Finnair is the latest airline to adopt the practice of removing or ‘unbundling’ several features long associated with business class to create a new entry-level Business Light fare at a lower price point.
Some of the inclusions which are now excluded under Finnair’s Business Light fare are lounge access, checked luggage and priority check-in.
In fact, about all that’s left is the business class seat and meal service.
Finnair’s Business Light is now available on all Finnair flights within Europe and to Asia – although not to the USA, as that market is ‘protected’ under a trans-Atlantic joint venture established by the Oneworld airline alliance.
What is Finnair Business Light?
Business Light slots in as Finnair’s cheapest business class fare, beneath Business Classic – which comes with all the standard business class inclusions, albeit only one checked bag – and Business Flex, which is the most expensive fare but is fully-refundable if you need to cancel your reservation.
Finnair stresses its Business Light fares are not aimed at business travellers: instead, Business Light is “a totally new ticket type designed especially for leisure travellers who want to travel light and affordably while enjoying business class comfort.”
Removing standard features of a business class ticket to create a ‘business basic’ fare isn’t a radical approach, even for a premium airline like Finnair.
Interestingly, Finnair doesn’t claim that Business Light is about making business class more affordable or even more accessible.
Instead, the airline states it is “addressing the increasing trend for personalisation of the travel experience.”
“Our new ticket types offer opportunities for choice and tailoring” explains Ole Orvér, Finnair’s Chief Commercial Officer.
Finnair Business Light: what don't you get?
In this unbundled business class booking, Finnair drops many of the practical benefits which you probably take for granted and will definitely miss when they’re removed from the mix.
- there’s no priority check-in (typically at the business class desk), nor can you zip through priority security lanes at the airport, or take advantage of priority boarding for your flight
- only carry-on bags are permitted (with two pieces totalling 10kg, as standard for all Finnair business class fares) – there’s no checked luggage (which Finnair business class usually provides at two bags at 32kg each)
- lounge access is not included in a Finnair Business Light ticket
- you don’t get to choose your seat: Finnair will decide where you sit
- inflight Internet is not included
- you’ll earn only a 150% ‘elite miles’ bonus, instead of the 200-250% bonus on Business Classic and Business Flex
- finally, Finnair Business Light fares allow flight changes only up to 48 hours before departure, with no cancellations permitted
That’s a long list, although some exclusions – such as checked luggage, lounge access and WiFi – can be added back at a cost.
Or, as Finnair says, “customers can always elevate their experience by choosing the travel extras that matter most for them.”
Finnair Business Light and frequent flyer status
Fortunately, Finnair Plus frequent flyers and elite members of Oneworld partner airlines will find their status brings back much of what Finnair’s Business Light fare strips out: including lounge access, checked baggage, seat selection and priority service at the airport.
“Finnair Plus and Oneworld tier member benefits are available regardless of the ticket type,” a Finnair spokesperson confirmed to Executive Traveller.
For example, “if the tier level benefit includes extra baggage, this follows – and allows the extra baggage even if it is not included in the ticket.”
This is a huge benefit, especially for Finnair’s own Finnair Plus members.
It means that Finnair Plus Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum Lumo card-holders can check in one bag up to 23kg, despite Business Light’s ‘no checked luggage’ condition.
A Oneworld spokesperson has confirmed to Executive Traveller that this same checked baggage allowance also applies to frequent flyers with Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status (such as British Airways Executive Club Silver and Gold, Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold and Platinum, and Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Gold and Diamond).
Likewise, Finnair Plus Gold, Platinum and Platinum Lumo members and their Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald equivalents are guaranteed lounge access even if they’re holding a ‘lounge-less’ Finnair Business Light ticket.
There’s also priority check-in for Finnair Plus Silver / Oneworld Ruby and above, with priority boarding for Finnair Plus Gold and above, and Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald.
Other status perks include free access to inflight Internet and access to priority airport lanes: click here for a full list of the applicable Finnair Plus benefits.
Finnair Business Light: how much do you save?
On Finnair’s popular route between Helsinki and London, one-way Business Light fares in mid-August 2021 are pegged at €270, while Business Classic sits at €335. (For reference, the most expensive economy fare on the same dates ranged from €200-200.)
That’s a 20% difference, and works out to a saving of €130 on a return trip.
On longer routes to Asia, a Helsinki-Singapore business class return trip in early 2022 booked under Business Light was priced at €3,399, compared to €3,699 for Business Classic: a difference of just €300.
On another date, a one-way Helsinki-Hong Kong business class flight showed up as €1,340 in Business Light but only €1,490 in Business Classic.
In both cases, that’s barely a 10% reduction. When you’re looking fares worth several thousand Euro, saving only a few hundred Euro to step down to Business Light barely seems worth it – especially not when lounge access, checked luggage and using priority checkin desks and priority airport lanes are such a key part of the long-range travel experience.
(Curiously, while searching Finnair flights to Singapore and Hong Kong we noticed many dates on which Business Light fares were actually more expensive than Business Classic and sometimes even Business Flex.)
Is Finnair Business Light worth it?
Based on what you could save under a Finnair Business Light fare versus what you get for your money – or rather, what you don’t get – it’s hard to see the appeal.
It’s not as if the savings appear to be substantial, even on a relatively short European flight, and on flights to Asia there’s even less temptation to ‘downgrade’.
Some savvy frequent flyers on European flights might happily pocket the Business Light savings while their status ensures they still get the most valuable perks, but they’re hardly the leisure travellers which Finnair says it’s targetting.