Not all business class seats are created equal – so why should an airline charge you the same fare for vastly different seats and experiences?
That's one school of thought which bubbled up this week following our story on Delta Air Lines' surcharge of up to US$1,000 for travellers booking into its Airbus A350 Delta One business class.
As it turns out, Delta applies this practice to several other routes where there's a choice of products at the pointy end.
Flights from the US mainland to Hawaii, for example, can be made on domestic jets with conventional business class seats (although they're in what the Yanks term a 'first class' cabin) or larger jets with international-grade flat beds in business class – with a surcharge varying from US$75 to US$150 each way, depending on the aircraft.
Air Canada does something similar, with a C$300 tariff on domestic flights such as Vancouver-Montreal if you choose to book onto a Boeing 787 with its flat bed business class pods over the regular recliners of its Airbus A320 jets.
A premium price for a premium product?
Should the same concept – paying a higher fare for a better seat on the same route and conversely, less money for a lesser seat – be applied here in Australia?
To give this issue a local focus, both Qantas and Virgin Australia fly a mix of their Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 jets on the east-west route.
The business class seats on those aircraft are a world apart... but each airline charges the exact same fare regardless of what jet you're flying in.
On a weekday in early November 2017, for example, Qantas has seven flights between Sydney and Perth – six on the Airbus A330 and one on the Boeing 737 – but all costed at $2,351 one-way in business class.
One the same day and the same route, Virgin Australia offers four flights starting at $1,802, with three flights on the A330 and one on the Boeing 737.
There's no argument that this five hour flight will see you substantially more comfortable – and more productive, if you're working above the clouds – on the Airbus A330.
And with Virgin Australia shifting its A330s onto Asian routes into Hong Kong and mainland China, the airline is planning a new Boeing 737 business class for east-west routes which could deliver an A330-style experience in the single aisle jets.
But for now, should transcontinental business class flights featuring the Boeing 737 be priced lower than those on the Airbus A330 – and if so, how much lower, and how would such differential pricing impact your choice of which flight to take?