Today (June 27, 2016): top 10 best airlines for longhaul Business Class.
A couple of weeks ago, I published my top 10 list of the world’s best airlines for longhaul First Class. Today, I focus on Business Class, which only represents 15% of long-haul seats globally, but is by far the most lucrative cabin for airlines. The growth in Business Class travel helped lead to the creation of an awesome array of innovative products, hereby trying to give an airline an edge over its rivals. When you fly Business Class – whether it is for corporate travel, because you have money to burn, or simply because you are good at collecting & spending miles – the journey itself becomes a fun experience: there is no waiting in line at check-in; you can relax at state-of-the-art airport lounges; you will interact with attentive personnel; gourmet food and wine will treat all your senses; and a comfortable flat-bed guarantees at least a few hours of decent sleep. However, the experience largely depends on the airline and the aircraft that you’re flying in, since most carriers have an inconsistent Business Class product across their fleet. I hereby present you my selection of the top 10 best Business Class cabins of 2016, taking into account the plane type and reflecting my personal flying experiences.
There is more information (with several trip reports & Youtube clips) below my slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite Business Class cabin in the comments section, or take my poll below.
While British Airways’ Business Class (dubbed Club World) raised the bar for Business Class worldwide a decade ago with the introduction of the first fully lie-flat seat, it is now outclassed by some of its competitors, especially the Middle East and Asian carriers. So you would not expect British Airways to end up in a top 10 list like this one, but it remains one of the preferred Business Class products, especially on the transatlantic routes. The innovative “Ying/Yang” seat plan is unique to British Airways, and you should go for the window seats (solo travelers) or the middle seats which are located in their own private suites, although they face backwards. Especially on the upper cabin of British Airways’ aging Boeing 747s, you will experience a lot of privacy. Food on British Airway can be a hit or miss, but their afternoon tea concept on long haul flights remains very popular.
- Official website: British Airways.
- Aircraft: British Airways offers a consistent Business Class product across its entire longhaul fleet, which is composed of A380s, B787s, B777, and B747s.
- Review: read here my review of British Airways’ Business Class in an Airbus A380.
- Review: read here my review of British Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 747-400.
It is pretty fashionable to complain about American carriers, especially about the service they deliver onboard, which – there is no denying it – is inferior to that of their non-American competitors. But the exception to the rule must be the “new” American Airlines, which introduced a very impressive new Business Class product two years ago, with fully flat, cocoon seats that offer more comfort than ever before. Thanks to the herringbone layout in a 1-2-1 alignment, all Business Class seats have direct aisle access (no jumping over people’s feet here) and a significant amount of privacy. The cabin layout and seat concept, which was copied from Cathay Pacific, can also be found on other airlines, including EVA Air and Air France. Whilst American isn’t an airline to fly to get the best dining experience, you’ll never have a terrible meal and I love their ice-cream dessert as well as the stylish and well stocked walk-up bar.
- Official website: American Airlines.
- Aircraft: American’s new Business Class is available on all of their new Boeing B777-300ER and (transcontinental) Airbus A321 planes, while their Boeing B777-200ER, B787, B757, and B767-300ER as well as (ex-US Airlines) Airbus A330 planes feature a less enjoyable but still decent enough Business Class product.
- Review: read here my review of American’s Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
Business Class seats on selected Japan Airlines planes are named JAL Sky Suites, since each seat is located in its own private space, while still offering unimpeded aisle access to minimize disturbances. Each seats comes with a retractable privacy partition (which can be lowered when you are traveling with a companion), ample storage space beneath an ottoman, and a 23-inch (58 cm) LCD monitor (one of the largest in its class). Comfortable bedding is offered as well, consisting of a highly resilient airweave mattress and pillow, which will send you off to dreamland even if you are like me and have trouble falling asleep on a plane. On top of that, JAL offers some of the finest Business Class food in the sky, with both Western and Japanese menus created by chefs that are working in leading restaurants around the world. You can order in-flight meals from an a la carte menu by tapping a liquid-crystal touch-panel controller, in any order, at any time, and as often as you wish.
- Official website: Japan Airlines
- Aircraft: Japan Airlines offers JAL Sky Suites on selected routes flown by their Boeing B777-300ER and B787 planes.
- Review: read here my review of Japan Airlines’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
When Finnair became the European launch customer of the next-generation Airbus A350 XWB (extra wide body) aircraft last year, it put a lot of effort in the cabin design of its new flagship longhaul Business Class product and collaborated with top Helsinki firm dSign Vertti Kivi & Co. The A350’s bright and spacious Business Class cabin features 46 seats in a 1-2-1 layout, ensuring direct aisle access to all passengers. The Zodiac Cirrus III seats convert to fully flat beds, while a large touch-screen inflight entertainment system comes programmed with films, TV shows, music and other digital content on demand in numerous languages. An exquisite new A350 signature menu features Nordic delicacies and carefully selected wines. A very nice touch is that Finnair offers free WiFi to all Business Class passengers on its A350 planes. In addition, there’s a dedicated Ladies’ Room that provides cosmetics and other supplies for female passengers.
- Official website: Finnair
- Aircraft: Finnair’s newest Business Class product is only offered on its Airbus A350 planes.
- Review: read here my review of Finnair’s Business Class in an Airbus A350 XWB.
- Review: read here and here my reviews of Finnair’s Business Class in an Airbus A330.
The success of Emirates’ Business Class product is very much based on the comfort and space of its Airbus A380 fleet, and that’s why the mega plane is quickly being rolled out on all the major international routes. The window Business Class seats are perfect for solo travelers, while the dual and more intimate seats in the centre of the cabin are perfect for partners traveling together. There’s in-seat power for your laptop and a side table for space to work. You can also choose a drink from a fancy, personal mini-bar. But it’s the mammoth amenity kits, a huge entertainment selection played on the giant private screen, and the roomy and well-appointed bar on the upper deck that make flying Business Class in an Emirates A380 quite an event. In addition, Emirates’ ground service matches the inflight experience (e.g. complimentary chauffeur service to/from the airport, and access to Emirates’ gigantic lounge at Dubai International Airport).
- Official website: Emirates.
- Aircraft: Lie-flat Business Class seats are available on all Emirates A380 aircraft, but unfortunately, Business Class cabins on Emirates Boeing B777s offer only deeply-reclining sleeperettes (although newly delivered B777s are outfitted with a slightly enhanced product that offers fully flat beds).
- Review: read here and here my reviews of Emirates’ Business Class in an Airbus A380.
- Review: read here my review of Emirates’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
- Review: read here my review of Emirates’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-200LR.
Business Class on Virgin Australia’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft features 37 private suites (that convert into the length of a queen size bed) in a reverse herringbone cabin layout. Customised triple-layer seat cushion supported by a hammock sub-frame and a turndown service with memory foam mattress toppers and high-grade cotton pillows and donnas make for a good night’s sleep on the airline’s longhaul routes from Australia to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi. Virgin Australia is the first airline to have a lounge onboard a single deck aircraft, which offers a selection of nibbles and bites, beer, wine and spirits as well as a hot beverage selection with petit fours. Virgin Australia also offers its passengers continental breakfast at the bar prior to the full breakfast service, or the opportunity to enjoy a full breakfast at the bar rather than in the suite. A new signature service element includes cocktails and movie snack service each hour throughout the flight.
- Official website: Virgin Australia
- Aircraft: The first of the airline’s refitted Boeing 777-300ER aircraft is now flying across the Pacific. All five of the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft are expected to be refitted by the third quarter of 2016.
The Business Class product that Qatar Airways introduced on its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A350 and A380 planes is superb. The cabin’s design – with predominant white-pink tones – is one of the most elegant in the air, and its configuration forms a unique diamond shape, allowing you to adapt your personal space to suit your needs. You can catch up on sleep in a fully-reclined seat (with a duvet provided by the crew during night flights) or make productive use of your time at a large work surface. Food quality on Qatar Airways matches the new Business Class product and can easily be compared to that of high-end restaurants. Two celebrity chefs have been chosen to create a unique and diverse Business Class menu, so that you can delight in extraordinary cuisine and an on-demand service that allows you to enjoy sweet or savory delicacies whenever you like.
- Official website: Qatar Airways
- Aircraft: Unfortunately, Qatar Airways does not offer the same Business Class product on all of its longhaul planes: the Business Class of the B787, A350 and A380 makes the Boeing 777 Business Class product look a little dated (while it is still outstanding) and simply outclasses the dull Airbus A330 Business Class product (although Qatar Airways is currently refitting its Airbus A330 Business Class to match the B777 experience).
- Review: read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Dreamliner.
- Review: read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
Oman Air’s Dreamliner offers just 18 seats in Business Class (6 abreast seating 2–2–2) in a beautifully designed cabin that features a modern and airy Arabian decor. Each seat has an 80-inch (203 cm) pitch, provides direct aisle access, and converts to a fully lie-flat bed. A 17-inch (43 cm) personal monitor enables access to the aircraft’s state-of-the-art inflight entertainment (IFE) technology, with its huge range of the latest movies, music, games and information. A wide ranging menu of both modern and traditional fine dining and Arabic signature dishes is offered, with each dish created by an expert chef and served on unique, bespoke chinaware. Oman Air’s Business Class passengers can also avail of the airline’s complimentary chauffeur drive airport transfer service at select destinations across the network.
- Official website: Oman Air
- Aircraft: Oman Air’s new Business Class is only offered on its Boeing 787 planes.
Singapore Airlines has always been synonymous with lavishing luxury in the skies. And the airline does not fail to impress. The Business Class seat is the widest in the world (too wide for comfort, according to some). The unrivalled space between each seat, providing you direct access to the aisle, is a hallmark of the unique 1-2-1 forward facing cabin layout. Featuring a dedicated sleeping surface for added comfort, the seat is designed to accommodate virtually any sleeping position. Introduced in 2013 on their Boeing 777-300ER and designed by JPA, the new Business Class seat is even better than the previous incarnation of the seat. With Singapore Airlines, you will also enjoy a fine restaurant-style setting and culinary service at 40,000 feet. Each menu, specially created by an International Culinary Panel of celebrated chefs from around the globe, is sure to appeal to the discerning epicure within you. Singapore Airlines makes Business Class look First Class.
- Official website: Singapore Airlines.
- Aircraft: Singapore Airlines most updated Business Class product can be found on its Airbus A350 and some of its Boeing 777-300ER planes, while all Airbus A380 and most other Boeing 777 planes features a somewhat similar but older product.
Business Class with the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates is not business as usual. The Business Studios on Etihad’s A380 and 787 Dreamliner can be customised to suit every stage of the journey and are the embodiment of style, simplicity and functionality. The Business Studio has a unique dovetail design with forward and rear facing seats that creates a sense of space and freedom, with direct aisle access and convenient storage spaces. Upholstered by Poltrona Frau, the 22-inch (56 cm) wide seat converts into a comfortable fully-flat bed of up to 6 feet and 8 inches (203 cm). The Business Studio offers a space for everything, including a concealed storage, a meal table and a separate large side table that can be used for laptops and other personal belongings when you are dining. Located between First and Business Class, there’s also a lounge on the A380 that seats up to six guests and is fitted with seatbelts, power supply and connectivity ports.
- Official website: Etihad Airways
- Aircraft: the Business Studios are installed on Etihad’s new Airbus A380 and 787 Dreamliner planes, while Etihad’s Airbus A330, A340 and B777 planes feature an older (but still excellent) Business Class product.
- Review: read here my review of Etihad Airway’s Business Class in an Airbus A330.