As more airlines are doing away with first class and moving towards luxurious business class seats, is flying in the top dollar cabin really worth it?
Over recent years, we’ve seen the demise of first class cabins. Airlines such as KLM, Asiana and Korean Air have stopped first class altogether, while other carriers have reduced them to certain long-haul routes. As business class cabins undergo ultra-plush makeovers, the demand for first class has dropped, and so has the number of seats available. So, does the difference between first class and business class still warrant the extra price tag?
What’s the Deal with Business Class?
That really depends on the airline you’re travelling with. Take Qatar Airways Q-Suites, which is the airline’s business class cabin. It has a 1-2-1 configuration that can combine four passengers face-to-face in the middle seats, features closing doors on each seat, a flat chair-bed and a host of other ‘first-class’ amenities. It might be tough to spot the difference between first class and business class with Q-Suites, but is this the norm?
Business class doesn’t have a set standard and can differ vastly between airlines. Fully flat beds aren’t always on offer, neither are doors, and of course, one main difference between first class and business class is the amount of space you typically get. With the best first class seats and suites, there are often between four and 12 in the cabin. Even with Q-Suites on the 777 planes, there are 30 seats and 46 seats on the larger A380 aircraft, split between two cabins. If you’re hoping to fly in relative luxury, you’ll need to check what exactly is on offer in that airline’s business class.
How does First Class Compare?
The difference between first class and business class lounges is generally the furnishings, space, food and amenities available. However, not all lounges have a first class option, but we’ve listed some of the best ones out there:
Emirates first class lounge in Dubai is the largest in the world offering complimentary spa treatments, a sleeping area, showers, a business centre, a cigar and wine room, food stations at every seating section as well as a restaurant, and it has direct access to most of the gates. British Airways Concorde Room at London Heathrow and New York JFK have private cabanas with a day bed and en-suite (Heathrow), a business suite, a la carte dining, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle champagne and a 15-minute free spa treatment. Etihad first class lounge in Abu Dhabi, Qatar Airways Al Sarwa lounge in Doha, Cathay Pacific first class lounge in Hong Kong, Qantas First lounge in Sydney are other examples of the difference between first class and business class lounges with a high-end guest experience.
This is where the difference between first class and business class really takes off. Airlines such as Singapore Airways, Etihad and Emirates offer suites which are private cabins with second-to-none service, space and amenities. Singapore Airlines and Etihad Residence even have double beds on offer. Read our best first class airlines review for more features available.
As you’d expect with a smaller cabin and top price seats, the difference between first class and business class can be seen in the service (although it really does depend on the airline). The cabin crew to passenger ratio is much better in first class, often two passengers to one steward or in some of the suites, it’s more likely to be one to one. Compare that to business class where it’s often one staff member to every 10 passengers (on a full flight).
If you’re flying with Etihad Residence (the fanciest and most expensive first class option in the skies) or Etihad Apartments, expect top notch butler service. Singapore Airways, Emirates, Qatar, British Airways, Swiss, Lufthansa, also have excellent first class service on board. This also extends to the ground service where first class guests are escorted, sometimes in a buggy, by a crew member to the gate after check in (Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa are among some of the carriers).
Both British Airways (return first class ticket holders from London to Sydney but not flights booked but on rewards points) and Etihad Residence passengers get car transfers to and from the airports in Limos, Mercs or Jags. But the difference between first class and business class transfers doesn’t exist with many other airlines. Qantas London-Sydney, Air China (Sydney or Melbourne to nine cities in China, not booked on rewards points), China Eastern, as well as Emirates (Emirates have stopped their chauffeur service for tickets made with Qantas Frequent Flyer points) offer a private transfer service to both first class and business class passengers on certain flights.
Is First Class the Way to Fly?
With large planes such as Airbus A380 stopping its production due to lack of demand, those first class suites and cabins may become harder to get your hands on. If you’re looking for exclusivity, luxury, attentive service, better quality food and alcohol, you might want to experience the best in first class while you can!