Asia’s Budget Airlines Redefining Business Class: Premium Comfort Without The Price Tag

An increasing number of Asia-based low-cost carriers are flying into Australia and offering a scaled-back business class.

This news will suit some passengers who are prepared to forego perks such as lounge access, lie-flat seats, and free-flowing champagne in exchange for 1990s-style recliners, a quieter cabin, and a cost-competitive fare.

Carriers such as Scoot, Batik Air, T’way, VietJet, and AirAsia X are all pushing a business class lite product that is more like premium economy on full-service airlines. However, for some passengers, these airlines hit the sweet spot, offering decent comfort and reasonable value.

RELATED: Travel Hacker Reveals How Much Business Class Flyers Actually Earn

Scoot strips business class back to the basics

Scoot is Singapore Airlines’ version of Jetstar. It operates B787s from Singapore to Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. Depending on the exact model of aircraft, Scoot offers between 18 and 35 seats in Scoot Plus in a 2-3-2 layout. Scoot Plus offers a well-padded leather recliner seat with good recline, one complimentary meal, snack, one alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink, priority boarding, and a 30kg luggage allowance.

You can forget an afternoon of free-flowing drinks and bowls of warm nuts and the cabin can often be filled by people you wouldn’t normally hang around with, but for a daytime flight into Asia, Scoot Plus can be a perfectly decent option for many people. Once in Singapore, you can transfer into a real business class cabin for your longer connecting trip or spend the savings on one of Singapore’s many over-priced five-star hotels.

Not quite lie-flat seats in AirAsia X business class

Not quite flat… but not bad either. Image: The Points Guy

Malaysia’s AirAsia X offers a slightly improved version of business class lite on their A330 flights from KL to Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. Thai AirAsia X also flies between Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and Sydney using the same aircraft type and offering the same product. The smaller 12-person cabin in a 2-2-2 configuration is immediately more appealing, and the ticket includes a complimentary meal and drink, plus a 40 kg luggage allowance.

The seats also extend out flat, but at a 165˚ angle, so it’s angle-flat rather than lie flat — a big upgrade on the Scoot seat. However, you do notice the angle when you are trying to sleep at night and are slowly sliding down the seat. Instead, many passengers put their seat into a cradle position to sleep. AirAsia X’s premium cabin beats economy on a full-service airline and is usually around the same price.

No drinks, but an otherwise solid offering in Batik Air business class

Batik Air operates narrowbody B737-800s between KL and Bali to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. It also flies between Perth and Jakarta and Perth and Adelaide. Batik business class; think three rows of recliners in a 2-2 layout, just like you get on a Qantas B737.

RELATED: Qantas Business Class Seats — Everything You Need To Know

Think Qantas domestic business class without the lounges and wine (Batik doesn’t service alcohol) but superior recline and legroom. Throw in generally pleasant in-flight service and meals along with highly competitive fares, and Batik Air business class can be a sound alternative to economy class on mainstream airlines to and from Asia.

VietJet raises the ‘business class lite’ bar

It’s hard not to be aware of VietJet and its bright orange A330s, which fly from Ho Chi Minh to Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Melbourne. Flights between Hanoi, Melbourne, and Sydney will also start in June. Like AirAsia X, the VietJet A330s offer a 12-person SkyBoss business class cabin with a 2-2-2 configuration and angle flat seats. One reason for the similarity is that these are former AirAsia X aircraft.

VietJet is a carrier to watch in the coming decade. Image: Delicious

But VietJet channels a little more of the full-service experience than AirAsia X, with a fruit offering and warm handtowels before take-off, two meals on the Australia – Vietnam sector with a choice of meals with sides with some effort put into the presentation, a broad range of drinks, including alcohol, amenity kit, pillow, and blanket.

VietJet is no Qatar Airways, but it is a really solid product for its price point if you can forego stuff like inflight entertainment, power ports, lounges, and WiFi.

Decent seat but not much else on T’way Air

South Korean low-cost carrier T’way Air also flies an A330 between Seoul and Sydney and has a two-row business class cabin just like AirAsia X. This is because most of T’way’s A330 also come from that airline (AirAsia X had a near-death financial experience during Covid and had to offload a lot of planes).

T’way leaves a bit more to be desired… but it’s still worth taking a look at. Image: Mainly Miles

But T’way business class is a more parsimonious experience than VietJet or Batik. Like Scoot and AirAsia X, it’s one complimentary meal and drink, a 20kg luggage allowance, and the not-quite lie-flat seat. Everything else requires payment. Compared to the Southeast Asian cabin crews, T’way’s cabin crews can be aloof to the point of rudeness. But you don’t fly business class lite for the charming cabin crew.

These airlines strip business class back to the basics – a decent seat, a quieter cabin, and more personal space. It’s what full-service airlines used to call business class in 1995. However, given the highly competitive fares, these airlines remain a good alternative for passengers who want comfort with all the 2024 full-service business class frills.