Lie-flat beds, vintage Champagne, designer amenity kits… airlines all over the world are upping their business-class service and seats as they compete for premium customers. While that means fliers have more great choices than ever, it also makes it harder to choose which airline to fly.
So let me make it easier for you. Thanks to my work as a travel writer for the past several years, I’ve gotten to experience some of the best business-class seats in the world. Here is a list of my favorites and how you can book these experiences for yourself — and it’s often easier than you think!
Before we get to the actual list, just remember that these are only my favorite options of the business-class seats that I’ve personally gotten to fly. It’s not comprehensive since I’ve not flown every single airline out there.
So without further ado, in alphabetical order…
1. Air France
The plane: 777-300ER. Buyer beware; Air France fields two different international business-class seats. Air France has installed the newest ones aboard its 777-300ERs and some 777-200s, but not on its other long-haul aircraft, like the A380, yet so be sure to check your flight’s seat map before buying a ticket.
The seat: These seats are arranged in the increasingly popular 1 – 2 – 1 so-called “reverse-herringbone” style. Seats in the center are angled toward one another (great for people traveling together) while those on the sides angle out toward the windows for more privacy. The patriotic blue-white-red color palette is eye-catching and bright. The seat reclines to a full lie-flat length of 78 inches, which you can snuggle up in with a lightweight duvet and a feather-down pillow.
Amenities and food: 16-inch touchscreen entertainment monitors, menus created by superstar chef Daniel Boulud (on my flight, I enjoyed braised lamb with spring vegetables) and Clarins amenity kits are all part of the package.
Why I liked it: There was a lot to love about my flight from Los Angeles to Paris including the cabin’s sleek design, and little treats like dessert petits fours and flight attendants hanging up your coat that all set the service bar high.
How to fly it: Business-class airfares to Europe tend to be cheaper in the summertime when business travel dries up. However, if you want to use miles to try these seats out, you also have a lot of options. Air France is SkyTeam alliance partners with Delta, so you can redeem those miles for it. Air France’s loyalty program, Flying Blue, is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. More than that, Flying Blue sometimes discounts awards up to 50 percent from certain cities in the US to Europe, meaning you could redeem as few as 31,250 miles each way!
2. Air New Zealand
The plane: 777-300ER, though you’ll find these seats aboard most of Air New Zealand’s long-haul fleet now, including 777-200s and 787-9s.
The seat: With hand-stitched white leather, Air New Zealand’s Business Premier seats are among the sophisticated in the skies. They’re laid out in a 1 – 2 – 1 (except on the 787 where it’s 1 – 1 – 1) herringbone configuration where everyone has aisle access. The seats are 22 inches wide and fold over into nearly 6’8” beds, which flight attendants dress with a mattress pad, duvet, and pillow.
Amenities and food: Menus for the airline’s business-class passengers are created by famed Kiwi chef Peter Gordon, while the airline also takes its wine program very seriously, promoting vineyards from all over New Zealand. The colorful amenity kits are stocked with Antipodes skincare products like vanilla-pod day cream.
Why I liked it: One of the best things an airline can do is make you feel as though you’ve already reached the destination as soon as you set foot onboard, and this is where Air New Zealand excels. The moment you step into the dreamily lit cabin and are handed a glass of Champagne by a flight attendant who’s sure to be equal parts cheerful and cheeky, it’s like you’re already in New Zealand. All you’ve got to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
How to fly it: Unfortunately, Air New Zealand rarely discounts its business-class fares or makes awards available to folks looking to book it with partner miles like those of United. However, if you purchase a premium-economy ticket on the airline, you might be given the chance to bid on an upgrade to business class at a significant discount.
3. American Airlines
The plane: American’s business-class cabins are a bit of a hodgepodge at the moment, but improving quickly. You’ll find different versions of its business-class seats aboard its long-haul planes including 777-200s, 787s, and 767s. My favorite, however, are the ones on its 777-300ERs, which it operates on routes including those from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, Sydney, and London.
The seat: American introduced its new flagship business-class seats back in 2013. These babies are up to 26 inches wide and recline to 75 inches. Like many others on this list, they are configured in the reverse-herringbone 1 – 2 – 1 layout.
The amenities: Business-class passengers are treated to Cole Haan kits stocked with C. & O. Bigelow amenities and menus by James Beard Award-winning chefs.
Why I liked it: When American began installing these seats on its fleet, it took a huge leap forward and caught up to international carriers with the level of its hard product (i.e. seats). While service can still sometimes be…spotty, at least you have a top-notch bed to sleep in on the way to your destination.
How to fly it: Because these seats are on some of American’s prime business routes, you might have a hard time finding award tickets. However, as American installs new business-class seats across its long-haul fleet, the options are multiplying. You’ll need 57,500 miles to fly it from the U.S. to Europe, 70,000 miles to fly it one-way from the U.S. to Hong Kong or 80,000 from the U.S. to Australia.
4. Cathay Pacific Airways
The plane: 777-300ER, though the airline has standardized the rest of its long-haul fleet with these seats as well.
The seat: Cathay Pacific was an early adopter of the reverse-herringbone style of seat, and introduced them on its long-haul aircraft back in 2011. These are among the most spacious versions, at 21-26 inches wide (depending on if you lower your armrest) and 82 inches long, and upholstered in a soothing green tone.
The amenities: The airline recently partnered with Hong Kong fine-dining restaurant Mott 32 to offer business-class passengers exclusive dishes like slow-cooked sticky Iberico pork with white turnip cake. The entertainment screens are 15.4 inches wide, and the current amenity kits are designed by Hong Kong brand Seventy Eight Percent with Jurlique products inside.
Why I liked it: Every flight I’ve had aboard Hong Kong’s flag carrier has gone like clockwork. Service is pitch-perfect and friendly, the food is memorable, and the seats are among the most private and comfortable out there.
How to fly it: Award availability, especially at the last minute, is pretty great if you can play things by ear. Your best bets are to use either 70,000 American Airlines miles or just 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles each way from the U.S. to Hong Kong.
The plane: You’ll need to fly one of the airline’s latest-generation planes like the A380 or the 787-9 in order to experience its newest and best business-class seats.
The seat: This version of Etihad’s business-class seat is an interesting case. They’re arranged in a sort of staggered 1 – 2 – 1 configuration where seats in the middle are alternately right next to each other or separated by thick dividers, and those on the sides of the plane are either set against the window or closer to the aisle. Alternating rows are also forward- and rear-facing, so there are a lot of choices! These seats are a mere 20 inches wide and recline to 73 inches, so the tall folks out there might be a bit cramped. But they have interesting touches like Emirati-inspired lighting fixtures and vibrant upholstery.
The amenities: Among these seats’ main attractions are 18-inch entertainment screens, noise-cancelling headphones and amenity kits with Scaramouche and Fandango products including honey lip balm. The food service is also excellent, with all-day menus served at your whim throughout the flight, as well as set mealtimes with specialties like Arabic mezze and top-shelf wines like Jacquart Mosaïque Brut Champagne.
Why I liked it: I snagged one of the super-private side seats flush against the window, so my flight from Abu Dhabi to New York was like having a secluded suite for 13 wonderful hours. The crew was also extremely friendly and diligent, and everything about the experience just felt cutting edge.
How to fly it: Etihad is partners with American Airlines, so you can fly the airline using AAdvantage miles. Flying from the U.S. to the airline’s hub in Abu Dhabi will cost you just 70,000 miles each way. Etihad’s Guest mileage program is a transfer partner of American Express and Citi ThankYou Rewards as well, and you’d need 88,391 miles to fly from New York to Abu Dhabi. However, you can also experience these seats on routes from Abu Dhabi to Europe and Asia, which will cost you just 42,500 and 40,000 miles each way, respectively. If you’re already in another part of the world, such as Southeast Asia or India, you could also consider purchasing your ticket from there since the airline sometimes offers business- and first-class fares at a steep discount for flights departing from those regions.
The plane: 777-300ER
The seat: At 81 inches long and 26 inches wide, these are among the most spacious reverse-herringbone seats out there.
The amenities: EVA gets high marks in my book thanks to providing comfortable pajamas and chic lime or olive-green Rimowa overnight kits stocked with products from Thai spa brand Harnn. The entertainment systems are 15-inch touchscreens.
Why I liked it: EVA doesn’t have first class aboard its long-haul fleet, so it treats its Royal Laurel Business Class and the passengers who fly it to service and features many other airlines reserve for their first class. How can you not like a flight that starts with a glass of Dom Pérignon (or Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame) and meal service that might include lobster or dumplings from Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung?
How to fly it: Award availability on EVA’s various routes from its hub in Taipei to the U.S. (including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Houston and Seattle) tends to be pretty excellent. While most folks will probably want to use their United miles to book an award, at 80,000 each way, that’s a bit steep. Instead, think about using Aeroplan miles. Aeroplan is the mileage program of Air Canada, and is a transfer partner of Amex and Starwood Preferred Guest. That will cost you 75,000 miles each way instead.
7. Japan Airlines (JAL)
The plane: 777-300ER, though you can also find the latest business-class cabins on some of its 787s as well.
The seat: JAL has dubbed its newest business-class seats Sky Suites, and they do indeed feel like suites. That’s thanks to a staggered 2 – 3 – 2 configuration where the seats right next to each other don’t quite line up and are separated by fully retractable dividers. The seats on the sides of the plane, especially, feel extra secluded since they’re separated from the aisle by another seat. Each is 25.5 inches wide and 74 inches long and maneuverable into myriad positions thanks to a complex control system.
The amenities: JAL’s meal service is extraordinary. I opted for the Japanese menu that started off with nine, yes nine, mini-dishes before a main course of halibut, all accompanied by sake, of course. The airline also offers industry-topping 23-inch HD flatscreen entertainment. When it’s time for slumber, flight attendants will make up the seat into a bed with an airweave mattress pad and a duvet and pillow.
Why I liked it: The privacy afforded by this unique cabin layout and the superlative level of Japanese service and hospitality all set my experience apart on my flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo.
How to fly it: Your best bet is probably to use American Airlines miles since both airlines are in the Oneworld alliance. You’ll need 60,000 miles each way.
The plane: 787-9. KLM does have new business-class seats on some of its other long-haul aircraft like the 747 and 777, but they’re not the same as those aboard its newest plane, the Dreamliner.
The seat: Another reverse-herringbone setup in the 1 – 2 – 1 configuration, these seats most resemble those of the airline’s partner, Air France. They have sleek, slim, open shells but still afford a decent amount of privacy. Each has about 25 inches of width with the armrest lowered and reclines to fully lie-flat bed. The navy and robin’s-egg blue finishes are also pretty jaunty.
The amenities: KLM business-class passengers are treated to multi-course meal service on flatware created by Dutch designer du jour Marcel Wanders and amenity kits by another Dutch designer, Jan Taminau. The in-flight entertainment screens are 16-inch HD touchscreens, and there’s even Wi-Fi available for a fee.
Why I liked it: The combination of a next-generation aircraft, new business-class seats and a typically friendly Dutch crew all turned my experience flying from Amsterdam to San Francisco into a delightful last taste of the Netherlands after a trip to Europe.
How to fly it: Flying Blue is also the mileage program of KLM, so you can take advantage of the same discounted Promo Awards, or use your Delta miles to fly this aircraft.
The plane: A330 and eventually the 787. Qantas still has its old business-class seats aboard its 747s and A380s, but its A330s and forthcoming 787s have its latest business-class cabins.
The seat: While also in a 1 – 2 – 1 configuration, these seats are all front-facing, so they are sort of staggered from row to row with alternating narrow and wide armrests. Each is 23-25 inches wide (depending on whether the larger of the armrests is on the aisle or between your seat and the next one) and reclines to a full 78 inches. Like Qantas’s other business-class seats, they were conceived by Aussie designer Marc Newson with black leather and purple duvets for a touch of flair.
The amenities: Besides the usual touches like power ports and storage cubbies, these seats also have 16-inch entertainment systems on which you can stream the content from your own devices. Guests are also offered duvets and full-size pillows as well as pajamas on overnight flights.
Why I liked it: I was only able to fly this particular seat on an Australian transcontinental route from Sydney to Perth, but I’d love to try it again on one of the airline’s longer routes to Asia. The seats feel quite private and enclosed, giving you the feeling of having your own little comfy pod, and the entertainment systems are phenomenal.
How to fly it: Qantas is another Oneworld carrier, so you can use your American Airlines miles to book an award, though on shorter flights, you might also find British Airways Avios (a transfer partner of Amex, Chase and Starwood) to be useful. If you were to fly the jet on one of the longer routes, like from Sydney to Tokyo, you’d need 40,000 American miles each way.
10. Qatar Airways
The plane: If you want to fly Qatar’s latest business-class seats, you’ll need to book a flight aboard the airline’s 787, A350 or A380 aircraft.
The seat: These seats are also in a reverse-herringbone layout, but because of their slim silhouettes and the spaciousness of the cabin on these aircraft, the overall feel is much more open and airy than on some other carriers. Each is 22 inches wide (though up to 30 inches with the armrest lowered), and reclines to an 80-inch bed, among the longest out there. These seats also have oversize sliding tables, and 17-inch entertainment screens mounted in the seatback above the tray table, so no need to unlatch it for viewing and then stow it for takeoff and landing like with other versions of this seat.
The amenities: Business-class passengers are treated to traditional Arabic treats like coffee and dates before the flight and mezze platters during meal service. Fliers can also look forward to special dishes created by the airline’s celebrity chef partner, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Armani amenity kits.
Why I liked it: Even compared to some of the other similar seats on my list, these felt state-of-the-art, with great finishing touches. However, the element that truly stood out on my flight from Singapore to Doha was the personalized and attentive service. I felt as though I had my very own flight attendant to who looked after my every need…and kept my glass of Taittinger Prestige Rosé Champagne filled the entire time.
How to fly it: Qatar does operate some A350 routes to the U.S., including to New York, but you might want to try finding an award on one of its routes from Doha to Asia (such as to Singapore or Bangkok) or Europe, since those will require fewer miles. You can use either American Airlines miles or British Airways Avios. For instance, a flight from Doha to London will cost you 42,500 American miles each way, or a flight from Doha to Bangkok would be just 40,000 miles.
11. Singapore Airlines
The plane: I flew an older version of Singapore’s business class on a 777-200, but the airline has installed an even snazzier version of these seats on some of its 777-300ER, A380s and its latest aircraft, the A350.
The seat: Though Singapore’s First Class Suites often get a lot of attention, the airline’s flagship long-haul business-class seats are nothing to scorn. In fact, they’re nicer than many airlines’ first-class seats! Like many of the others I’ve enjoyed, these seats all have aisle access thanks to a 1 – 2 – 1 layout. However, there are no strange angles or cramped spaces here. Each is a full, front-facing recliner that folds down into a bed that feels enormous, at 30 inches wide and 78 inches long. The entertainment screens are 15.4 inches wide.
The amenities: First, the bad: there are no amenity kits for business-class passengers, so pack your own eye mask. On the bright side, the airline commissions a panel of culinary experts and celebrity chefs to create its onboard menus, so you can enjoy dishes created by the likes of Suzanne Goin, Alfred Portale and Georges Blanc.
Why I liked it: One word: space. As I mentioned, these seats are enormous and feel like first class on many other airlines. Singapore Airlines’ service is also best-in-class, if you ask me, and there are always interesting Western and Asian menu options available.
How to fly it: Singapore operates a few routes directly to/from the U.S. including from Los Angeles to Tokyo and Seoul, New York to Frankfurt, and from San Francisco non-stop to Singapore aboard its A350-900. If you want to fly that last route, you have a few options. United (which is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards) will charge you 80,000 miles each way. Aeroplan (an Amex transfer partner) would require 77,500 miles. On the other hand, Singapore’s KrisFlyer mileage program is a transfer partner of Amex, Chase, Citi and Starwood Preferred Guest, so even if you’ve never flown the airline, there are lots of ways to stock your account. What’s more, there is usually much better award availability using Singapore’s own miles than those of its partners, and you get a 15% mileage discount for booking online. To fly from San Francisco to Singapore, you’d need just 68,000 KrisFlyer miles each way, including that discount.
The plane: 777-300ER, A330, A340…basically any of the airline’s long-haul aircraft, though to get the newest version, you’ll want to fly the 777.
The seat: While it’s not as natty as some of the other, newer, seats on this list, SWISS’s business class still ranks among my favorites thanks to its pared-down Alpine-inspired design and the overall sharpness of the cabin. The seats themselves are configured in a staggered, front-facing layout where rows can be in a 1 – 2 – 2 or 2 – 2 – 1 pattern. Some seats have large armrests on the aisle, while others have narrower ones. Try to score one with the thicker armrests along the aisle for more privacy. Or if you can, go for one of the “throne” seats on the sides with large armrests between it and both the window and the aisle for the ultimate amount of space. Each seat itself is just 20.5 inches wide, however, and reclines to 79 inches. The cushions are filled with air, so you can adjust their firmness.
The amenities: With the latest seats, the touchscreen entertainment systems measure up at 16 inches. Passengers also receive amenity kits including reusable tote bags and neck warmers or beanies, though you’ll have to share the Swiss Code skin products in the lavatories with the other passengers. The seats also have ingenious design touches like slide-out storage lockers. The airline takes special pride in its wine list and usually includes a few Swiss wine options (yes, they make wine in Switzerland!) as well as three to four choices of main dishes plus a best-in-class cheese course.
Why I liked it: I flew an older version of the seat on an A330 a couple years ago, but the experience was still fantastic. The crew operated with the precision of a finely tuned cuckoo clock, the food was delicious, and all the little design touches incorporated into the seat made for an all-round delightful experience.
How to fly it: SWISS currently flies its 777-300ERs from its hub in Zurich to Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco in the U.S. Since it’s in Star Alliance, you can use United or Aeroplan miles to fly it at a cost of 70,000 or 55,000 miles respectively (so go for the Aeroplan option, though you might pay more money in taxes and fees).
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