What is business class?

What is business class?

Business class is a class of air travel that offers passengers a higher level of comfort, service, and amenities than economy class. You'll usually find business class seats in the fancy part of the plane, behind first class, but still separated from economy/premium economy by a curtain. 

In some cases, they're the most expensive cabin class available, so they'll be at the front-most cabin or upper deck of the aircraft.

The Backstory

Business class cabins first showed up around the late 70s, when airlines wanted to differentiate between discounted economy, i.e. basic economy, and full-service flights (what we think of today as premium economy). 

The concept of full-service flights evolved into business class over time as airlines added more amenities (like work areas) to attract business travelers, and it worked! Thanks to its popularity, most airlines now offer top-notch business class, with some even ditching first class altogether. 

Types of Business Class Cabins

Simply searching for your favorite airline's name and "business class" is enough to find their product/option, as most are named some variation of "business class." But, in some cases, they may have unique branding, like JetBlue's "Mint" and Delta Air Lines’ "Delta One." 

The differences go way beyond just naming conventions. Business class cabins can vary significantly depending on the airline and aircraft type. For example, here are some common types of business class cabins:

Traditional Business Class: This is the most common type of business class cabin, featuring wider and more comfortable seats than economy, with additional legroom and recline. On some domestic routes, business class seats are similar to economy class, with the middle seat placed down or left vacant.

In contrast, international business class cabins may be arranged in various configurations, such as 2-2-2, 2-3-2, or 1-2-1.

Credit: United Airlines

Reverse Herringbone: This type of business class cabin features seats arranged in a "reverse herringbone" pattern, with seats facing towards the center of the cabin e.g. Hainan airlines Airbus 330-300. As a result, you have greater privacy and access to additional amenities such as storage compartments and power outlets.

Credit: Hainan Airlines

Suite: Some business class cabins feature private suites, which offer the ultimate luxury and privacy, e.g. Delta One Suites and ANA The Room. These suites may include a separate seating area, a bed, and a sliding door for added privacy.

ANA The Room open suite

Credit: ANA

Open Suites: Although this type of cabin is slowly disappearing, a few business class cabins still have open suites, e.g. Qantas Business Suite. They’re similar to traditional business class seats but with a more open and modern design. They may also have additional features such as adjustable lighting and privacy screens.

Credit: Thompsonaero

Flatbed/Lie-flat Seats: Many business class cabins also feature seats that can be converted into a flatbed, e.g. Delta One Suites, allowing passengers to sleep more comfortably on long-haul flights.

Credit: Vistara

The type of business class cabin offered depends on the duration (long-haul flights often have more luxurious products), and having different business class products allows airlines to offer a discounted price or 'business class lite.' It's slightly cheaper than regular business class fares, but it has some caveats. 

For example: Air France's Business Standard is non-refundable with no free changes, while their Business Flex and Business Abonné offer both refunds and ticket changes.

What does business class look like?

You can generally expect more comfortable seats than you'd find in economy, with additional legroom and features such as adjustable headrests, footrests, and lumbar support.

On top of the upgraded seats, business class passengers generally have access to a broader range of in-flight amenities, such as complimentary drinks and meals, noise-canceling headphones, and kits with travel essentials. Passengers flying business class on some routes may also have access to exclusive airport lounges and priority boarding, check-in, and baggage handling.

"The specific amenities and features you'll find can vary depending on the airline and the route. Some airlines offer fully lie-flat beds, private suites, and gourmet dining options in their business class cabins, while others may have a more basic offering."

Most times, international flights are where business class really shines. These routes offer the more flashy perks, from exclusive lounges and premium dining options to power outlets, lie-flat seats, and in some cases, luxurious travel kits. Emirates’ long-time partnership with Italian designer BVLGARI is just one very fancy example.

Credit: Bvlgari

What are the best international business class airlines?

Many international airlines offer excellent business class service, but who offers the biggest bang for your buck? Here's our list of top-rated international business class airlines, according to customer reviews and industry rankings:

  1. Singapore Airlines: Known for their luxurious business class cabins and excellent service, they're the reigning champions for international business class.
  2. Emirates: This Middle Eastern airline is mainly known for its first-class service, which includes private suites and an in-flight shower, but their business class cabins (sans shower, unfortunately) are just as highly rated.
  3. Cathay Pacific: This Hong Kong-based airline is known for its comfortable business class seats and high-quality dining options.
  4. Qatar Airways: Spacious business class seats, a wide range of amenities, and a consistent 5-star rating keep Qatar Airways a popular choice for international business travel.
  5. Japan Airlines: Japan Airlines has a reputation for providing excellent service and attention to detail, with comfortable business class seats and various dining options.
  6. TAP Air Portugal: Although TAP isn't as luxurious as others on this list, it offers some of the cheapest business class routes, which makes it the best in our budget-friendly hearts!

Other highly rated international business class airlines include Swiss International Air Lines, ANA (All Nippon Airways), and Turkish Airlines. 

How much is a business class ticket?

The cost of a business class ticket varies widely depending on several factors, including the airline, the route, the season, and how far in advance the ticket is purchased. Don't worry, you don't need to be a millionaire to fly business class - just a little luck or a lot of miles/points!

There's no doubt that business class tickets are more expensive than economy class tickets. However, the difference between the two can be pretty wide. 

For example, a one-way business class ticket from New York to London might cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 or more, depending on the airline, whether it’s a non-stop or one-stop flight, and other factors. On the other hand, a one-way economy class ticket for the same route might cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000, or more.

This may seem like a tough sell if you're looking for the cheapest flights available, but it's an absolute bargain compared to the costs of comfy travel in first class. 

"The general rule of thumb for business class is that you should expect to pay 2x to 5x the price of an economy ticket." 

It's worth noting that business class ticket prices can also be affected by demand, with prices usually being higher during peak travel seasons or on popular routes. It's also better to book well in advance to avoid last-minute price hikes.

Overall, booking a business class cabin can cost a pretty penny, so it's a good idea to shop around and compare prices from different airlines and travel agencies to find the best deal.

When is business class worth it?

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether it is worth paying for business class on a flight:

  • Cost: Business class tickets are generally more expensive than economy class tickets, so consider whether the additional cost is worth it for you. It might be a better deal to go for premium economy, instead.
  • Duration of the flight: If you are taking a long-haul flight (usually over six hours), the additional comfort and amenities of business class may be worth the extra cost.
  • Frequency of travel: If you are a frequent traveler, the benefits of business class, such as priority boarding, access to airport lounges, and additional legroom, can make the extra cost worthwhile. Plus, you get more miles/points, so other trips are cheaper.
  • Purpose of the trip: If you are traveling for business and need to arrive refreshed and ready to work, then business class could be worth the investment. After all, there's nothing quite like the feeling of being able to arrive at your destination without a single crease in your suit!

Ultimately, although business class is generally more expensive than economy, it can offer a more comfortable and enjoyable travel experience for long-haul flights, or travelers who need to arrive at their destination feeling rested and refreshed. Whether it is worth it really boils down to your circumstances and priorities. 

How to get cheap business class tickets

To get cheap business class tickets, try these strategies:

  1. Book early: Airlines often release their cheapest tickets well before the departure date, so booking early can help you get a good deal on business class tickets.
  2. Be flexible with your travel dates: You can find lower prices if you have flexible dates. For example, you may find that tickets are cheaper if you travel during the week rather than on the weekend.
  3. Compare prices: Use fare comparison websites like the ones in the next section to compare prices from multiple airlines. It'll help you find the best deal.
  4. Use miles or points: If you have a rewards credit card or have accumulated frequent flyer miles, you can use them to get discounted or free business class tickets.
  5. Look for sales and promotions: Airlines often offer deals and promotions on business class tickets, so it is worth keeping an eye out for these.
  6. Consider alternative airports: Flying from an airport that is not the main hub for an airline may also lead to cheaper business class tickets.
  7. Bid for an upgrade: Several airlines, such as Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific, offer upgrades via auction. Once you've purchased an eligible ticket, you'll receive an email inviting you to bid on a business class seat.

Remember to read the fine print when booking a cheap business class ticket to avoid surprises.

Side note: Want to learn more about how we find cheap flights? Here's our ultimate guide.

The best websites for cheap business class flights

The internet offers many websites and platforms to help you find cheap business class flights. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Fare comparison websites: Websites like Kayak, Expedia, and Orbitz allow you to compare prices from multiple airlines and can be a starting point for finding cheap business class flights.
  2. Airline websites: Many airlines offer discounted business class fares on their websites, so it is worth checking the websites of the airlines you are interested in directly.
  3. Online travel agencies: Websites like Travelocity, CheapOair, and CheapTickets can be a good source for finding cheap business class flights.
  4. Metasearch engines: Websites like Momondo and Skyscanner search multiple travel websites to find the best flight prices, including business class fares.
  5. Loyalty programs: If you have a rewards credit card or have accumulated frequent flyer miles, you can use them to get discounted or free business class flights.
  6. Sign up for Jack's Flight Club’s premium deals: If you have no time to search for yourself, let our team of flight finders get the job done. We'll send you cheap business class deals (and error fares) as soon as we spot them.

Business class vs. Premium economy vs. First class

  • Business class: You get your own mini-office in the sky! 
  • Premium economy: You get a mini-cubicle in the sky! 
  • First class: You get your own mini-penthouse (you guessed it) in the sky! 

Okay, it’s not always so simple. Choosing the right cabin can be tricky, especially if money isn't a factor. So, here are the main differences between the three:

Cost

First class is generally the most expensive class of service, followed by business class, and then premium economy.

Amenities

First class typically offers the most luxurious amenities, such as private suites, full-size beds, and gourmet meals. Business class also has high-quality amenities, such as larger seats, more legroom, and premium dining options. Premium economy is all about the seats - you’ll get additional legroom and more space, but apart from that, your amenities are often similar to those in economy. 

Comfort

Business class and first class seats are typically larger and more comfortable, with additional features like recline, leg rests and (if you’re lucky) massages. Seats in premium economy might be a little wider and offer a little more legroom than economy seats, but they’re less spacious and even less private than business and first class cabins.

Service

While travelers in all three classes of service enjoy excellent service, flying first class or business class scores additional perks, like priority boarding and dedicated check-in desks.

Generally, a first class ticket may be your best option if you want to experience the ultimate luxury and comfort. Alternatively, a business class or premium economy flight may be a good option if you prefer something more affordable with extra amenities.

We've written an in-depth article on the differences between first class and business class to help you make an informed decision.