Earlier today I wrote about the world’s best first class airline products.
I know a lot more about first class than I do business class, though I’ve flown my share of the latter.
Can you do such a list for business class too? I’d especially be interested in the most consistently good business class products — i.e. carriers that don’t have hidden traps where an equipment change leaves you with terrible old recliner seats.
The truth is this: I do not claim to be an expert on the world’s best business class seats.
I do think myself fairly well-schooled in which airlines and routes have award availability. And I have a general knowledge about the details of the products.
But as with my list of which airlines offer the truly best first class products, I think it’s important to have actually been onboard and sampled the product before drawing too many conclusions and offering up a firm judgment on which ones are actually best.
I’m very fortunate, I generate a lot of miles and book international first class when I can especially for long haul transpacific flying.
For shorter flights, such as transatlantic (I live on the East Coast) and South America, I’m fine with business class.
The way I think about business is all about the seat. I’m almost unconcerned with service levels. If I’m going to have a long layover I would like a comfortable place to work with internet, some decent hot food as snacks, and a shower. But — and this is going to come off very snobbishly, but I think if you can read it generously you’ll understand the sentiment — see business class flying as transportation, the most effective way to be comfortable and sleep in a metal tube.
That said, I have some tentative judgments and I’d bet that readers can help out with this question.
Here are what I think of as the very best business class services offered.
In general my first question is, does the airline have a fully flat reverse herringbone seat with all aisle access?
If it does it almost by definition makes the list (though the US Airways soft product counts against it here). If it doesn’t I’m open to considering other factors that might justify inclusion.
That suggests to me that the very top tier ought to be:
It’s a reverse herringbone seat on their 777-300ER, similar to what Cathay Pacific offers.
And they offer pre-order meal options. Plus they’re the only airline I know of which serves Dom Perignon in business class.
That makes for a strong soft product on top of featuring what I generally consider to be the best seat.
And I’ve heard many good things about their lounges in Taipei. What’s more, that doesn’t even take into account their Hello Kitty planes, which strike me as the height of awesome, despite being incredibly kitsch. I don’t make my judgment on the basis of Hello Kitty toilet paper, I think of them as having the best business class based on being tied for best seat and having other plus factors. But it does make me smile.
On the 777s equipped with a first class cabin you want the mini-cabin of two rows behind first class for a super exclusive experience.
Food and service are reasonably good. And lounges in Hong Kong are very good — recently renovated, stylish, comfortable, and well-provisioned (who can complain about a noodle bar?).
Singapore Airlines doesn’t offer reverse herringbone seats but they are very comfortable seats for sleeping. They’re so luxurious that in the new business product they actually took away two inches of width (the overall seat shell remains just as big) because customers felt it was too wide and so they added more storage space instead.
They offer full pre-order meal options for many flights, and every business class flight which departs from Singapore (and the menu is very extensive). Singapore’s is the best and most extensive pre-order service of any carrier, called “Book the Cook.”
The best meal I’ve ever had on a plane was in business class, on Singapore, on a flight under three hours: I had pre-ordered their laksa.
And then there’s:
American Airlines (!) surprising as it may sound, although this judgment is for their 777-300ER only. Flying London routes you’re not likely to see any aircraft substitution.
Meanwhile we’re going to soon see a similar, possibly incrementally better, business class seat onboard their reconfigured 777-200s.
Delta – for Pacific and Tel Aviv flights only
They had the fully flat, all aisle access, reverse herringbone seat before American did. But they don’t fly it on their Europe routes.
Across the Pacific they currently have the best seat of any North American airline (American will be flying their version of the seat Dallas – Hong Kong).
US Airways, I’ve always said, doesn’t get enough credit for having pioneered the seat that I consider the current world’s best (at least of those I’ve sampled). They had it first, were initially slow to roll it out, but have more aircraft with it than American does.
Their ranking, though, is tempered by what I view as quite a poor soft product (food, service) overall.
But I’ll have no problem sleeping if I fly US Airways with this seat. And that’s really what I’m after.
Many speak highly of the new JAL product but I haven’t flown it or formed a sufficient opinion about whether or not to include it on this list.
And then we can look at other business products, of which there are many that are quite good and have a variety of features and benefits worth noting. There are good seats that I consider a notch below the seats of the airlines listed above, but have other redeeming qualities that I personally rank as less important but are nonetheless interesting.
Austrian has an onboard chef for business class.
Turkish has what some consider the world’s best business class lounge in Istanbul (and others find that claim heresy given how busy it can be and how it is in direct competition for that title with Virgin Atlantic’s London Heathrow Clubhouse).
I know though that I want to avoid most South American airlines, United’s legacy fully flat 777s (8 across rather than 4!), Air France (but then really anything that’s angled rather than fully flat), and even British Airways (who I used to love, and helped pioneer fully flat but in my opinion has fallen behind).
So what’s best? What’s the best you’ve flown? Who else deserves to be on this list?
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