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A Complete Guide to Flying Business Class

A Complete Guide to Flying Business Class

 

Flying for business isn’t always fun. And it’s even worse if you’re stuck in an uncomfortable seat. 

That’s why many frequent business travelers consider upgrades when they’re traveling for work. One of the most common air-travel upgrades is business class. But what exactly is business class, and what separates it from the other cabin classes? . 

Business class flights give travelers extra comfort, more room to work (or nap), better service, and all sorts of other extras, depending on the airline. Whether it’s a cross-country flight or international flight, a seat in the business class cabin is an amenity-rich way to start and end your trip. Read on to learn about the business class options both domestic and international, so you can choose the airline that is right for you and make your next business trip your best yet.

Best Domestic Airlines for Business Class

While there are a ton of domestic airlines to choose from, not all of them offer business class, so it’s important for passengers to know which airline to fly for the route they are traveling.

Long-haul flights (typically anything over 7 hours) is where travelers will start to see a true  business class experience. Domestic flights usually start offering business class on cross-country flights, but some airlines, like Jetblue, offer a business class product on routes to the Caribbean as well.

International flights will almost always have a true business class and first class cabin because most of those flights are going to be on the longer side. The exception would be any low-cost carriers that might not offer a  business class at all.

Business class is a great option when flying first class is way over budget. You can usually get a lot of the same or similar amenities for a lower cost.

To figure out what option is best for you, you’ll not only need to take into account where you are traveling, but also your company's business travel budget. And if you are a frequent flyer to any airline in particular, you can usually qualify for free upgrades when you have enough miles. 

“The Big 3”

Delta, American, and United are referred to as The Big 3 airlines. These airlines have a long history of continuous operations, extensive fleets, and expansive domestic and international routes. They all offer business class seats, but what you get will depend on the route you are flying. 

Here’s the breakdown:

Delta

  • Delta Comfort +
    • Offered on all flights
    • Typically the least expensive upgraded class
    • Comes with early boarding, a seat with extra legroom, and dedicated overhead bin space plus free drinks on all flights regardless of length.
    • Comes with pillow, blanket, headset, and amenity kit on long-haul international flights.
  • Delta Premium Select
    • Available on select International long-haul flights.
    • A roomier cabin with a wider seat, additional recline, and adjustable foot rest.
    • Dedicated in-cabin flight attendant
    • Priority check-in, security, and boarding.
    • Larger seat-back screen
    • Amenity kit and premium food options
  • Delta One Business class
    • Available on long-haul International flights and some long-haul domestic flights.
    • Lie-flat seat with Westin Heavenly bedding.
    • Delta lounge access
    • Full-height privacy dividers on select flights.
    • Elevated food options and complimentary alcohol
    • Priority check-in, security, and boarding.

 

Delta’s Comfort + option is great for any domestic flight. Passengers get a lot of the extras we typically associate with business class flights, such as priority boarding, extra legroom, and dedicated overhead bin space. For long-haul flights, look into Delta Premium Select for an elevated experience and higher cost. Delta One is extremely luxurious and probably not what your typical business travel passengers would be booking.

American Airlines

  • Main Cabin Extra
    • Available on all domestic flights
    • Extra legroom
    • Priority boarding
    • Complimentary alcoholic drinks
  • Flagship Business Transcontinental
    • Available on select cross-country flights
    • Faster security, check-in, and boarding
    • Lie-flat seats
    • Upgraded dining
    • Amenity kits, pillow, and blanket
    • Lounge access

 

Main Cabin Extra is the more affordable option for a typical business class experience. It’s available on cross-country trips as well, but for a more luxurious experience, and for a better chance at getting sleep (hi red-eyes) passengers should book a Flagship Business seat. 

United

  • Premium Plus
    • Only available on select transcontinental flights
    • Extra legroom, nicer seats, better recline
    • Upgraded dining and free alcoholic drinks
    • Larger entertainment screen
    • Two free checked bags
  • United Business
    • Available on select transcontinental flights
    • Upgraded seats with extra recline, more storage space and granite cocktail table
    • Better entertainment options
    • Complimentary alcohol and upgraded dining
    • Dedicated check-in counters, faster security, priority boarding

 

United only offers a business class experience on coast-to-coast flights. For shorter flights, you’ll want to look into Economy Plus for a cheaper option that still gives you priority boarding extra legroom. For the best business class experience on United, go with their main business class over Premium Plus because the seats are better and you’ll get more room.

Jetblue

  • Mint
    • Available on Coast-to-Coast flights, and select Caribbean flights.
    • Priority boarding
    • Lie-flat seats
    • Upgraded dining and complimentary alcohol
    • Bigger entertainment screen
    • Dedicated flight attendants
    • 2 free checked bags
    • Amenity kits, complimentary blanket, pillow, and headphones

 

Jetblue’s only business class option is their Mint Class. It’s one of the most affordable domestic  business class flights on the market. For an upgraded experience for an even lower cost, look into Even More Space seats where passengers will get priority boarding, extra legroom, and faster security.

Southwest

  • Business Select
    • Guaranteed early boarding (first choice at seats)
    • Faster security
    • One free premium drink
    • Extra rewards points

While Southwest does not have a true business class experience, their Business Select program is the only way to be guaranteed early boarding which is crucial for those passengers who have a preference on their seat. Southwest does not allow seat selection, they board travelers in groups. Faster security is also a great perk, but don’t go into the flight thinking you will have extra legroom or a premium seat. 

Alaska Airlines

  • Premium Class
    • Extra legroom (4 inches more)
    • Upgraded food inspired by the West Coast and complimentary alcoholic drinks
    • Over 500 movies and tv shows available in flight
    • Pre-order your meal (on long-haul flights) up to 12 hours in advance

 

Alaska’s Premium Class is not available on all flights. When it’s not available you can look into upgrading to a seat with Extra Legroom instead. That is your next best option with Alaska.

There are a ton of domestic business class options. If you find an airline you prefer, stick with it whenever possible. That will give you the best option for free or discounted business class upgrades. Plus a lot of rewards programs offer certain business class perks even in economy to loyal customers. 

Best International Airlines for Business class

When traveling internationally, your business class options are always going to be the more high-end, luxurious choices. Most of the domestic airlines mentioned above fly internationally and you will find their best business class amenities on these flights. 

There are also some international airlines known for amazing business and first class experiences. When deciding when to allow travelers to fly business class, most corporate travel policies allow for these kinds of upgrades only on International flights. Ultimately, the availability of an airline’s  business class is going to depend on where you are flying, but read on to learn about the best international business class flights. 

Emirates

  •  Business class
    • Recently updated on Boeing 777’s
    • Onboard lounges on A380’s
    • Fully lie-flat seat with tons of extra room
    • Very high-end food exclusive to Emirates planes
    • Personal Mini-bar
    • Emirates lounge access
    • Complimentary chauffeur to and from the airport
    • Emirate’s world-class service

Emirates flies to tons of international locations including Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Even their economy class is an upgrade from a typical airplane experience. But  business class on Emirates is at another level. It’s a truly luxurious experience that passengers rave about, and the only way to get a lie-flat seat on those long flights. 

British Airways

  • Club Europe
    • Available on flights originating in the United Kingdom and Europe.
    • Lounge access
    • Priority boarding
    • Complimentary food and drink service
    • More space and guaranteed window or aisle seat
    • Dedicated check-in for Club Europe passengers
  • Club World
    • Available on Long-haul flights around the world
    • Personal suite-style seat that transforms into a bed
    • Premium dining and drink service
    • Bigger screen and noise-cancelling headphones
    • Access to exclusive lounge
    • Luxury amenity kit
    • Priority security, boarding, and check-in
  • Club World London City
    • Available on flights between New York (JFK) and London airports
    • Only 32 seats giving private jet-like experience
    • Lie-flat seat
    • Pre-clearance of US immigration on flights to New York
    • Dedicated service team
    • Luxury bedding and amenities
    • Gourmet dining

 

British Airways is a great option for flights originating from or traveling to Europe or the United Kingdom. They do offer routes to other destinations as well. With British Airways, the quality of  business class flights depends on your place of departure and your final destination. Any of their options will be a great experience and a relaxing way to travel. You can expect high-quality service and comfortable seats no matter what you choose.

Virgin Atlantic

  • Premium Cabin
    • Dedicated check-in and priority boarding
    • Premium seat with extra legroom
    • Inseat power
    • Complimentary drink when boarding
    • Exceptional service
    • Premium amenity kits on night flights

Virgin Atlantic primarily operates flights out of Europe. They don’t have a traditional business class, but their Premium Cabin is the closest option they offer. If you are looking for an even more upgraded travel experience, check out their Upper Class Cabin.

Singapore Airlines

  • Business class
    • Several options depending on route
    • Lie-flat seats (converts to a full-sized bed on A380’s)
    • Gourmet dining
    • Premium entertainment
    • Extra storage space

 

Singapore Air is a great option for a premium travel experience in Asia. Their business class amenities vary based on type of plane, with their most high-end being on the A380 and the least high-end being on the A330, 777-300 and 777-200. Keep in mind that even on lower end  business class flights you will get a lie-flat seat, and all the extras mentioned above. 

The Most Desired Business Class Amenities for Business Travelers

Traveling for business can be very different from traveling for vacation. For one, you are more likely to be traveling alone when traveling for work. But the amenities you want and need on a business trip are important. 

Here are the most useful business class benefits:

  • Good wifi.
    Not all flights have good quality wifi but in business class you should expect a good signal and you should not have to pay extra. Remember that sometimes if you are not in business class, but you are a frequent flyer of the airline, you can also get free wifi. 
  • Extra storage space and a good sized workspace.
    While you might relax for some of the flight, you’ll probably want to get some work done as well. Make sure you have plenty of room around your seat to spread out a laptop, a notebook, a phone, etc. A larger workspace will ensure that you can fit a bag close to you and you won’t have to keep getting up to retrieve things from the overhead bin.
  • Extra legroom.
    While a lot of business class flights will give you a lie-flat seat, you don’t necessarily need that. Extra legroom will go a long way towards making you more comfortable especially on long flights.
  • Premium dining options.
    For long-haul flights, you should expect a full meal, and on  business class flights, the food is typically upgraded. This will not only give you a delicious meal but it will save you time in the airport because you won’t need to buy snacks for your flight.
  • Great service.
    Business class cabins have dedicated flight attendants so you know you’ll always have someone to help you when needed. 

 

Nice to haves:

  • Lounge access.
    A dedicated lounge at your departure airport is a great benefit of flying  business class. And some airlines give you a lounge upon arrival as well. You can expect complimentary food and drinks, a comfortable place to wait, and plenty of outlets to go around. It’s not something that you necessarily need but it will definitely enhance your travel experience. 
  • A lie-flat seat.
    If you are traveling for over 6 hours, you should get a lie-flat seat. It’s going to be the most comfortable and allow you to sleep on your flight, especially on the way home when you’ll probably be exhausted. Plus, in a cabin with lie-flat seats you can assume that most passengers are business travelers which will probably give you a quiet flight overall. 

 

Conclusion

All business class flights are not created equally. Make sure you are getting the amenities and benefits that will be the most useful to you on your trip. And, when you are traveling for business, keep in mind that a lot of airlines will work with your company on corporate travel discounts, depending on how often you fly, which could help you and your team get access to  business class more often. 


About the Author: Emily Parker-Woodland
Emily is the Marketing Programs Manager at Lola.com, where she works to make sure all of Lola's marketing programs are thriving. She started at Lola.com as a manager in the Travel Consultant Department, so she has a wide array of travel knowledge and is passionate about helping Lola's customers learn as much as they can about how to make business travel at their company easy and fun.