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Air France Unveils Light Business Class Fares: What’s Included and What’s Not

The new fare option offers the comfort of Business Class cabins but without the luxury of lounge access or a second checked bag

by Lauren Smith

April 27, 2023

Photo: Business Class, Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Courtesy of Air France.

Air France and KLM have joined a host of competitors in offering stripped-back Business Class fares, with “Light” travelers forfeiting lounge access and a second checked bag.

The new unbundled Business Light fares launched on April 25 on routes departing Europe for intercontinental destinations. As noted by Air France, these routes exclude North America, China, Vietnam, and Mauritius because existing partnerships likely complicate a fares shakeup.

Three Business Class Tiers

With the launch of the new tier, Air France and KLM are now offering passengers three flavors of Business Class: Light, Standard, and Flex.

Those on Business Light tickets won’t get past the door at airport lounges and are limited to one checked bag weighing 32kg.

Photo: Business Class, Airbus A330-200. Courtesy of Air France.

In comparison, those on Business Standard and Business Flex tickets get lounge access and two checked bags of 32kg each, while those on Business Flex fares also get free seat selection before check-in and refunds if they cancel the trip.

Based on a survey of ticket prices, one-way Business Light tickets appear to be around €100 ($110) cheaper than Business Standard tickets. On the other hand, Business Flex tickets continue to be around €150 ($165) more expensive than Business Standard tickets per the direction of travel.

Air France and KLM say the new spartan Business Class version allows the airlines to “offer customized fares at the best price” and gives travelers “more choice and control.”

Photo: Business Class, Airbus A330-200. Courtesy of Air France.

But, as is the norm when airlines launch basic versions of their services, they’re not precisely discounting fares. Instead, they’re introducing covert charges for perks that previously came as standard with premium tickets.

In all likelihood, Business Light tickets will come in at the previous price of standard Business Class tickets, without some bells and whistles. Therefore, passengers will need to decide whether they want to spend an additional €100 to get lounge access and a second checked bag.

Photo: Business Class, Boeing 777-300ER. Courtesy of Air France.

Air France and KLM aren’t the first airlines to unbundle their Business Class offerings and seek new sources of revenue from previously gratis perks. The trend was started by Qatar Airways in 2021, with the airline saying its “fare families” give travelers flexibility and an entry-level access point to business class.

Emirates and Finnair have since replicated the trend. All three airlines have removed lounge access and advanced seat selection from their most basic Business Class fares and don’t allow passengers on these tickets to earn their full allotment of frequent flyer miles and points. Additionally, Finnair’s Business Light tickets don’t grant passengers priority check-in, seating, or boarding and don’t come with any checked luggage at all.

Business Class Seat Selection for a Fee

Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time this month that Air France and KLM have become stingier with Business Class privileges. On April 13, the airline group introduced fees for advanced seat selection in Business Class.

Non-status travelers on Business Light and Standard tickets must pay between €70 ($77) and €90 ($99) per flight to nab desirable seats before the check-in window. Business Flex travelers are exempt from the charges.

Air France lounges incorporate partnerships with such brands as skincare line Clarins / Photo: Courtesy of Jerome Galland

Those with SkyTeam Elite Plus status can avoid some of these economizing measures. Their status still entitles them to lounge access and a second checked bag, regardless of whether they carry Business Light tickets. Additionally, Air France – KLM’s homegrown Flying Blue loyalty program with Silver, Gold, or Platinum status members are still entitled to complimentary advanced seat selection in Business Class.