If your dream flight includes unlimited caviar and space at the front of the plane, you’re not alone. Airlines are fighting to win over luxury travelers by offering high-end amenities that make first class passengers feel like kings and queens. As budgets shrink and competition heats up, airlines are taking notice of the shift in priorities among their business customers and tailoring their service offerings accordingly.
Emirates, a Dubai-based airline, announced in August that it would invest more than $2 billion to enhance the in-flight passenger experience, including new menus with unlimited caviar and cabin décor changes.
The largest long-haul airline in the world will update the interiors of nearly 120 planes in addition to adding additional vegan options to the menu and offering movie snacks like popcorn.
In addition, the airline now offers first-class passengers unlimited servings of Persian caviar and Dom Perignon vintage champagne.
These acquisitions occur right after Emirates reported a $1.1 billion deficit for the fiscal year that concluded on March 31.
Tim Clark, president of Emirates airline, stated that his company is “flying against the grain and investing to give ever better experiences to our consumers” in response to industry challenges.
How other airlines operate
Emirates is not the only airline making every effort to capitalise on “revenge travel,” the notion that individuals are making up for time “lost” when travelling during the outbreak.
Finnair introduced a new line of premium economy cabins earlier this year, with seats that offer roughly 50% more space than its economy seats.
Similarly, Air France revealed new long-haul business seats with sliding dividers in May for passengers who like their own personal space.
Despite not yet having all of the data, Emirates told CNBC that there has been “a lot of demand” in these opulent upgrades.
Does that sufficient?
The upgrades follow a research from the sector forecasting that rather than 2024 as previously predicted, business travel spending will reach pre-pandemic levels in 2026.
Despite an increase in spending by business travellers, the Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) annual report noted that the amount spent in 2021 was still less than half of the more than $1.4 trillion spent on business travel in 2019.
The demand for premium seats, though, has changed, according to one travel analytics business.
“We saw a decrease in the number of persons travelling by air during the pandemic. However, a considerable increase was seen in the percentage of passengers travelling in premium seats, according to Olivier Ponti of ForwardKeys, who wrote to CNBC.
Prior to the pandemic, the ratio between premium and economy seats was 13:87, as opposed to 17:83 in 2022, according to Ponti.
One can understand why the airlines would want to spend in keeping premium passengers, who, this year, have averaged spent 575% more on a seat than those flying economy. However, there is no assurance that the trend towards premium seats will be sustained as air travel recovers.
However, some people are dubious.
It is unknown how much of an impact “minor” product modifications will have on sales, according to Edward Russell, an editor at the news website Skift, which covers the travel business.
“The majority of passengers either choose the cheapest cost or fly with the airline or alliance to which they are loyal. Only a small percentage of passengers will actually purchase a ticket based on the availability of a sliding door or endless caviar.