Want to save a fortune on business class? Choose the right stopover

Want to save a fortune on business class? Choose the right stopover
Want to save a fortune on business class? Choose the right stopover

Want to fly business class to Europe with an Asian stopover for less than the price of a direct flight? Writing a recent report on the number of Australians visiting the Philippines revealed what looked to be an unbelievable business-class fare from Manila to Milan, return in May from just $3267. That’s aboard Emirates, rated the third-best business class at the 2023 Skytrax World Airline Awards.

You can fly Emirates business class to Europe at a bargain price from Manila.

How could that be possible? Further digging has turned up a couple of Asian stopovers where the price of a return business class flight to Europe seems almost too good to be true, but the prices below are from the airlines’ own websites, not third-party sites with dozens of caveats.

(When we refer to “direct” flights below, we are talking about those that involve only stopping for a few hours en route to Europe. The airline industry defines “direct” flights and “non-stop” flights differently. (Read more about it here.)

Where the bargains are

A return business flight direct from Melbourne to Milan, departing mid-September and returning mid-October, costs from $10,768 with Emirates, $12,221 with Singapore Airlines and $9300 with Thai Airways.

An alternative to the direct flight is a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. A business class flight with Emirates from Kuala Lumpur to Milan costs from $3972 one way, while the business class return flight between Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Airways starts from $4342 for a total of $8314.

A stopover in Kuala Lumpur can also deliver a bargain.

A stopover in Kuala Lumpur can also deliver a bargain.Credit: iStock

However, fly business class with Jetstar Asia from Melbourne to KL and total cost of the flight from Melbourne to Milan drops to a starting price of just $5746. That said, a business seat aboard Jetstar Asia is not comparable with a business-class seat aboard a full-service carrier. With a 2-3-2 configuration and a reclining rather than a lie-flat seat with a pitch of 96.5 centimetres, Jetstar Asia’s business class is closer to premium economy with a full-service carrier.

If you want to fly via the Philippines, the Jetstar Asia flight from Melbourne to Manila makes a stop at Singapore, but the total flight time of 10½ hours is not too painful.

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A return business class flight from Delhi to Frankfurt starting in mid-September and returning a month later is a bargain at just $3036 with Lufthansa, but a return business flight from Melbourne to Delhi with Singapore Airlines adds $6404 to the tab. Qantas is about the same price and while flying business with Air India would shave around $900 from the total, the quality is disappointing.

The same applies to flights via Vietnam and Thailand, where the cost of a return business class flight to either country from Australia with a full-service carrier jacks up the total cost to Europe, making these less attractive options than some other Asian stopovers.

Some of the best bargains are out of Manila. Business class flights between the Philippines capital and the European hubs are astonishingly inexpensive, which suggests it’s European leisure travellers who are dominating those flights while demand for business class seats is relatively light.

A return business class flight aboard Emirates from Manila to Frankfurt departing on September 18 and returning on October 16 starts from $3722. A return flight Manila to Rome is cheaper still, from just $3405 while to Milan is fractionally more, from $3486. The return business class fare from Sydney to Manila with Philippine Airlines starts from $4071 which puts the total cost of the business class flight from Sydney to Rome with a Philippines stopover in each direction at $7476. To Milan the price starts at $7557 while to Frankfurt the cost is just slightly higher, from $7793.

If you were to fly business class direct from Sydney to those European cities, the cost of a return business class ticket for those dates with Emirates from Sydney to Rome starts from $9998, to Milan from $9982 and to Frankfurt from $8689. A flight from Sydney to Rome with a multi-day stopover in the Philippines therefore costs $2522 less than the direct flight.

Although the cost is higher, a stopover in Bali is another option for business class flyers to consider. Outward bound in mid-September, returning a month later, a business class flight from Melbourne to Rome with a stopover on the Island of the Gods starts from $9622. That’s flying with Garuda to Denpasar with the return onward flight to Rome with Emirates.

The exceptions to the Asian stopover

An Asian stopover on a business class flight to Europe that costs less than a direct flight is the exception rather than the rule. Fly business class to Europe with a stopover in Tokyo, Bangkok, Singapore or Jakarta and you’ll likely pay more than a direct flight to Europe via those cities.

There are a few budget airlines that offer a business class service from Australia to these cities at a much cheaper price but business class flyers who value the comfort and polish that comes with a seat aboard a legacy carrier are not likely to be swayed by price alone.

Nor does an Asian stopover offer any price advantage for economy flyers. Although you can easily break your journey to Europe by stopping off for a few days in Manila, Bangkok, Singapore or Ho Chi Minh City, it’s going to cost more than a return flight to Europe with no stopovers. The same applies to business class flyers travelling east out of Australia. Fly business class to North America with an Asian stopover and you’ll pay more than flying direct.

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Source: smh.com.au

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