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.
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).
RJ, for God’s sake, who cares if there are people “ahead” of you!
Many do. Many …
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.
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.
I would personally give the seat point to Qatar as ANA’s, when in the sleeping/bed position, is way too hard for a long, comfortable rest.
flew both. for a combination of hard and soft producr- Qsuites wins hands down
A couple years ago, I did YVR-HND-SYD on ANA, round trip. They switched the YVR-HND segments from a 789 (w/ flatbeds) to a regional 788 (with recliners), after I purchased the ticket (back when you could not change reservations w/o a hefty fine). This left a bad taste in my mouth. Beyond that, I noticed something interesting, the YVR-HND segment (in both directions) had amongst the best food and service of any carrier in the world. But, the food on the HND-SYD segment was no better than food on any of the US3 (in both directions), thought the service was still good. For me, the whole experience averaged out to a “B” in overall experience. At some point, I’d like to give them another shot, but for now, I can’t see them beating the ME3.
I fly from ORD. In ORD, ANA uses the Polaris lounge and Qatar uses the KLM/AF lounge. No comparison between the 2 lounges. The KLM/AF is nice but no where close to a Polaris lounge. Using Qatar makes sense to certain destinations and having certain miles to redeem. Using Qatar for Japan from the USA is a waste of time. I find ANA service far superior to all other airlines, in each respective class. While I have not experienced “the Room” yet, I am sure the experience will be fine. On the other hand, Qatar has had so many operational problems, with the lack of aircraft, etc., I usually don’t even consider them anymore.
Cost in points…..QR from NYC- DOH in J is 70K AA….ANA from NYC – TYO in F is 60K VS. I’m going with ANA F for 10K less OW. ANA also now has the largest J and F seats so far. In fact their current “Room” seat is larger than their old F seat at 35″, and the new F seat is 38″. Just FYI.
Happy for you! I don’t quite agree that the points costs described are apples to apples. Utility or desire to see a place is a bigger factor for most in that part of the discussion. And of course, most of the cabin will be paying cash, so I approached the shootout holistically, without factoring in things like that. As noted, I gave the ANA seat the win on the basis of seat, it just doesn’t win in other categories.
I Prefer ANA,
The Japanese crews are more professional than the mainly Indian or Filipinos in qatar. They also treat their staff like slaves in Qatar I feel it shows they are unhappy and tired.
Ana food is far superior in quality especially on flights from Doha as the food is usually imported to get to Qatar it reduces the quality. Also QR is mostly Briyani or Arabic Mezze. Unless you are Indian or Arab I prefer Japanese food much more!
The seat of Ana is better and the planes are way always cleaner.
Only + for QR is the lounges they are definitely better than ANA.
ANA is really good. It’s definitely not the best though. Qatar is one of the best. And I still think Singapore is better than ANA.
Singapore seats with no doors or modern tech best ANA and Qatar on seat? Thats’ a tall order to overcome on service, even though SIA is great!
Exactly as i though.Old article republished. Gstp seem busy now with more licrative things then blogging. Nearly forgot this once good source of info existed
Hi. I used to get your G.S.T.P. newsletter but no longer do. Did I do something wrong? I mean, I watched most of the coronation. I got this article off of Top Business Class. I’d like to still get yours as well. Thanks man.
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