a row of seats on an airplane

Flying business class is so much more than the seat, bed, menus, champagne, extensive bar and multi course dining on board. Business class is about a complete experience from start to finish. A few airlines deliver at every juncture, so we’ve put together a guide of the five quintessential business class experiences, including which planes to fly and where to experience them at their very best. Here are the best business class offerings, based on the overall experience…

Honorable mentions to: EVA Airlines, Virgin Australia, Cathay Pacific, JetBlue.

inside a plane with rows of seats#5 Virgin Atlantic Out Of London Heathrow

Private check in, bespoke cocktails, massages, on board bar. 

The Planes for best experience: Boeing 787, Airbus A340, Boeing 747

Why: Virgin Atlantic offer an “Upper Class Wing” at Heathrow, which looks like a hotel lobby. It’s an entirely separate entrance to the terminal, where a porter comes to take your bags out of the trunk, and a “red coat” from Virgin Atlantic will hand deliver your boarding passes, sending you to the lounge (and through private security) in mere minutes. Their Clubhouse is one of the very best business class lounges. While their on board seat and bed is not amongst the very best, the on board bar and consistently great service makes this a wonderful experience.

a seat in an airplane

#4 Singapore Airlines Out Of Singapore Changi

Book the cook, spacious lounge, widest seat, excellent champagne.

The Planes for best experience: Airbus A380, Boeing 777, Airbus A350

Why: Singapore Airlines offers a delightfully smooth experience at Singapore Airport, with an extensive network of lounges. But it’s the on board offerings that have them climbing the ranks. The “book the cook” service allows passengers to order a la carte- off of an extensive menu. The Singapore business class seat is the widest in the business, and if you happen to get a bulkhead (front row) you’ll have tons of extra legroom. The crews, champagne and service are consistently polished and fantastic- making this a truly spectacular option- especially on their A380.

an airplane with a bed and a desk#3 Japan Airlines Out Of Tokyo Haneda

Incredible seat, cozy lounge, outstanding dining, superb crews.

The planes for best experience: Boeing 787, Boeing 777-300.

Why: Flying long haul on Japan Airlines is a sure fire winner. The departure at convenient Haneda airport is simple and effective, with a very solid lounge offering, including savory items and a variety of spaces- plus excellent runway views. Things reach new heights however on board. Japan Airlines uses the Apex Suite (Oman Air does as well, by the way), which is used by some airlines as a first class seat. It’s second to none for the size of the entertainment screen, direct aisle access and privacy. When you then add in the utterly professional demeanor of Japan Airlines crews, and their unique BEDD food menus, featuring multiple course Japanese delicacies- you get a truly spectacular feeling.

a row of seats in an airplane#2 Etihad Out Of Abu Dhabi

Whisper quiet A380’s, on board bar, spacious, private seats, biryani

The planes for best experience: Etihad 787, Etihad A380

Why: You can’t go wrong with an A380. Etihad offer extremely refined, luxurious and polished check in and lounge experience in their home base of Abu Dhabi and abroad. The lounges are both large and modern, featuring worldwide delicacies and excellent drink options. On board the A380, the airline offers game changing experiences. With on board bars and incredibly private seats- just four across on the massive A380- they’re (almost) the same as first class, kinda! As to the soft touches, any frequent traveler will tell you, it’s tough to beat spiced food on board an aircraft– and Etihad consistently makes wowing meals in the sky. The Etihad on board chefs are classically trained and it really shows. Plus, their excellent wines and champagnes never hurt.You can even go  enjoy them with friends at the on board bar. Yep, even in business class.

a room with rows of seats and monitors#1 Qatar Airways Via Doha

Dine on demand, the best seat, incredible lounge, attentive crews

The planes for best experience: 777 (QSuites), A350, A380

Why: Before the launch of the QSuites, we and many other organizations had already named Qatar the world’s best business class. Perhaps it’s their over the top a la carte and buffet offerings in the Al Mourjan lounge in Doha, complete with showers. It’s almost as large as some stadiums, by the way. Or, perhaps it’s the dine on demand service on board, allowing you to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, the pajamas, state of the art aircraft or the fancy amenity kits. But then they changed the game- offering the first “double bed” in business class. Qatar’s new business class offering on select routes operated by the 777 and A350 rival many first class offerings, and with the attentive crews, delectable alcohol selections and award winning entertainment systems, we can’t think of a better way to fly, without moving up to first class. Ding, ding- we have a winner.

Any additions?

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. I recently tried Qatar A350 from Doha to Tokyo Haneda on Business Class. That was absolutely the best Business Class I ever tried. I have flown, SAS, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, China Southern, United, American and more on business, and they have a long way to the top. Not that they’re not good, but Qatar beats them all.

  2. I’d agree that Qatar offers the best business as long as you don’t get 6-across seating. The QSuites followed by the Super Diamond seat are outstanding.

    Singapore is definitely up there, some people don’t like angling their legs/feet to go to sleep but I find the seat comfortable. Some criticize the lack of an amenity kit but I don’t see it as an issue. But I think you’re missing the mark here otherwise.

    Virgin Australia’s Super Diamond seat is fantastic and offers an all-around great experience. EVA Air offers a pre-order meal service and a great seat, Cathay Pacific’s business is quite good.

    On the other hand Emirates business class is fairly tight on the A380, downright awful on the 777 [and 777s are the aircraft they have the most of]. Etihad business is pretty meh outside the 787 and A380.

    Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse at Heathrow remains impressive but its seats are several generations behind and catering lackluster. It shines only in comparison to BA.

    1. Gary, I don’t disagree at all really. I specifically wanted to highlight the aircraft where these airlines shine. I’m not suggesting anyone hop on an Emirates 777 in business. I may need to make it more clear in the post- but it’s just certain planes that make each shine.

      I need to spend more time on EVA. I’ve only flown them twice and should take a closer look. I get that the soft touches are nice, but I haven’t ever left feeling a wow, other than the price point of the Grand Dame, which apparently is slowly being phased out?

      I have been wowed by the Apex Suite on JAL, I consistently find that for the short hops across the atlantic, Virgin Atlantic have the “feel good” factor down. I agree the bed is totally lacking, but clubhouse to arrivals lounge and upper class wing it’s all very sophisticated for business. I did give honorable mentions to V Australia and EVA, perhaps they should’ve replaced at least one of the others. I trust and hold your opinion in the very highest regard, so am now pondering. But for now at least, I stand by my opinion. Would absolutely love to yours : )

      1. Your blog is one of the best additions to BA. However, my 2c are that Gary is right about VS and EK not belonging on this list. VS especially should not qualify given its coffin-like seats, which massively drag down the friendly service and lounges, to net out at slightly below average. Would totally agree that VA’s new business class should replace VS, superior all around except for the lounge which is certainly still good at VA.

        EY’s soft product cutbacks also make it kind of suspect, but the 787/380 Studio is really quite an excellent business seat. For me, it’s kind of a tie between EY 787/380 and the BR 773.

  3. Gary, have you been to the lounge in Doha recently? What a beautiful disaster. Service has been decreased, no more a la carte and the food I saw on offer was downright bad. I still rank their business class experience up there, but not the lounge.

    1. Hey Ryan, I’m there Saturday. I was just there recently and found it similar to always. Obv there’s no more Krug, but it’s got great champagne, buffet up top and a la carte over by the shower and family room areas. I have a hard time knocking that place- even if it’s not what it once (unsustainably) was.

  4. For ultra-long haul SQ still remains my #1. I recently experienced two ultra-long haul flights on Turkish and was VERY underwhelmed. The TK business class cutbacks are significant. I also find Cathy Pacific to have a very mediocre soft product even though the HKG lounges are solid. I feel that Qantas doesn’t get enough credit and is underrated.

  5. Hard to see Virgin Atlantic on a 787 in Business as a top experience, in fact, I’ll go out of my way to avoid it in the future. I do agree about the surrounding amenities like the lounge et al.

    But a cramped seat that needs to be converted every time you want it to lay flat or have it upright, coupled with virtually zero storage space other than overhead, makes the VS 787 flight one I’d consider making in premium economy over business.

    After sampling a return flight SEA-LHR, I’ll pick another airline for Busienss class in the future-at least with their 787 herringbone configuration.

  6. You may want to consider mentioning that this ranking is yours, particularly in the headline. Just my two cents.

    1. I must say, I’d think that is assumed. I don’t say this is the “world official rankings”, and also- we link to Skytrax. It’s my opinion, based on years of experiences, almost all of which were under the radar. I took into account others opinions. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that. Cheers.

  7. I suppose terming this the best business class “experience” does give you a fair bit of wiggle room. But even still Virgin Atlantic is only on the list for the club house at Heathrow. Food and seat are average. You could make an almost identical argument then for Air NZ out of AKL. Who share the same hard product as VS, but also have a fabulous home lounge to commence the trip. Then you have Finnair, who have a great hard product a quirky and interesting soft product, and a home lounge with a Sauna! Now that has to come into “experience” top 5!

    Overall though. I would put Qatar #1, having VA at for #2. VA have a great seat and a bar far superior to VS. In lots of ways I prefer it to EK, which may be far bigger, but also can get quite rowdy. Talking of which EK has no place on this list. There 777 J seats are terrible, and there are soo many J seats on the A380 as to render the experience a little like a glorified PE. Ditto for the lounge in Dubai which has to accomodate so many guests it does not feel special at all.

  8. I agree that these are five great experiences.
    But in my experience, EVA belongs on the list, rather than “honorable mention” status.
    They offer most of the benefits you’ve listed for Singapore. Including a poorly-publicized, but equally equal Book-the-Cook type of option.
    Add fantastic lounges at Taoyuan, excellent crews, and a well thought-out cabin on longhaul aircraft, and you’ve got a fantastic experience.
    At least, in my opinion.

  9. The best B class cabin is delta ‘s 747-400 upper deck. The cabin has only 14 seats arranged 1-1. There are two FAs assigned. Its like a private jet! Unfortunately delta is discontinuing its last 747s at the end of the month and replacing them with A350-900s. We’ll see where the new delta B class suite stacks up then.

  10. A little confused as to why Etihad and Emirates are listed as a single entry? Or is it meant to be a tie for second place? Either way, it seems this is actually the world’s six best business class products, not the top five.

  11. Sorry but Qatar is good but the seat itself is small, thats the big problem in Business class seats, sow i belive Singapore airlines N. 1 here
    Tank you

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