a row of seats in an airplane

Race To The Bottom: British Airways vs. Lufthansa’s Older Business Class

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British Airways and Lufthansa are two of the biggest European airlines – chances are that if you’ve flown between Europe and Asia or the U.S. more than a few times, you’ll have flown either of these airlines at least once. Both of these airlines have basically unlimited exposure to premium traffic given the routes they serve, so they’re able to charge premium prices without offering as much of a premium product. As a result they’ve historically taken business class passengers for granted, choosing not to invest in their business class seats or product on longhaul flights.

There are a couple of reasons why I’ve singled out British Airways and Lufthansa for comparison:

  • I can see fairly affordable fares on both of these airlines over the next year, presumably because of a large supply of business class seats
  • Both airlines are re-introducing their A380 (I’ve flown both British Airways‘ and Lufthansa’s) on longer routes, which feature their current respective subpar business class products
  • Both British Airways and Lufthansa are in a similar situation in 2023, where the competitive landscape has pushed these airlines to (finally) innovate in their hard product; British Airways introduced their Club Suite in 2019, whereas Lufthansa is about to introduce a new business class product that they introduced in 2017 (here’s our coverage of Swiss’ identical new product). However, many of these airlines’ longest routes still continue to be operated by their current subpar business class product
  • I’ve experienced both airlines’ new longhaul soft product recently (on British Airways’ A380 and Lufthansa’s A340), which have been a massive step up over what would’ve been offered a few years back

A couple of years down the line, I hope to compare British Airways’ Club Suite (which I’ve already flown) with Lufthansa’s new business class, though the latter doesn’t exist yet.

a row of seats in an airplane
British Airways’ A380 Business Class

a plane with people on the seats
Lufthansa’s A340 Business Class

Here are my reviews of these respective airlines’ older business class product:

I’ll be comparing the airlines’ ground experiences at their respective hubs (I haven’t been to Lufthansa’s Munich lounge or British Airways’ London Arrivals lounge yet, so will leave them out), as well as their seat, amenities, food and beverages and service, before drawing some final conclusions.

1. Which airline has the superior hub ground experience?

British Airways and Lufthansa share one thing in common – both of them have multiple departures lounges at their hub airport terminals, though none of them are particularly impressive.

British Airways’ two departures lounges in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 feature perfectly okay seating and a buffet (they had a-la-carte dining for a while during COVID but don’t anymore), as well as showers that seem like they came straight out of a hospital. You’ll also find fast WiFi and a quiet space with good workstations, as well as champagne, but not much else.

a room with red couches and tables a room with tables and chairs a bathroom with a glass shower and sink
British Airways Galleries Lounge, London Heathrow T5

Lufthansa’s Frankfurt lounges (I’ve reviewed their A, B and Z lounges) are very similar in having good workspaces, but no other “wow” factor. The food selection is similar and I prefer their showers to British Airways, though their lounges are consistently mediocre otherwise.

a group of people standing in a room with a counter and stoolsa room with chairs and a wall of treesa bathroom with a mirror and a sink
Lufthansa Concourse Z Lounge Frankfurt Shower Rooms

Both airlines feature an arrivals lounge (I’ve reviewed Lufthansa’s Welcome Lounge at Frankfurt Airport, though I’ve never been eligible for British Airways’ Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow Airport), which is a big plus. Neither airline features an a la carte menu at their arrivals lounge, unlike other airlines (Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines feature a la carte dining at their Heathrow arrivals lounges).

In terms of lounges, both airlines sit quite squarely in the “mediocre hub lounge experience” camp. That being said, I’m naming Lufthansa the winner (by a slight margin), for two reasons:

  • British Airways charges exorbitant advance seat selection prices for business class passengers, often exceeding £100: this is especially important if you’re in British Airways’ older business class, since window seats are way better than any other seat in the cabin
  • I generally far prefer Frankfurt Airport to Heathrow Airport, as queues are much more efficiently managed

Winner: Lufthansa

2. Which airline has the superior seat?

Both British Airways’ and Lufthansa’s older business class seats are markedly subpar, and rank near the bottom of the business class seat competitive landscape. However, the reality is that both of these seats are comfortable, and there are certainly worse options out there in terms of seat comfort.

This may be surprising, but I’d consider both business class seats better than B/E Minipod seats (used by Korean Air and Qatar Airways’ old 777s), Emirates’ 777 business class, etc.. So while these seats aren’t competitive, they aren’t actively uncomfortable, which is probably why they’ve gotten away with operating these seats fleetwide for so many years.

These mega-airlines define long-haul business class for the non-savvy business traveller, and it’s only over the past few years that secondary players such as Air France and KLM have caught up with better business class seats.

British Airways’ A380 seats are laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration on the upper deck, and a 2-4-2 configuration on the lower deck. They’re the only airline to have business class seats on the lower deck of an A380, and those seats are best avoided, due to the cramped configuration.

a person standing in a row of monitors
British Airways’ A380 Business Class

The seats are laid out in a forwards-backwards configuration so that they face each other. For a 1996 product I’d say they actually got somewhat close to an Apex Suite, though it’s been 24 years and they still haven’t turned their window seats around to face the other way.

a seat on an airplane
British Airways’ A380 Business Class

This leaves you with an annoying configuration where you stare at someone else during takeoff and landing, and window and middle seat passengers have to clamber over the aisle seat passenger in the row behind them in order to access the bathroom. The window and middle seats are extremely private, whereas the aisle seats are extremely exposed.

an airplane with seats and windowsa seat in an airplane
British Airways’ A380 Business Class

Their 777s feature a similar business class cabin, though all seats are in a 2-4-2 configuration.

a row of seats with a television on the side
British Airways 777 Business Class

On the other hand, Lufthansa features a 2-2-2 configuration in business class across their entire fleet.

a row of seats in an airplane
Lufthansa A380 Business Class

Lufthansa is one of the only airlines operating this configuration that I can think of who opted not to install privacy partitions between seats. There’s zero head privacy between the aisle seats and any aisle traffic, and even the window seats can feel exposed.

a seat in an airplane
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Head Privacy (or lack thereof)

One annoying thing about Lufthansa’s business class cabin is that their middle seats face each other, which makes it a bit awkward when you’re seated next to a stranger in these seats, both with the lack of a privacy divider and the awkwardly proximate footwells.

a seats in a plane
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Middle Seats

Both airlines configure their seats with almost stupidly impractical modifications, though there are some redeeming qualities about the seats themselves:

  • Both seats are quite sturdy in lie-flat mode – while British Airways’ fold-down ottoman collapses quite easily, this is only problematic when getting in and out of the seat; meanwhile on some other airlines you can feel the seat bending below you as you’re sleeping in bed mode
  • Both seats have relatively “open” spaces for your feet, so you don’t have to cram your feet into a small cubbyhole – this is especially true for British Airways, though I can name a handful of airlines with worse ottomans than Lufthansa’s

While both airlines’ older seats are neck-and-neck, I’d pick Lufthansa as the winner again in this case. While you can get more privacy in a British Airways window seat than any Lufthansa seat, British Airways charges over £100 for you to select these seats in advance. Plus, having to stare at a stranger during takeoff and landing is just plain awkward.

Winner: Lufthansa

3. Which airline has the superior amenities?

While both airlines provide some of the narrowest sleeping surfaces available in the sky, I’d argue that the bedding provided by both airlines is above average. Both airlines give a nice duvet, thick pillow, and a thin mattress pad for sleeping. Both airlines have a blanket that is large enough to wrap yourself around in bed mode (especially since there’s otherwise not much space to move around in the airlines’ respective configurations).

a bed with a blanket and a drink in the back of it
British Airways A380 Business Class Bed

a bed and pillows in a plane
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Bed

I wouldn’t declare a clear winner – in fact, the bedding offered by both airlines is nearly identical.

I prefer British Airways’ amenity kit to Lufthansa’s, though I’d consider this an element of personal preference.

a black leather pouch on a white sheet a bag and a set of objects
British Airways Business Class Amenity Kit

a brown leather case on a black surface a tray with items on it
Lufthansa Business Class Amenity Kit

Headphones are fine on both airlines, though not amazing – Lufthansa used to offer Bose headphones in business class, though doesn’t anymore.

a pair of black headphones on a grey surface
British Airways’ business class headphones

a pair of headphones on a bed
Lufthansa’s business class headphones

I’d say Lufthansa ever so slightly edges out British Airways by offering a sleeping shirt.

a hand holding a blue and white pouch
Lufthansa A340 Business Class Pajamas

Winner: Lufthansa

4. Which airline has better food and beverages?

So far I’ve given Lufthansa slight wins in all three categories, though this one’s a landslide win by British Airways, in my opinion – British Airways’ catering is light years ahead of Lufthansa’s.

British Airways returned their full food menu after the last time I’d flown them, though I’ve never had a bad meal with British Airways. They’re catered by DO&CO, which travel bloggers across the world unanimously consider to be the best caterer in the sky. Their desserts in particular are consistently delectable.

a plate of food on a tablea plate of food on a table
British Airways business class catering

Meanwhile Lufthansa’s catering typically ranges from horrible to average in my experience.

a plate of food on a tablea plate of food on a tablea plate of pancakes with blueberry jam and a bowl of rice
Lufthansa business class catering

British Airways also features a cocktails and mocktails menu, whereas you can only get soft drinks on Lufthansa. In addition, the airline features a fully stocked Club Kitchen between meal services, whereas on Lufthansa all you get is orange juice, water, and almonds available in the galley. I’ve also had a better experience with British Airways wines than Lufthansa wines.

Winner: British Airways

5. Which airline has the better WiFi?

British Airways is a new player to WiFi, whereas Lufthansa has had WiFi for a while. One advantage of flying either airline is that you can get WiFi with no data caps at a reasonable price (I’ve heard from others that Lufthansa caps at 1 GB, though that wasn’t the case on my flight – even if so, 1 GB is a very high limit). Lufthansa charged €25 (~£22) for full-flight WiFi on my flight from Hong Kong to Frankfurt, whereas British Airways charged £21.99 for flights between Hong Kong and London.

Lufthansa allows you to switch between devices, whereas British Airways generally has a more stable connection, in my experience (though there are cases on both airlines where the WiFi just doesn’t work, which is a risk you’re taking whenever you board a flight). I’d consider WiFi connectivity on both airlines to be very competitive, though wouldn’t put one airline’s offering ahead of the other.

Winner: Tie

6. Which airline has the better service?

This is totally subjective and I’ll keep this section short, though I’ve generally felt more welcome and cared for on British Airways flights compared to Lufthansa flights.

Winner: British Airways

Conclusion: The European mega-airline with the less bad older business class product

I’ve given Lufthansa the win in more categories than British Airways, though I’d realistically consider this to be a neck-and-neck experience on both airlines. British Airways has my vote if you can guarantee yourself a window seat, which I consider to be better than Lufthansa’s business class offering, and I also think have the better onboard soft product. However, I really hate that they charge so much for advance seat selection.

I’ve got to give British Airways credit for introducing and following through with a great business class product before Lufthansa, as about half of British Airways’ fleet features Club Suites, which are far superior to either of these products. However, British Airways still features their old business class seat on their 787-8s and -9s, A380s, and most 777s, which make up approximately half of their fleet. Even though 2024, these planes are flying to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Montreal, etc.. Meanwhile Lufthansa is starting to introduce different seats on some of their 787s and A350s, but only because they were originally meant to be delivered to other airlines. Their new business class product is being introduced later this year, though that won’t be installed across their fleet for at least another few years.

Unless you can book a flight on British Airways’ Club Suite, I’d say your best bet is on another airline.

Do you prefer British Airways or Lufthansa’s older business class?


  1. The good news is that LH business is frequently less crowded these days since almost any other airline in the Star Alliance has a better business option, so, I’ve found the few times I’ve been stuck flying them, I can get two seats to myself if I wait till the cabin door closes and ask nicely. Eat and work in aisle seat and sleep in window. Otherwise I pick one of the middle section aisle seats and hope not to play footsies with whoever is next to me just so I don’t have to climb over anyone or have anyone climb over me. Their food is also not good. Anyway, I can’t understand how they get away with being so bad when Austrian and Swiss are better and even United is better. Though all intra-Europe or EU adjacent “business class” is a hideous joke. Rant over!

  2. What a moan this is neither airline have the Gulf business model where cost is no object and the airline is just part of the countries revenue strategy
    Both to a large extent have to tap the capi tal markets and like the mega Us carries have h,ad to wait for decent returns to start before investing
    BA old business seat was a financiers dream. Look at their revenue footprint
    Both are now investing in their product perhaps in time to protect their revenue base or maybe not
    Try pretending to sit on the airline board rather than trotting out the usual service tripe

    1. As a travel blog catered to the layman who’s interested in inexpensively purchasing/redeeming miles and points for special premium cabin experiences, I don’t remember the last time I’ve spoken to a passenger who flew on a plane and said “gee whiz, I wish this product were more profitable”.

    2. Why do all airline bloggers miss the most important point in the post covid age? Customer support when things go wrong. I only have experience of BA, and they are shocking, a right mess.
      You need to include this, its such an important part of my flight purchase.
      As to BA or LH – I wouldn’t chose either, both sub par, it will be an interesting future as leisure travel has a much higher focus, and personally a stop over in either CDG or FCO is perfect.

  3. Fundamentally disagree with the comments about catering.. Based on 70sectors annually for almost 2decades. BA food is regularly appalling and often not available (they don’t load enough to offer the full menu, so if you’re not in the first row to be served you may well be told sorry, that’s not available, even in business. Do & Co are a great caterer but when the carrier has screwed down the price per tray so far, there’s not so much they can do. Eg TK are also Do & Co and in identical London – Istanbul flights, the gaping void in quality and volume is most apparent.
    I’m British but now actively avoid BA because they have fallen so far. Customer service is as with a lo cost and the cabins aren’t just dated but rarely effectively cleaned / maintained. Basically, the UK division of a Spanish registered multinational is profiteering from their historic position and reputation.

  4. I fly to Europe every year from the US West Coast. It’s always a direct flight to LHR on BA because I would rather fly direct on a sub par airline than flying on a US airline with stop overs or plane changes. I absolutely avoid flying any US airline and that is why I always choose BA to LHR.
    I agree 100% with everything you wrote about BA.
    I do want to add that my wife and I really like the 2 middle seats in the 2-4-2 configuration. Once the plane takes off and the dividers have been raised, it feels like we are in our own very private cabin. I’m not kidding, we really enjoy the set up more than the individual seats in the more superior business classes of other airlines. Also, I have been flying BA for many years and am happy to say that I have never once had a poor experience with the flight crews/service.
    Another reason why I fly BA so much is because their fares are cheaper from my city than their competitors (probably because of their lousy old business class seats and ample supply of them). The cost to upgrade to First Class is also very cheap. I am consistently offered to upgrade for only $500 – which I normally decline because I don’t think it’s worth it. However I did fly First Class from LHR back to the US last fall because I was concerned about the airport nightmares that European airports were going through, and I thought I could avoid it by flying First Class.

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