Nothing can beat premium airline travel. From the outstanding cuisine to the comfortable and spacious seats, it’s truly the best way to enjoy luxury in the skies. But what’s the difference between business class and first class, and which is better?
The truth is that first class and business class amenities vary quite a bit by different airlines and the length of a trip. There are some airlines that don’t offer first class at all, and others who have merged it with business class into a single cabin. No matter which premium option you choose, you can find business class deals and first class deals that will provide the luxury without breaking the bank.
In many first class and business class cabins on international flights, you will be treated to fully-flat seats, allowing you to relax in comfort and even sleep throughout the flight. Typically, first class seats are slightly longer and wider than business class, although both will provide you with plenty of leg room and lots of space for your belongings.
In general, first class passengers enjoy higher quality meals than business class travelers. However, people in both cabins are certain to be treated to wonderful cuisine, in addition to exceptional beverage choices, from fine wines to top-shelf spirits.
If you have special dietary needs, be sure to contact your airline ahead of time to ensure they can provide a special meal. Here is a great info graphic from SheKnows.com with an overview of several airlines.
Quality of Service
This may be one area where first class typically beats out business class. There are usually more flight attendants per passenger in first class, which results in higher quality service and more personalized attention. First class flight attendants are trained to be the best of the best, and travelers are certain to be amazed by how quickly they respond to every request.
Privacy and Comfort
Privacy is one of the biggest benefits of first class travel, with many airlines providing private pods. At the same time, business class travelers often share many amenities with first class passengers, such as airport lounges and priority check-in lines, allowing all those with premium tickets to enjoy incredible luxuries throughout their trip.
Price may be the most dramatic difference between first class and business class. Often, first class tickets will cost as much as double the amount of business tickets, while airlines with private suites may charge up to five times as much.
If you’re having trouble deciding on whether to fly business class or first class, read the following description of some of the differences by USA TODAY contributor George Hobica:
“I recently received this query from a reader: “Can you tell me the difference between business class and first class? Please let me know all the differences you can. I am trying to book a flight for a special occasion next year, and I am trying to figure out what is best.
I put off answering this because the topic is so complicated I could write a book on it. There’s no such thing as “pure” business class or “pure” first class anymore. Which airlines? Which routes? Which planes? On some airlines, business class is better than first class on other airlines. Some routes (such as New York to L.A.) have fancier business and first (fully lie-flat beds on some planes) than others. And some airlines (notably, British Airways, Singapore, Etihad and Emirates) keep on pushing the envelope, making their business- and first-class cabins a notch above all the rest, so it’s hard to keep up.
So how to tackle this reader’s question?
Luckily, I’ve been flying in business and first a lot this year, or at least taking a peek at some airlines’ new cabins on the ground, so I can speak from experience. Let’s start with fully lie-flat beds. Many airlines still have “angled flat” beds in their premium cabins, in some or all of their planes. It’s not the same thing as fully lie-flat. In an angled seat, you’ll end up sliding down the seat at some point, squished at the bottom, and it’s hard to sleep in the fetal position. Then there’s aisle-access for all seats. On some airlines, you have to climb over your seatmate if you don’t have an aisle seat. To find out who offers what kind of seat, head over to Seatguru.com where you’ll find seat maps for most all airlines and aircraft types. But some airlines fly many versions of the same plane, and not all versions are equal. So you have to enter your exact airline and flight number to find out which version you’ll be on (plus airlines can switch planes at the last minute, so even that is not foolproof).
What’s the difference between business and first? On some airlines (e.g., Air Canada, Delta, Virgin Atlantic) it’s the same product. They’ve done away with first class on most international routes, and just call the product “BusinessFirst” or in the case of Virgin Atlantic, “Upper Class.” In many cases on these airlines, you’ll get a fully lie-flat bed, often with full aisle access for all seats.
Where business and first still co-exist, the main differences are bigger seats, better food and wine, more flight attendants per passenger (and thus more attentive service), better airport lounges, and, perhaps most important of all, more privacy. Many first-class seats on international routes sit all by themselves — no seat mates at all. But the price differences between business and first can be enormous, and for some people it’s just not worth the extra spend.”
Overall, airlines have greatly improved the seats, services and amenities of business class cabins in recent years, which may make the higher price of first class less desirable for the majority of consumers. Of course, there will always be those who prefer to purchase the best of the best, while others will decide that the luxuries of business class are perfectly suited to their needs.