a table with food on it
Swiss First Class is exquisite!

It’s time to decide – your next trip is on the horizon, you’ve heard a few rumors, but you just can’t tell whether first class is worth it. But maybe it is, oh no! The decisions! In recent years airlines have made significant upgrades to their international business and first class seats, so if you’re lucky enough to fly in one of them – you’re bound to have a good time. But whether you should opt for one or another depends on a few factors, which we’ll lay out crystal clear.

the interior of a planeConfirm

Before you go blowing all your points, first confirm that you’re on a flight with internationally configured seats. Most flights with the US or Europe are operated by old school seats which are nothing to get excited about – some of which don’t even offer more  legroom. Check first to see that you’re on a plane offering flat beds. The easiest way is just to search Google Flights for your flight as if you’re buying a ticket. When you find your flight, you’ll see amenities listed. The longer the flight, the more first class is worth it.

Upgraded Lounges

There are a few things to consider before opting for first class over business class. The first point of consideration is “where”. If you’re flying from your airline’s home base, such as Air France from Paris, you’ll experience the airlines very best lounges and receive a more streamlined, private and VIP feeling ground experience. If you’re flying from somewhere remote, the experience on the ground may not be any different at all for business and first class passengers.

a bed in a planeWider, Longer

Once on board, the first noticeable difference in international first class is the length of the bed and the width of the seat – plus extra cozy bedding. Any bed on a plane is better than a cramped economy seat, but a business class bed is often about 6 feet long and a bit narrow. For shorter passengers, this isn’t a big deal, but for longer travelers it can get a bit claustrophobic if you’re rolling around. First class beds however are often around 7 feet in length and much wider.

Smaller Cabins

Most Airlines have between 28-48 business class seats on their planes. On the other hand, even a jam packed first class cabins only offer 12-16. Many of the best airlines only offer between six and eight first class seats. In first class you’ll have a smaller, more private cabin, with a higher crew to passenger ratio than anywhere else on the plane. On half empty flights, you may have two people solely assigned to look after you, which can be neat! But in either cabin, service should always be attentive. Oh, and the amenity kits are better!

a bed in a planeThe Finest Food and Beverage

Most international business class cabins serve lovely champagne, ranging between $30-$60 a bottle retail, as well as nice wines and solid food. In first class, the price points and rarity of the food and beverage offerings go up a notch. Many airlines offer vintage Dom Perignon, Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle, Krug and other celebrated champagnes, spirits and wines. In addition, you’ll find more a la cart food offerings, and even on some, lovely caviar! Basically, it’s a big jump in sophistication, but if you’re easy to please (or don’t drink) it’s not the biggest of differences.


If you travel heavy, first class often has an even more generous baggage allowance than business class. In addition, with most airlines, your bags will receive a higher priority for delivery. Truth be told, it doesn’t always work out that way – but when it does – it’s nice. If you are paying for your ticket rather than using points, you’ll also earn an excess bunch of miles and status points for first class tickets versus business class in most cases.

Featured image courtesy of Swiss International Airlines.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Nice article. One thing to mention is priority boarding/transfers. For example:

    Most – special check-in i.e. BA First Wing
    LH: porche transfer in many situations
    LX: transfer between A/E terminals privately, new transfer to plane
    AF: private transfer to/from lounge. Direct escort to your seat ex-CDG, skipping everybody, no waiting, etc.
    UA: lol

    It’s one thing I value about first class not only because it saves time but also because it makes you feel like a rockstar 🙂

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