China Eastern Introduces Basic Economy

Filed Under: China Eastern

In the US we’ve seen the trend of “basic economy” spread significantly. Delta was the first airline to introduce it several years back, though in the past couple of years American and United have followed Delta’s lead (as they do on many things).

We’ve seen the number of flights on which basic economy is available spread as well. Initially it was just on flights within the US, then we saw it spread to Mexico and Canada, and then eventually it was introduced on transatlantic flights as well.

Well, it looks like basic economy is now spreading to airlines in other regions.

I don’t know exactly when this started, but China Eastern has introduced basic economy fares as well. As of now they’re selling these on international flights within Asia — domestic flights within China, transpacific flights, and other long haul flights, don’t yet have these fares.

While there are plenty of ultra low cost carriers within Asia that don’t include many amenities with fares, you’ll notice that the structure of China Eastern’s basic economy fares looks very familiar.

For example, take a look at the below flight from Shanghai to Singapore:

As you can see, basic economy fares are non-refundable and non-changeable, don’t allow upgrades, don’t come with advance seat assignments, don’t allow online check-in, don’t include free checked bags, and only allow you to board last.

Here’s a comparison of China Eastern’s fare types:

Keep in mind that Delta owns a stake in China Eastern, so just as Delta innovated in the US, it looks like China Eastern is now doing the “innovating” in Asia.

I imagine the next step here is for these to be expanded to more China Eastern flights. I’ll be curious to see if other airlines in Asia follow.

One thing that has made aviation in Asia interesting is that most of the “full service” airlines haven’t actually compromised their service much, in spite of competition from ultra low cost carriers.

Compare that to Europe, for example, where it’s hard to tell the difference between a short haul British Airways plane and an EasyJet plane.

So it seems that in Asia they mostly still think that there are separate market segments between those flying low cost carriers and those looking for full service airlines. At least airlines are acting like that.

As time goes on I think that line is more blurred, and China Eastern’s introduction of basic economy is a reflection of that.

(Tip of the hat to Daniel)

  1. Winnie the Jinping already turned the whole country into Basic Economy. These seats should sell just fine in the Asian market.

  2. The silly thing is to block online check-in on basic economy fares. Presumably it costs the airline more to check passengers in in person.

  3. I’m worried if premium Asian carriers (Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, etc.) might follow the lead!

  4. It is interesting that the cheapest fares US-Asia still include seat selection and a checked bag, while US-Europe has gone full-on basic economy. Is this because of some US East Coast bias that Europe is close but Asia is really far away?

  5. @AndrewY: exactly my thought! I flew China Eastern from JFK – Shanghai, not the greatest flight on economy.

    Imagine being stuck at the back of the plane by the restrooms for a 13+ hours flight!

  6. the one thing that all the full service airlines fail at with these basic fares is the total lack of “add on” sales. what to pick your seat? with will cost you. want to check a bag? it will cost you. these add on fees could be easy money just like they are for the ULLC airlines.

  7. They are also aligned with Air France and KLM and have a joint venture and offer quite a good product , so it makes sense to have some synergy

    I’m wondering where AF KL DL will transfer to Daxing Airport once it opens ?

  8. China Eastern also sells basic domestic business class, which I was on from Beijing to Shanghai (cost about $200 USD). The only big difference that I could tell was that instead of going on the dedicated business class shuttle, you had to take the economy shuttle from the gate to the plane… Which was unfortunately

  9. a terrible experience, being cramped in a cart loaded to the brim and having to wait for about half an hour in sweltering summer weather without A/C, all the while being smacked around by giant backpacks which are “totally under the weight limit”.

    For some reason, they only seem to sell these fares on Chinese websites when displayed in Chinese.

  10. @Andrew or @john Are Cathay Pacific and Singapore nice even in economy ? Have you flown them in economy before ? What’s it like ?

    China Eastern is great. Just flew them in economy from HKG to PVG. They wanted $1260 HKD for an upgrade to business class. All I had was $1200 HKD lol Can I put $60 HKD on my credit card ? No single method of payment only lol Glad I didn’t upgrade to business class.

  11. I have no problem with BE (just don’t book these fares) except that In the US airlines introduced BE as a way of increasing prices for regular economy. They charge more for the same economy product and service to avoid BE.

  12. I suspect that many Chinese customers will be fighting them wanting to make changes and sitting in wrong seats!

  13. “Priority upgrading” for First Class fares? Seems like just as usual they wrote this table without putting much thinking into it……

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