Despite the economic downturn travellers are still choosing comfort over affordability.
Travellers are prepared to pay more where comfort is concerned. In a travel survey, 61 of the 114 travel agents surveyed said more of their clients were choosing to fly first, business and/or premium economy class because comfort was their clients’ primary concern when travelling.
Premium economy was especially popular, said respondents. “I have seen an increase in clients booking premium economy class, as they get more reward miles and they still enjoy good fares,” one agent said. “Travellers are enjoying the premium economy class because they want more space for comfort, but do not want to pay business-class fares,” another agent commented.
Travellers flying long-haul routes, particularly business travellers, also enjoyed arriving at their destination well rested and were therefore willing to pay the price, agents agreed. Airlines have also seen more travellers opting for the higher classes.
Darrin Thomas, manager of marketing and communications for Virgin Atlantic Airways in South Africa, said he had seen increased uptake in both Virgin’s Upper Class (business) and premium economy, and that both cabins were often full.
Singapore Airlines market development manager, Sally George, agrees that there has been an increase in demand in business-class travel. “There is great demand for business class, particularly over the weekend departures.”
Jimmy Eichelgruen, Delta Air Lines sales director for Africa, Middle East and India, says the Delta One (business class) cabin is always in high demand on Delta’s Johannesburg route – the longest route on the airline’s network. On the other hand, some agents say while clients are still travelling in premium class, they feel value for money is not as evident in premium class as it was in the past.
“Value for money is not what it used to be – and in these tough economic times, airlines must remember that clients want what they pay for,” says one agent. Eichelgruen says it is understandable that customers want more for their money when flying premium class and paying the associated fares. “As such, Delta has invested heavily in its Delta One product to ensure our premium customers have a quality experience.”
Quality experience is achieved through Delta’s collaboration with respected global brands such as Westin Heavenly Bedding by Westin Hotels and Resorts and the airline’s amenity kits, which are made by TUMI and have recently begun featuring products by Kiehl’s, says Eichelgruen.
Air Mauritius sales and marketing manager, Wouter Nel, says the Mauritian flag carrier offers business-class passengers a premium experience at very competitive, all-inclusive rates. “Additionally, our last-minute business-class upgrade offering affords all passengers the luxury of an upgrade for a nominal fee on the day of departure.”
Tlali Tlali, spokesperson for SAA, said the national carrier’s offering was based on a cost structure that sought to strike a balance between cost and what the customer wanted to pay for. The nature of SAA’s service is intended to meet some of these demands, says Tlali.
Compiled by: Melissa Jane Cook. Source: Darise Foster. Image: Pixabay