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Fly High: Comparing the Perks and Indulgences of Business Class and First Class

Plus a look at some of the best airlines' top cabins and offerings.
IMAGE QATAR AIRWAYS, AIR FRANCE
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Are you taking the practical route or are you overindulging? Below, we compare the different amenities between flying business class versus first class, and which type of cabin seats might suit your needs and wants better. 

Business Class

Business class flights, as their name suggests, are designed for jet-setting professionals. Probably the most important benefit is priority seating and boarding to avoid the long lines and delays, especially when you’re off to close an important deal.


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Other than having the obvious upgrade of spacious seating, more leg room, direct aisle access, and a larger space for your belongings (no need to store everything in the overhead compartment!), business class seats are also multi-functional and easily convertible by just a push of a button. You can turn your cozy workspace into a semi-private lounge area in an instant.

Most business class seats can only be reclined to a certain angle, but premier airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Delta Airlines, Singapore Airlines have begun offering fully flat beds for sleeping, complete with a sleeping mask, soft pillows, a duvet, and linen-style bedding, too. In general, pajamas and slippers aren’t guaranteed perks in business class flights, but you might as well ask.


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The business class cabin configuration of a Qatar Airways aircraft gives passengers easy aisle access

Business class cabin perks vary per airline, but each boasts its posh interior design that’s sleek, upscale and hi-tech, and most of all, ultra-comfy. One of Cathay Pacific’s business class seats, for instance, is designed by Studio F.A. Porsche, a company known for its expertise in ergonomics, comfort, and function

In-flight Wi-Fi is also readily available, along with a state-of-the-art entertainment set including touchscreen TVs, high-end speakers, a wide range of apps and movies, and noise-canceling headphones for passengers to enjoy watching and listening with privacy. You’re free to adjust the lights to accommodate reading or if you wish to set the ambience as you relax, drink, or eat.


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Unlimited servings of choice drinks are served with nuts or fine chocolates, and while the menu isn’t as upscale as first-class multi-course meals, business class food is certainly a far cry from the meals served in coach. Meals are usually served via trolley, while a number of airlines have opted to deliver meals by hand, for a personal touch.

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Flying business class via Emirates, you’ll find a pantry well-stocked with everything from fresh fruit to chips to pastries, all of which you can devour to your liking. Head over to the bar and ask the bartender to whip up a special cocktail just for you. It’s an opportunity to mingle and chat with fellow passengers, too. 


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The in-flight entertainment on Singapore Airlines' Kris World application lets you save your preferences for the next flight

Overall, business class seats are a huge upgrade from economy and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. It’s a practical choice if you’re looking for efficient flight service and an environment that allows you both to work or relax.

First Class

All the same, the covetable perks of first class seats are impossible to ignore—especially if it’s the upscale, luxury experience you’re after. To put it simply, first class seats are of a similar class as luxury hotel room suites. You can expect excellent client service, high-end amenities, and a comfortable, memorable experience all throughout.

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Usually, airline lounge areas can be accessible by both business and first class passengers, yet it is only the latter that offer clients the option to be driven to their plane upon request of a chauffeur service.

First class seats are known for fully-reclining beds and enclosed pods that give you privacy. These fully flat, spacious, and comfortable beds are perfect for long-haul flights. Slippers, pajamas, and in-flight showers, not to mention the best of the best bath and pampering products, are part of the lot. Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380, on the other hand, offers the Suites Class, which gives its ticket holders their own private compartment aboard the plane.

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The first class cabin on an Etihad flight

Unlimited alcohol is served, and it usually comes from a well-curated bar of wine, champagne, and more. Some even come with personal minibars. These are best paired with your in-flight food, prepared by Michelin-star chefs. Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines are among those that employ world-renowned chefs to enhance their in-flight menus.

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Meal service on an Etihad Airways flight

As expected, luxury airlines make a great deal of effort improving their first class offerings, ensuring that they are ahead of trends and innovation. For one, Emirates is the first-ever to introduce an onboard shower with rejuvenating shower spas, too. Passengers are allowed twenty to thirty minutes in the shower, with five minutes of hot water each.

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More: These Are The Most Luxurious Ways to Travel Around the World

Another first for Emirates are its virtual windows, created for passengers seated in the middle aisle. These hi-tech windows are able to project the view from outside using real-time camera technology. For those sitting by the windows, binoculars can be provided for sky exploration.

And if that isn’t enough, the airline has also pioneered the world’s first moisturizing pajamas, designed for helping retain skin’s softness, prevent dehydration, and stimulate circulation while flying. The pajamas makes use of Hydra Active Microcapsule Technology and is infused with nutrient-rich sea kelp.

A notable feature for those obsessed with skincare are Lufthansa’s humidifiers, which are installed inside their first class cabins to prevent passengers from acquiring dry, parched skin due to the flight’s humidity. 


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Etihad Airways' well-stocked vanity cabinet 

The posh amenity cases that come with first class seats are a favorite. Etihad Airways' comes in leather cases by Christian Lacroix. Each kit for women contains gold-infused skincare, among other anti-aging and rejuvenating products from a Hungary-based brand; plus care products that include a pillow mist and pulse point oil.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines’ amenity kit is one you would like to keep, too. Inside are a stylish sleeper suit and pampering goods by Italian luxury company, Salvatore Ferragamo.


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Fully flat beds at the first class cabin of an Air France flight

Perhaps the most indulgent of all luxury class seats is The Residence of Etihad Airways, “a three-room suite in the sky”. Designed for two people, the suite consists of a living room, bedroom, and a suite shower room.

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Patti Sunio
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