Let’s be honest: We’d all fly first class if we could.
We don’t, of course. And it’s not because we can’t. I could charge a $12,138 first-class flight to Tokyo on any of several credit cards in my wallet, and pay it off over time. So could you. We don’t, because it’s a bad deal. Because even on a 12-hour flight, we can’t justify paying 10 times the price of coach for a cushier seat and a nicer meal.
But what if first class were only twice as expensive as coach? What if it was just $1,000 more? Or $500? At what point does the value proposition become a compelling one?
JetBlue’s Mint service, which combines aspects of business and first class, certainly raised that question. And, with prices initially offered on some flights for as little as $399 each way, it proposed an answer that many travelers were satisfied with. By all accounts, Mint has been a great success.
South Korea-based Asiana has its own answer to the question. Although its appeal is decidedly limited, it does move the conversation forward.
This week, Asiana introduced Asiana First Membership, a pass allowing subscribers to upgrade from business class to first on flights from Los Angeles, New York, and Frankfurt. The passes come in two flavors:
- A one-time pass, good for one roundtrip upgrade. Price: 700,000 Korean Won ($612)
- A one-year pass, good for unlimited upgrades. Price: 1.3 million Korean Won ($1,136)
Deal or No Deal
Two limiting factors here: 1) The upgrades are only offered from full-fare business tickets; 2) they’re only available on select flights.
It’s a decent deal, for those who’d normally be paying for business class and fly regularly on the designated routes. But it’s hardly disruptive, the way JetBlue’s Mint was.
On a more hopeful note, it is, perhaps, a marketing move that will trigger competitive responses from other airlines. Or at least get them thinking about ways to make first class more accessible to more consumers.
A small step, in the right direction.
Reader Reality Check
How much extra are you willing to pay to upgrade to first class?
More from SmarterTravel:
- U.S. Airlines Upgrade Business Class. Which Is Best?
- Do We Need Kids-Free Seating on U.S. Airlines?
- 21 Things Flight Attendants Hate About You
After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.