For nearly two years, Qatar Airways sat alone atop the business class throne. There was the Qsuite, and about a mile behind – every other airlines next best. In August, 2019, Japan’s All Nippon Airways – better known as ANA – had something to say about that. With the swift introduction of “The Room”, ANA looked as if an airline could finally take a shot at the throne, elevating the bar once more.

With endless levels of excitement, I hopped on the first ever flight to feature the new ANA business class, and I could hardly believe my eyes. Surely, I’d made my way into the wrong cabin, and a cabin crew member would politely direct me to “business class, not first class” and bow accordingly. Nope, I was in the right place.

Could this really be the world’s best business class experience? It’s time to weigh in on the verdict.

Best Business Class Criteria

I think a flying experience can adequately be summed up into 5 parts.

The pre-flight bits like check in and lounge. The seat on board, the service on board and the food and drinks on board. Five areas  of judging keeps things simple enough, and I think it’s worth weighting the seat with 2/5th of the total outcome, since it’s really the only thing you’re guaranteed.

I’m going to award one point for pre-flight, two points for the best seat, one point for the best service and one point for the food, beverages and all other elements. With any hope, the math will add up to the winner, in the eyes of GSTP.

Pre-Flight

I’ve experienced both Qatar Airways and ANA at their respective “home bases” and also at plenty of outstations abroad. Based on the wow-factor of lounges, the consistency of high quality food, drinks and amenities on the ground and helpful agents, Qatar takes the point here.

ANA lounges are incredibly busy in Japan, and to be fair, Qatar’s Al Mourjan lounge in Doha is too, but the overall offering in Al Mourjan is superior, and Qatar’s lounges elsewhere tend to be much more refined than the Star Alliance Lounges ANA typically uses.

In the battle of the world’s best business class, it’s now Qatar Airways 1, ANA 0.

Business Class Seat

The Qsuite changed the game, bringing the first business class cabin to feature a privacy door at every seat, in addition to the latest electronics and massive storage space. It’s still a delight, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what ANA has managed to carve out with “The Room”.

On that very first flight, I proclaimed ANA to have the world’s best business class seat, and haven’t remotely reconsidered since. It’s wider, the screen is bigger, sharper, the storage is better, and the privacy door is more substantial. There’s even a portion of the privacy door you can open just a peek during service times.

The original ruling on the field stands, and I’m awarding both points to ANA here. It’s just better in every way, so Qsuite doesn’t even manage a half point here, even though it’s still better than every other seat out right now. Here’s a review of Qatar Qsuite, and one of ANA The Room for your own visual comparison.

The crowd is going wild, because the battle for the world’s best business class just went 2-1 in favor of ANA over Qatar Airways as we head past the half way mark.

On Board Service

ANA cabin crews really couldn’t be any more professional or polite. They’re lovely, and treat every guest with such respect in line with Japan’s admirable standards. But sometimes it’s sometimes a style of service that can be mistaken for being impersonal by some. ANA also still sticks with a “we choose meal time” service, with just a few items available at any time.

Qatar Airways on the other hand re-wrote the playbook on standards of dining in business class, bringing a successful dine on demand concept. Basically, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and the cabin crew is typically fantastic at sticking to the polished service script.

From the way they place the hot (or cold) towels, which is a lovely touch, to the presentation of service, Qatar Airways service wins not necessarily on account of the people, but the incredibly high level of service and uniformity you can expect in the air. Crew members from both airlines couldn’t be nicer, but Qatar has refined what we experience as passengers to a sharper level.

With the game headed into the final minutes, Qatar Airways just leveled the best business class score at 2-2, leaving the crowd on their feet as the final plays draw to a close.

The Final Showdown: Food, Drinks, Amenities

Both airlines manage to highlight and celebrate their heritage with the food, drinks and amenities on board. I can’t pass up an okonomiyaki snack or a lovely sake with my meal on ANA, and I can’t pass up a biryani and karak chai tea on Qatar Airways.

When you get down to price points, consistency and overall quality however, Qatar starts to pull ahead. On amenity kits and other perks, the lead only extends further.

Price points don’t determine good wine, but they can certainly help, and Qatar Airways tends to have wines in business class between $20-$50, including Grand Cru chateau’s, whereas ANA tends to stick to the $10-$25 range.

Catering standards are excellent on both airlines, but to most travelers the options on Qatar Airways are more accessible. Qatar Airways amenity kits also tend to beat ANA on design and what’s inside.

Verdict On The World’s Best Business Class

Despite an inferior seat, Qatar Airways just manages to squeak by here overall, based on what’s known as the “soft product” – aka things that aren’t bolted to the floor of the plane. If you don’t eat or drink on the plane, you could easily call this a draw, or even move the win over to ANA too.

A draw would be a fair result.

If ANA were to match Qatar on just one of these other elements of the business class experience, such as lounge amenities or dine on demand, the scales could easily tip entirely in their favor, but for now, despite ANA offering the world’s best business class seat – Qatar Airways still offers the world’s best business class experience overall, if you ask me.

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...

Join the Conversation

6 Comments

  1. 2 great hard and soft products. A lot goes to personal preferences. I’ve always been a fan of Middle Easter airlines, my wife prefer Asian airlines. I am a fan of QR first class lounge in Doha (QR platinum status), my wife prefers shopping and doesn’t care about the lounge, etc…

    So a draw is fair and we can assume it would be a split decision if we ask frequent flyers of both.

    But I think a fair comparison should also take into consideration other criteria:
    – price… because at the end this is key… and ANA on similar routes is more expensive (for instance I am a regular BCN – Tokyo flyer), usually by 20%+
    – mileage : what sort of credit do we usually get flying C class products with both, and how quickly do we reach the highest tier, here I would give it to QR again
    – consistency / risk of airline swap: flying the Qsuite since it was introduced, I never had a bad surprise with an airplane swap. Usually the EU-Doha leg is with 350s with the old product or the LATAM plane, but the DOH-Asia Qsuite is always with a Qsuite. I’ve experienced airplane swaps in the past with Star Alliance partners…. booking a great C product and ending up on a 20+ year old 747 from Lufthansa … not really a point for fair comparison, but to bear in mind
    – finally, something that matters to some people: where do you stand in the ‘value chain’ – I understand that most ANA planes with this hard product also have a first class section, so you fly a great C class product but are not ‘at the top’ of the offering… compared to the QSuite which is in most cases the ‘highest class onboard’, unless A380 LHR/CDG-DOH and DOH/BKK, and this can make a different, knowing there are people ahead of you getting a better service and product (even if ANA the room may be better than so many F seats).

  2. For seat I go with the Room and for the soft product I go with The QSuite. What’s unfortunate is the exorbitant pricing from JFK to Tokyo with nothing cheaper than $6500 for the year. They sometimes run deals but that is excessive. $4800 is the Max I’d pay for it and would rather go somewhere else than pay the high fare or have to stop somewhere.

  3. Two more considerations. ANA staff is mostly Japanese who are renowned for their cleanliness and hygiene. (Nobody ever gets sick eating raw seafood in Japan, even in midsummer.) Not unrelated, ANA toilets have washlet functions. Hard to live without them once you are accustomed. If ticket costs were equal, those two factors would decide the issue for me. Alas, ANA almost always costs more, at least for business class. Big sigh.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *