ZIPAIR Introduces World’s Most Basic Business Class

Filed Under: Other Airlines

As noted by Wandering Aramean, ZIPAIR has just introduced the world’s first truly basic business class, and it sure is intriguing.

What is ZIPAIR?

ZIPAIR is Japan Airlines’ new low cost carrier. The airline was supposed to launch passenger operations this past summer, but as you might expect, the timing for that wasn’t great in light of the pandemic.

The airline initially has a fleet of two Boeing 787-8s, and the plan is that the fleet will grow by around two planes per year. ZIPAIR plans to get its 787s either from Japan Airlines, or other sources.

ZIPAIR’s 787s feature a total of 290 seats, including 18 business class seats and 272 economy seats. There are reverse herringbone seats in business class, while economy is in the typical 3-3-3 configuration. There are no personal televisions at any seat, but rather the airline will offer free wifi and streaming.

ZIPAIR launching Narita to Incheon flights

ZIPAIR is launching passenger operations as of October 16, 2020, as the airline will fly twice weekly between Tokyo Narita and Seoul Incheon. The airline will operate the route on Tuesdays and Fridays with the following schedule:

ZG41 Narita to Incheon departing 9:15AM arriving 11:50AM
ZG42 Incheon to Narita departing 1:30PM arriving 3:55PM

The airline is separately operating some cargo-only flights, but long term the plan is for the airline to launch passenger flights to Bangkok, Honolulu, and beyond.

The carrier’s strategy essentially seems to be to undercut existing airlines in popular markets, rather than picking out more niche point-to-point leisure routes.

ZIPAIR’s basic business class

Looking at ZIPAIR’s fares, what stands out most about the airline is that it has unbundled business class in a way that we’ve never seen before. We’ve seen how widespread basic economy has become in recent years, and this is essentially basic business class.

ZIPAIR’s business class is known as “ZIP Full-Flat,” and there are four pricing bundles available:

  • Simple, which includes nothing extra
  • Biz, which includes a seat assignment and carry-on bag (for an extra $24 one-way)
  • Value, which includes a seat assignment, checked bag, and an in-flight meal (for an extra $50 one-way)
  • Premium, which includes a seat assignment, checked bag, carry-on bag, in-flight meal, and amenity (for an extra $78 one-way)

Like I said, we’ve never seen business class unbundled to this extent before, where some business class tickets just include the seat, and nothing else.

Some of the individual pricing components of these fares aren’t exactly what you’d expect. For example, if you book the most basic “Simple” fare, you can still add individual services.

A seat assignment on a one-way flight costs just under $3, which sure seems low.

In-flight meals cost ~$15-25 each.

You can add two different amenity options, each costing ~$25-30 (though it’s not actually clarified what’s included there — are these amenity kits, blankets and pillows, or what?). That pricing seems rather high to me.

Carry-on bags cost ~$20 each, while checked bags cost ~$29-39 each.

Yes, Emirates has basic business class, but…

If the concept of basic business class sounds familiar, it’s probably because of Emirates. Emirates introduced this concept in mid-2019, as the airline introduced special business class fares that:

  • Didn’t come with lounge access
  • Didn’t include chauffeur service
  • Didn’t allow mileage upgrades to first class
  • Included restricted seat assignment options
  • Only allowed limited mileage earning

While that was a significant development for a full service carrier, what ZIPAIR is doing is on a completely different level. The airline is literally selling just the seat in business class, and everything else costs extra. In other words, for “basic” fares there’s no differentiation in privileges between economy and business class.

Bottom line

ZIPAIR is finally launching passenger operations in about a week, as the airline will fly twice weekly between Narita and Incheon. What’s perhaps most noteworthy about this is how the airline is unbundling business class, in a way we’ve never seen before.

ZIPAIR has, to my knowledge, become the first airline in the world to sell business class seats with zero inclusions. It’s an intriguing concept, and I’m curious to see how this plays over time.

What do you make of ZIPAIR’s extremely unbundled business class fares?

(Featured image courtesy of Melv_L)

  1. LCCs in East Asia has been selling fares like these for years (e.g. Air Asia X’s “Premium Flatbed”). The degree of unbundling varies by airline, but usually you get a real business class hard product and LCC service (with maybe a free economy class meal thrown in), for not much more than economy fares on a full service airline.
    Really great for mid-haul flights where you don’t care about getting a full biz meal and just want to extra space to stretch out~

  2. This seems very smart.

    I pay for business or first for any long haul flight. But I also skip the meal, as I just want to sleep.

    So, not paying for that is a great option. Wonder if other airlines will follow suit?

  3. I like that idea: on flights less than 8 hours I don’t care for fancy food, all I need is a lie-flat seat and I’m all good.

  4. How much cheaper does this makes biz compared to the full service flights on this route? Without that context it’s hard to know if it’s a good deal and attractive concept.

  5. 1. I’m guessing this will spread to other carriers when they will try to generate additional revenue post-covid. (And that miles will only cover ”basic business”…)

    2. Personally, I wouldn’t mind unbundling food for eastbound flights (since I always go straight to sleep after take-off), but otherwise I enjoy not being nickle-and-dimed when flying business class. Seems like a less positive development, as most other ”enhancements” we’ve gotten over the last 10 years 🙂

  6. I’d probably just want the value package and be done with it. It would still represent about a 30% discount off regular business class, which is around $700. My question is: would I be able to get a Zipcar after I zipped across to Japan on Zipair?

  7. Sounds good to me, just like Spirits Big Front Seat, but getting layflats. I’d be happy to see this on transatlantic red-eyes, where I don’t eat anyway, just sleep.

  8. Surely the vast majority of business class fares are purchased for corporate travelers on expense account, i.e. customers don’t care how much the product costs.

    Zipair seems to target “customers who spend OPM and therefore don’t care what it costs” and at the same time “customers who want a cheap bargain product”.

    I truly wonder how big that market space actually is.

    Conclusion: It’s probably a great idea to short-sell their stock.

  9. I would have thought that intraeurope business class flights would have been considered the most basic business class flights. At least here you get a lay flat seat.

  10. BA has usually awful and tasteless food and very cheap alcohol so I wouldn’t mind the cheapest option. In Covid time it would be a real blessing.

  11. lie flat seat for a 2.5 hours flight seems too much for me. I rather get a larger seat with better meal/services/movies for a flight that long.

  12. I disagree with many here, I think a lie-flat seat for a 2+ hour flight is kinda mandatory if I want to pay a premium over economy 😉

  13. Looks good to me.

    My only concern is the actual name of the airline.

    People my age (old) remember derogatory names for those of Asian cultures.

    The airline name is unfortunate.

  14. Widebody business.. Jetstar A330/787. That was a ripper of a business… Had literally nothing but a wooden board that was a tad wider than the standard econoclass seat.

  15. For me it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is where most legacy airlines will go in a couple of years…

    But man, that cabin design is depressing (especially in Eco)! I’d commit harakiri having to fly in that cabin…

  16. Amenity kit A (2500JPY) includes

    Amenity kit B (3000JPY) includes all of kit A plus a cool looking Tote bag

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