Transport : Airlines

In the hey day of flying, seats in the skies were reserved for Don Draper style executives being romanced by fine wines and beautiful air hostesses. Today, there is still romance in the skies. If you are wealthy or fortunate enough to travel Business Class, you too can connect to the golden age of aviation.

In this article I compare the world’s Best Business Class airlines, rating them by their seat, food, staff and overall product. This top 10 list is ranked for long haul Business Class because it is on long haul flights that you truly appreciate features such as a lie-flat bed, superb food and great pilot (see my inclusion of British Airways). Wi-Fi and personal screens with hundred of channels are now expected, differentiators today include superbly comfortable seat-beds, gourmet meals, ridiculous amenity kits, a personal chauffeur after touchdown, and of course the sit down bars that take some of the tedium out of long-haul flights. This is my personal top 10 list of best Business Class airlines in the world.

1. Qatar Airways
Business Class on the Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner is superb, making it one of the best Business Class airline products in the world. I am sure about the quality of this Business Class product, because we have reviewed it twice, once from Brussels (BRU) to Doha (DOH) and once from Amsterdam (AMS) to Doha (DOH).

Each Business Class seat on Qatar Airways has aisle access and comes with turn down service. The food on Qatar is simply excellent in presentation, flavours and quality. Unfortunately, Qatar Airways does not yet offer yet the same Business Class product on all its planes. The Boeing 777 Business Class product looks comparatively dated, whilst still good and the A330 Business Class product is currently undergoing a retrofitting so that this product will eventually match the 777 experience. For now, this version comes in below par. Qatar is also missing the chauffeur after touchdown service, but preflight it offers one of the best airline lounges in the world if you travel First Class with the Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa lounge in Doha’s new Hamad International Airport and the almost as good as the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge at Hamad International Airport in Doha.

2. Etihad Airways
Etihad’s Business Class product, includes excellent food, seats that face forward and have direct aisle access. Each seat is equipped with a special mattress for sleeping, adjustable mood lighting and touch-screen TVs with a plug and play feature that allows passengers to upload their own games and music. On the ground facilities for Business Class passengers include door-to-door chauffer service. Etihad is introducing its new Business Class product on its Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, I expect this to become the Best Business Class airline in the air. I have reviewed Etihad A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi,Etihad Business Class on the A380 from London to Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi to London.

3. Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines Business Class seat is the widest in the world and the unrivalled space between each seat, gives every single seat direct access to the aisle. This access is enabled by the unique 1-2-1 forward facing cabin layout. Singapore Airlines offers a sleep mattress which enables a good nights sleep. You will also enjoy a fine restaurant-style setting and service with each menu specially created by an International Culinary Panel of celebrated chefs from around the globe. I have reviewed Singapore Airlines Business Class on the A350 and also Singapore Airlines First Class Suite.

4. Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific offers a consistent and solid product when it comes to flying Business Class. Cathay’s new Business Class features a flat-bed that is just over 82 inches or 2 meters long. A bed extension increases its width by 6.5 inches or 16.5 cm to provide additional hip support, while the side storage compartment offers extra knee space for sleeping on your side. Cathay’s business seat is identical to the one installed on American Airlines, Eva Air and Air France, but Cathay offers better customer service, impressive lounges and award-winning cuisine. Cathay’s new business class product is only available on their Boeing 777-300 and Airbus A330 planes, so take care when you plan your travels. I have reviewed Business Class in a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER and Cathay Pacific First Class On Boeing 747-400.

5. British Airways
British Airways may be a controversial choice as position 5, but I love the terribly British service and the excellent pilots who keep you updated in turbulence which is essential for the less confident fliers among us. British Airways Business Class is truly classy and combined with very good British airport lounges such as the Galleries Club airport lounge at Heathrow, makes the overall product very competitive. The Business Class, known as Club World, is consistent across the British Airways fleet. The Club World seats lie-flat, but the seats feel thin and unsubstantial when you try to sleep, compared to it’s competitors, especially the Middle East and Asian carriers. However, the innovative “Ying/Yang” seat plan, which is unique to British Airways, offers excellent privacy. Window and middle seats face backwards and are located in their private suites while aisle seats face forwards. This means you retain a great deal of privacy, particularly on the upper cabin of the old Boeing 747’s. Food on British Airways is very good but not great and is again, fairly consistent. The British Airways afternoon tea concept on long haul flights is unbeatable.

I have flown Club World in a British Airways Boeing 777-300ER, Club World on the Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet, Club World on the A380 and have reviewed the best Club World Seats on the 787-9 Dreamliner along with First Class On The British Airways Dreamliner B787-9. I have also compared British Airways Club World Vs Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

On a side note, if you shop at Tesco and avidly collect Avios with American Express and Lloyds TSB Avios Reward card, the occasional Club World flight booked with Avios is accessible to most. See my guides to collecting Avios.

6. Emirates
For luxury travel to Dubai or more than 140 additional destinations, Emirates Airlines rises above the competition with the A380 Emirates’ Business Class product taking advantage of the comfort and space of the Airbus A380 fleet. Generous amenity kits, a huge entertainment selection played on the private screen, and a roomy and well-appointed bar on the upper deck puts Emirates in the top 10. The ground service includes chauffeur service, an impressive Emirates lounge at Dubai airport. Lie-flat Business Class seats with a built-in mini bar are available on all Emirates A380 aircraft, and most Boeing 777 aircraft, but unfortunately, Business Class cabins on other aircraft offer only deeply-reclining seats. I have reviewed the impressive Business Class on the Emirates A380 and the Emirates B777 angled but not lie-flat beds on the Emirates B777.

7. American Airlines
The new American Airlines Business Class product now offers fully flat, cocoon seats that offer privacy and comfort. American Airlines currently offers the best Business Class seat on Transatlantic routes. The new Business Class is available on all of their new Boeing 777-300ER and (transcontinental) Airbus A321 planes, while their Boeing 777-200ER and 767-300ER planes are currently being retrofitted with a similar Business Class product. American Airlines offers solid and decent meals; their food is always good but never great, they have nice touches like their ice-cream desserts, and of course an All-American service. I have reviewed the new and very good American Airlines (AA) Business class on the Boeing 777-300ER.

8. Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand offers a very good Business Premier Class product with comfy 22-inch leather lie-flat armchairs in Air New Zealand’s signature chalk coloured leather, premium on-demand audio and video, and convenient self-service refreshment areas. The lie-flat bed is completed with a memory foam mattress, a cosy duvet and two full size pillows. An amenity kit provides passengers with travel basics such as eye cream, lip balm and moisturizer, socks, eyeshades, toothbrush kit, earplugs and a pen. Your separate ottoman footrest also doubles as a “visitor’s seat,” making it easy to invite a guest over for a glass of fine New Zealand wine. This is more or less the same seat as the ones offered by Virgin Atlantic, but Air New Zealand beats its English competitor when it comes to food. The mouth-watering dishes are innovative, featuring the finest New Zealand produce and complemented once again by fine New Zealand wines.

9. Virgin Atlantic
Sir Richard Branson has created a very cool brand in Virgin Atlantic and although the Virgin Business or “Upper Class” experience might not be the most stress free in the sky, see my review of the Virgin Clubhouse lounge in Terminal 3 which is a trendy but hectic experience, from the feel good music as you enter to the joyful staff, Virgin Atlantic’s posh Upper Class cabin is more like a fun members club than other more starchy Business Class offering. Upper Class provides guests with the same seat as Air New Zealand (detailed above) which has its own private suite, complete with a large centre table, multidirectional 10.4-inch TV and ottoman/guest seat. We love the onboard bar to help pass the time onboard and to enjoy a drink with the other travellers blessed in experiencing this premium product. Virgin is let down by its food which is very good but not great. I have reviewed Virgin’s Upper Class on their B747 and Virgin Upper Class on A340. I have also compared British Airways Club World Vs Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

10. Swiss International Air Lines
Swiss International Air Lines is the pride of the Lufthansa group, which also manages Lufthansa itself, Brussels Airlines, LOT Airlines, and Austrian Airlines. The airline revamped its Business Class a couple of years ago, and the new Swiss Business Class seat has a cubbyholes for shoes, and a spacious workplace complete with a power outlet, USB connection, movable light and an LCD screen which can display tablet and smartphone content. The seat itself turns into a 78-inch/2-meter flatbed that lowers into a space carved out for it in the seat in front. The seat’s integrated massage function will pamper you en route. Flights departing from Switzerland offer travellers a rotating menu celebrating the cuisine of different regions, and of course, a complimentary Swiss chocolate to make your travels a little more pleasant. I have flown Business Class on Swiss International Air Lines‘ oldest Airbus A340-300.

It is worth noting that not all airlines offer consistent business class products with older planes offering more dated seating and facilities. To work out what Business Class experience you will receive on your next flight it is worth finding out which aircraft flies on your planned route. You will then be able to figure out if you are going to experience the very best Business Class product from that airline.

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If you enjoyed this review you may be interested in my other airline reviews and airport lounge reviews including my top 10 best Premium Economy airlines in the world, my review of Emirates vs Etihad vs Qatar Airways: Best Airline In The Middle East, the best new Business Class Suites on Delta, United and American Airlines and the best First Class suite in the sky: Emirates Vs Etihad.