Over the years I’ve been pretty fortunate to try some awesome business class products. I’ve long booked flights based on convenience, though a couple times I’ve been able to go out of my way and try some new business class products as well. Qatar Airways’ awesome business class comes to mind. Over the next couple of months I’ll also get to try a few other business class products that have also been well-liked over the years, and I’m expecting some pretty good flights.
On the other end of the spectrum, I find it very interesting when I try airlines that talk a big game, though deliver an underwhelming product. So far the airline that has done this the most throughout my (rather limited) sample size is Lufthansa (as far as longhaul flights go). Their business class seats aren’t the best, their catering is appalling, and their service culture wasn’t great the last time I flew them (fortunately that has improved since, though the subpar business class seats and catering remain).
Lufthansa Airbus A380 Business Class Seats 24H and 24K
Now that I fly with parents I’d like to make sure we try some of the best products at optimal values. However, since I’m a year away from flying alone multiple times a year, I’d like to make a point to fly as many products as I can. Simply flying amazing products won’t allow me to properly see the market average and evaluate a product fairly, so here are some of the products that I think will balance out the amazing products that I’ve been able to try so far.
Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class
Okay, let’s start with a business class product that I know I’ll have a chance to try in the near future. I’ve been to Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse at London Heathrow before, and I’ve also seen their 787 Upper Class product a couple of times. I know that they have a good soft product, and I’ve heard good things about their crew as well.
However, I haven’t seen a single good review regarding their herringbone configuration. This irks me especially since Virgin Atlantic took legal action on airlines that were “stealing” their idea by installing herringbone seats. Herringbone seats face the aisle, so you’re not protected from foot traffic at all; as a kid I liked Cathay Pacific’s version of these seats as I liked the feeling of hiding behind the walls of the seats, but now that I’ve almost doubled in height, I doubt there’s any privacy to spare anymore (even in the below picture you can see a few heads bobbing above the seat walls). I could be wrong, though.
British Airways A380/777 Club World
Moving on to a more obvious contender for the list, I’ve seen plenty of reviews detailing abhorrent service on British Airways. Sure, The White Company bedding will make the entire sleeping experience much more pleasant, and the window seats do seem pretty private, as you’re completely separated from the aisle. But even the best bedding can’t detract from the awkwardness of staring straight into your seatmate during takeoff or landing, or basically bedding a stranger when you’re assigned a middle seat on the 777 (I’d say you can select your seat beforehand, but BA makes you pay for that too, so…)
Emirates 777 Business Class
While I’d like to give Emirates crap for their old, subpar 777 business class (while I haven’t flown before, I know what flying in a 2-3-2 configuration is like, and it’s not pleasant), I can’t, as they’re willing to swap that out…for a product still in a 2-3-2 configuration. Oh my. While the seats look comfortable, I’ve read so many reviews about how impractical the seat is, since even with the privacy divider down there’s no way you can talk to your seatmate – and the (warm) minibar makes basically half of the seat’s features out of reach. I’d really like to try this product just to see if it’s half as bad as people say it is. Let’s not even mention that the rollout for these business class seats has probably been around one plane per five years.
United non-777-300ER Business Class
I’d really like to try United’s 777-300ER Polaris product. It seems like a genuinely improved, well thought-out product, with a good seat and great amenities. However, I can’t get over the fact that the longer of United’s two flights from Hong Kong is still operated by a 777 that has the same number of business class seats abreast as they have premium economy seats. I’d really like to try United’s old product before it disappears, and given how poorly executed the Polaris rollout has been, I think I have a decent shot.
United Boeing 777 Business Class (credits to JT Genter from The Points Guy, because even United can’t advertise a 2-4-2 business class product in good conscience)
Etihad 787 Business Class
When Etihad first introduced their new “Business Studio” I thought they had one of the better products in the market. However, Etihad has done so much cost-cutting in the past couple of years that I can’t imagine that the product is half as good as it used to be. I do have plans to try Etihad in the next couple of years, and I’m really wondering whether it’ll just be a sad reminiscence of a previously great product, or still a decent way to fly one-stop routes around the world.
I’m not a fan of brands and companies who overpromise and underdeliver, and that’s what I’m suspecting the five airlines above to be doing right now (to varying degrees – for example, I have my doubts about Etihad, whereas I know that the British Airways product will be subpar in most, if not all ways). However, I can’t judge products without trying them, and that’s what I aim to do in the next few years.
Have you flown any of the above products before? Were they better or worse than you expected? Am I being fair to the above airlines?