miles can’t be used to snare this low-cost fare.

So what do travellers give up in Emirates’ business class unbundling approach?

No chauffeur drive: this free VIP ride to and from the airport is a long-standing differentiator for Emirates business class, although it has less cut-through with corporate travel buyers who have existing  arrangements with hire-car companies. 

No lounge access: Business Special fares won’t permit entry to any Emirates lounge (or those of partner airlines such as Qantas). 

However, passengers with top-tier Emirates Skywards Gold and Platinum frequent flyer status (and partner airline equivalents such as Qantas Gold and Platinum)  will still be eligible for lounge access, even if they’ve booked a Business Special fare, in the same way as they’re considered lounge-worthy when flying in Emirates economy class and its forthcoming premium economy cabin due from 2020.

Reduced Skywards miles: Business Special fares will earn the same number of Emirates Skywards Miles and Tier Miles as an Economy Flex ticket. 

No upgrades: passengers on a Business Special fare won’t be able to use their Skywards Miles to upgrade to Emirate's first class

Restricted seating: passengers who book a Business Special ticket will be able to select their seats only after check-in opens.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 105

Sounds good, As a platinum FF i could still use the lounge so no complaints there. Id love to see a sub $5K round trip to Europe.

It will be interesting to see what destinations / routes this is rolled out too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 700

Some initial searching from Dubai to Brisbane or Sydney (return business class in November) shows a ~$800 saving (off what is a $8000 roundtrip ticket).

The same dates either Sydney or Brisbane-Dubai didn't show anything in the new special class.

Closer to Dubai, the saving vary... flights to Muscat ($110 oneway), Jeddah ($200 oneway).

Don't expect sub $5k anytime soon though... Australia to Europe averages around $8k (on Emirates) so if the saving is similar to the flights above then expect maybe $7k.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 105

I regularly fly on FinnAir for around the $5-6k mark, on a quality product - only trade off is the additional stop.

Many 2nd tier carriers offer return trips for around that mark.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 700

Whilst Emirates doesn't come near $5k many other carriers across Asia do...

EVA Air (from Brisbane) is a little under $5k even in peak.

Hainan (again from Brisbane) does off peak $3.5k to Europe in Business. Never tried their long haul business, only short haul economy (but on the same A330's they use for the long haul flights).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Jan 2017

Total posts 13

I got China Eastern return MEL-CDG in May/June this year for a friend for $4700 plus one seat as full reward redemption.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jun 2019

Total posts 1

Flew Hainan, Mel..Rome, last month. Nice plane, crew and flights but 7 hour layover in Xian. Fingerprinted in Xian (along with the other Europeans on the flight). Food and wine not flash but otherwise good.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Mar 2018

Total posts 16

Managed to get $5k RT Perth to Athens in July with Qatar.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Feb 2017

Total posts 14

Qatar over EK any day!! We fly often each year Perth to Newcastle (UK) & have gladly gone QTR to Edinburgh + the 1.30-2hr car service or train ride down to NCL. For the $2-2.5K saving on the J class fares/ea + superior soft & hard products, not to mention the amazing bar on the A380 (PER-DOH-PER), it’s a no brainer! Bonus now they fly the A350 on the EDI leg, what a step up from EK’s outdated 777 to NCL. Yes, downside is less QF FF points on QTR but we’ll get that back spending the above savings on QF domestic or Asia flights, so as Kramer said.....’GIDDY UP’!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 135

Can live without most of the stuff, but lounge access if fairly integral to the business class experience for me, but if they sell lounge access a la carte I’d be happy

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 273

Emirates do in Dxb at least

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 74

@Dredgy. If you have status already then lounge access shouldn't be a problem.

Although, the article doesn't mention whether SC are also earned only at the same rate as the economy flex to match the points earn. Expect that is the case though.
If so, it's then harder to get to a status level to attain or retain status as well. This might be a factor.
For some though, the other lounge alternatives would have to do. Worse case, go sit in an airport cafe for a couple of hours instead. Some cafe's are better than a lounge for a good meal depending on the airport or airline in question anyway.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 411

"Although, the article doesn't mention whether SC are also earned only at the same rate as the economy flex to match the points earn." Yes it does, the article says Slywards Tier Miles (EK's status credits) earn at the Economy Flex rate.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2017

Total posts 84

You can pay $100 to get into the lounge at DXB if you don't already have status I believe.
Priority Pass members wouldn't miss the non lounge access too much either.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 381

If an airline like EK is looking at cut price "seat only" business class this says to me A LOT of J over capacity on A LOT of A380 routes and ringing the early sounds of trouble. Great marketing but read between the lines. What's next....no amenity kits and last choice of on-board meals??? This is a reality kick on the state of global demand for premium seats.

06 Mar 2017

Total posts 12

Ridiculous. 15% discount off Business Saver? That's still a lot more than current J offers on CX/SQ which include Lounge etc.
EK trading on past glories, the field has caught up service-wise.

I like the 2 stop product and pricing offered by AY and others for way way less. The lounge at HEL isreally nice and the stopover time is short.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 126

Exactly my thoughts. The likes of AY, LH, LX, TK, AF, and KL all offer great options with 2 stops. Those going to 2nd/3rd tier destinations will have the extra stop anyway even with EK (unless FZ flies there). Nevertheless, for this to be viable and worth someone paying for it the $ value needs to sit at approx $6K - there’s the brand behind it to start with, but also EK does have a solid product (A380/772L). I would still probably choose the likes of some EU airlines over EK just for the options it gives me.

06 Mar 2017

Total posts 12

Besides, who wants to fly over/stop over in the Middle East these days?

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1245

Would happily do so.

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

11 Sep 2015

Total posts 46

I reckon they're starting to feel some pain. Pathetic marketing approach. Agree with phil h DXB stopover is the pits. An Asian stopover is much preferred. You usually arrive in Europe in the early morning after a 12 hour flight which means you have a damn good chance of getting some sleep.

28 Nov 2018

Total posts 4

In Oct 2018 we bought Cathay Pacific Business Class return MEL/AMS and MAD/MEL for travel in Sept 2019 at $5395

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 104

This might have the undesired effect of making Emirates higher prices, more noticeable. Their inflight service used to be very good, but is slipping and it new upgraded 777 seats are still a generation behind the competition (CX reverse herringbone is way better).

I think particularly for long flights, lounge access is a must and even though there own lounges are usually top notch for business, but airlines like Cathay offer an even better experience in their new lounges.

If I were some of these other airlines, i'd be making my plays to steal some of emirates customers.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 105

Exactly my point, so many one stop options with no loss in service or lounges etc.

06 Mar 2017

Total posts 12

Dredgy is right. Lounge is integral to the Business Class product, not a paid add-on.

21 Aug 2015

Total posts 86

Would much rather fly via Asia


24 Jan 2016

Total posts 25

Oman Air at around $5K return to UK/Europe. Yes, 2 stops, but connections generally good, one of the best biz class products around, new airport/lounge in Muscat and choice of QF/MH/TG/GA ex Australia to connect with Oman Air in Asia or even EY in AUH. Lots to like.

03 Feb 2018

Total posts 3

EK r history 4me

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 191

exactly like a premium economy-better seats but that's all and around 5K for this? Turkish flies for around this mark and offer full service plus connecting with either SQ or MH starting flying with new 787 also Turkish from KL-much better than pathetic EK!

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