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How Much Would You Pay for Unlimited First-Class Upgrades?

SmarterTravel

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.

Offer Details

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:

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.

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