Not all Asian carriers have the top business class products, but all of the truly best business class products are offered by Asian or Middle Eastern carriers.
Take Singapore Airlines. With a four-across configuration like in first class, Singapore Airlines seats are incredible wide and they are also relatively private.
There’s plenty of storage space as well as the little touches like an in-seat mirror. Interestingly in the latest generation of the seat the ‘shell’ is the same size as before but the seat itself lost two inches of width. In exchange for width there’s additional storage space. One of the common complaints, believe it or not, about the old seat was that it was too wide.
And of course Singapore does a really spectacular job with onboard meals. They offer ‘book the cook’ which allows you to pick from an extensive menu and they’ll have your selection onboard for you.
If there’s a knock on Singapore it’s that they don’t provide amenity kits, or pajamas, but they do stock the lavatory with amenities.
Or take Taipei-based Star Alliance member EVA Air which offers a business class product that’s four abreast on the Boeing 777-300ER. That means all aisle access.
The seat is reverse herringbone and very similar to what Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, and others offer. It’s one of the best business class seats in the sky in my opinion.
They offer pre-order meals in their business (“Royal Laurel”) class and onboard internet. They serve some of the world’s best champagnes.. in business class, not first (a class they do not offer).
These are truly fantastic business class products. Increasingly US airlines are eliminating first class, with American slated to be the last carrier offering it and then only on their small fleet of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. And US airlines don’t offer service or food that’s as good in first class as some of the better carriers offer in business.
But I’ll still always take first class over business class. Let me offer the most extreme example. I’ll choose American’s old first class on their unreconfigured Boeing 777-200s over Singapore business class.
First class means a more spacious seat. It’s a more private, less crowded cabin. It’s easier to get the attention of a flight attendant for whatever need you have, like drink refills, even with the inconsistent crews on US airlines.
I believe the seat is the most important feature, especially when comparing to business class. And though the meals on American and United in first won’t be spectacular you aren’t giving up all that much even compared to the best business class meals be it on Singapore or Austrian.
Here’s the old American Airlines first class seat onboard the Boeing 777-200:
There’s a blanket and mattress pad with small pillow in first class, it was on the seat’s ottoman. And there’s a big pillow and blanket above the seat in the overhead, too. Together they make for quite nice bedding.
Your amenity kit is perfectly fine in American first class.
And there are pajamas. Perfect for a night’s sleep.
The seats even swivel. The most unique feature is that you can turn the seat to face many directions with about a 180 degree turn. If you’re traveling with someone, turn complete to face them and they can do the same.
Is this a proper international first class experience? Absolutely not. But I will take it over business class any day.