For nearly two years, Qatar Airways sat atop the business class throne, alone.
There was the Qsuite, privacy doors, big screen tv’s and bespoke touches and all — 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.
In 2022, these two are still battling it out to be “the best”.
With endless levels of excitement, I hopped on the first ever flight to feature the new ANA business class ‘The Room’ in 2019, 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 where “business class, not first class” could be found, and bow accordingly.
Nope, I was in the right place. Could this really be the world’s best business class and topple the Qatar Airways experience? Here’s my 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.
Service can change from crew to crew, as can catering at different airports.
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.
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 mostly superior, and the Qatar lounges elsewhere tend to be much more refined than the Star Alliance Lounges ANA typically uses.
Scoreboard: 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”. I cannot stress enough how large and overwhelmingly wowing this ANA seat is.
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 to get meals. It’s next level.
The original ruling on the field stands, and I’m awarding both points to ANA here.
It’s just better in almost every way, so Qsuite doesn’t even manage a half point here, even though Qsuite is 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.
Scoreboard: 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, 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 re-wrote the playbook on standards of dining in business class, bringing a successful dine on demand concept few have been able to recreate without taking an eternity.
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 are wonderful, but Qatar Airways has refined this element of the experience to a rarely seen level.
Scoreboard: 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 found on board. I love that. 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.
If you know, you know!
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.
Crowd sourced scores for the wines on Vivino, which are often a better indicator than price points alone, typically reflect better scores with Qatar Airways wine selections than ANA.
Catering standards are excellent on both airlines, but to most travelers the options on Qatar Airways are more accessible.
Traditional Japanese meals are a blast, but if you’re coming from outside of Asia, they can be more of an acquired taste than Qatar Airways meal choices. 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, too.
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 to their favor. b
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. What will drive the next world’s best? Probably not space, but technology.