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Cheaper Business Class (but No Miles, Lounge Access)

The latest wrinkle in airline pricing may come from a highly unlikely source.

Malaysia Airlines, dealt a staggering one-two body blow by last year’s disappearance of flight MH370 and the shooting down of MH17, is currently in the hands of the Malaysian government, undergoing a thorough restructuring designed to return the floundering carrier to sustainable profitability.

Newly appointed to helm the massive turnaround project is the former chief of Aer Lingus, Christoph Muller. So far, he’s proven to have an expansive vision for the airline’s future.

Among the ideas floated during an interview with trade publication Aviation Week was this:

We want to go modular so that people can build their own product. Customers might book a business-class seat, but opt out of the miles or lounge access. Or they could take a day flight in economy to Australia and return in business overnight.

Of course, “unbundling” airline services and charging a base fare for bare-bones transportation and adding extra fees for everything else isn’t new. But to date, it’s been mostly confined to economy-class fares. Extending the concept to business class opens a whole new range of possibilities, both positive and negative. On the upside, premium-class fares could come down, albeit at the expense of some of the perks traditionally associated with traveling in business or first class.

Muller’s other plans and forecasts include the following:

  • The new MAS will be a value carrier, employing around 14,000 workers, down from 20,000 currently.
  • Malaysia will rely predominantly if not exclusively on direct distribution, selling tickets directly to consumers rather through travel agents, much as Southwest does now.
  • Airline consolidation will happen at a faster pace in Asia than it has in the U.S. or Europe. That’s good for MAS but almost certainly a negative for travelers, who can expect airfares to rise as airlines compete less aggressively on price.

Down but hardly out, Malaysia could prove to be an interesting, disruptive force in the industry.

Reader Reality Check

Which perks would you be willing to forego to get a lower price for a business-class seat?

This article originally appeared on

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