Friday, June 26, 2009

Winning back the business class

With companies' tighter travel budgets, and fewer passengers in business class, airlines are racing to pamper the business traveler with promotions and incentives.

LOT Polish Airlines has introduced an 80-percent-off companion fare for business class. The tickets have to be bought until July 10 and may be used throughout the summer. “It is our first promotion with such a price offer. We need to take a look how the customers will respond to that,” Paweł Pudłowski, LOT's sales director told WBJ, not excluding repeating the promotion in the future. The carrier has also introduced a new menu designed and prepared by renowned chef Robert Sowa of Jan III Sobieski Hotel.

Other airlines are also reaching out to business passengers. Being aware how business travelers treasure time, Finnair has been promoting itself as a provider of fastest link between Europe and Asian destinations with short transfer times. “Finnair is able to offer a minimum connection time of 35 minutes at Helsinki-Vantaa, which is among the shortest in Europe,” said Juhani Nuoramo, Finnair’s Director Sales for Central Europe. Travellers with longer transfer times may use a leisure facility at Helsinki airport with saunas overlooking runways.

Nuoramo also praised Finnair business class access to satellite phones and large selection of films, TV and audio programs. “A passenger can send text messages and short e-mails to networks on the ground and receive replies to these – something of particular interest to many business travellers,” he said.

Emirates offers private suites in first class of its Airbus A380 and Boeing 777LR planes. The former plane is even equipped with spa and showers. Apart from companion fare the airline has recently introduced free accommodation for business travellers in a Dubai hotel.

Lufthansa spokesperson admitted that there are changes in booking figures, mainly due to decrease of passengers in the premium business segment. “Lufthansa has positioned itself as a premium carrier in the past years and stands for quality products and services. Our pricing strategy is planned on a long-term and well in advance,” Lufthansa's Klaus Gorny wrote in an e-mail. However, after recently introducing some business class promotional offers, the airline has no concrete plans of new promotions for this segment in the near future.

“Contrary to the West, corporate travelers on the Polish market usually take advantage of the lowest fares. The business class is reserved for top management or long-haul flights,” commented Wojciech Kożuchowski, sales manager at American Express Business Travel in Warsaw. “From my point of view, we haven't noticed a particular rise in business customers at LOT. Especially given that our clients don't pay attention to companion fare promotions,” he added.

The picture shows interior of a business class cabin in Finnair Airbus A340. Photo courtesy of Finnair

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