With so many flying options available to travelers today, it can be difficult to know which option provides the best value for you.
If you want a step up in comfort from standard economy seats, business class and first class might be appealing.
However, choosing between the two upgraded tickets can be confusing.
Business and first class seem to share many common perks, but when you analyse closely there are a number of differences.
After reading through the detailed information in this article you will know:
What is the difference between business class vs first class flights?
In this post you will learn:
- What is business class & first class?
- The pros & cons of business class
- The pros & cons of first class
- The differences between domestic & international flights
- Business class vs. first class: the costs
Business class vs first class – which one is more worth it? Let’s take a look!
What is business class?
Business class is a step up from economy class flight tickets in terms of comfort, perks, access to exclusive areas and service. In general, business class tickets are more expensive than standard economy.
What is first class?
First class is a further step up from business class, and features even more privileges to make your flights as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
Many of us are happy to spend a little extra in order to have a more pleasurable flight. This is especially true if you need to be productive while in the air, or immediately after you land at your destination.
In the next section I will compare business class vs first class so you can decide which option is best suited to your needs.
Business Class Vs First Class: The Ultimate Comparison
The internet has revolutionized air travel. Thanks to the likes of Kiwi and other flight comparison sites, you can find the perfect flight for you with a quick search.
But if you’ve grown tired of limited legroom and the inevitable post-nap neck soreness that comes with economy flights, what are your option?
Unless you have access to a private jet, it’s probably time to consider business class vs. first class.
But before you rush off to buy your tickets, you need to know what both of these classes have to offer.
Are the benefits of each really worth the cost?
Some would argue that you can’t put a price on comfort.
Stressful travel can get your trip off to a bad start, whereas a relaxed, enjoyable flight is likely to improve your mood upon arrival.
Let’s take a look at the 5 main advantages of business and first class.
5 Main Advantages of Business Class vs. Economy Class
- Storage and aisle access
We’ve all been in the situation of wanting to grab something from our bag while flying, but being blocked in by other passengers and not wanting to disturb or climb over them.
In business class, you can expect to have direct access to the aisle so you are free to move around the plane when required.
It’s also common to get your own personal storage space in business class.
This is particularly useful if you have a valuable item like your laptop which you want to access quickly and put away safely when not in use.
- Wider seats & more legroom
Travelling can be hard enough on your body as it is without having to squeeze into the small space provided in economy seating.
On long-haul flights, it’s common to become restless and feel claustrophobic when you can’t extend your legs.
If you often feel the need to stretch out your muscles and change your seating position to be comfortable, business class provides a notable improvement in this area. Most business class tickets will get you a flat-bed seat which boasts significantly more width than economy. Seat width varies from airline to airline, but you can expect to have at least enough room to fully extend your legs and avoid the dreaded economy cramp!
- Access to the lounge
Another benefit of business class is that you get access to the pre-flight lounges.
The majority of reputable airlines have their own specific spaces for upgraded passengers to relax in peace before boarding the plane.
This is a great way to avoid the stresses of queuing in the boarding areas with all of the commotion and chaos going on around you.
When you travel business class, you can expect to find a buffet and a choice of drinks awaiting you in the lounge.
If you’ve needed to catch up on emails or simply want to replenish your energy levels before flying, access to the lounge will give you the peace and quiet to do so.
However, if lounge access is the main reason you want to fly business, it makes more sense financially to get a lounge a Priority Pass membership.
- Onboard food & drinks
Multi-course gourmet meals are common on business class flights.
Although choices are more limited than first class, you still get the choice of a few meals which are a level above standard airplane food.
You will also have adequate space to enjoy your meals, without the worry of elbowing the person next to you or having to precariously balance your plate and cup on a small tray, as is the case in economy seats.
If you’re a fan of alcoholic drinks, you can expect the choice of proper champagne, decent quality red wine and some beers to enjoy while you fly.
The amenities provided in business and first class are pretty similar. You can expect to get soft blankets and pillows in both classes.
On some business class flights you also get a mattress pad to make your flat bed as comfortable as possible. Compared to economy, there’s usually a setup up in quality when it comes to headphones in business class, too.
Overall, business class offers you a noticeable increase in comfort, space and accessibility compared to standard economy tickets.
Here’s a sneak peak into Qatar’s business class:
Now, it’s time to see how it compares to first class.
5 Main Advantages of First Class vs. Business Class
One of the main advantages of first class travel is the privacy it provides.
After spending a long day travelling to the airport, you might hear your inner introvert telling you that you need some alone time to rest your mind.
This is especially true if you have a busy schedule. Your time spent flying may be your only opportunity to relax in solitude before arriving at your destination.
First class tickets will usually get you your own private space with ample storage and access to all of the facilities you could possibly need.
Some first class areas feel like mini-apartments rather than plane seats!
The difference between the beds and seats in first class and business class are worthy of a mention.
First class passengers are treated to a lie-flat seat which reclines to 180 degrees, with cradle or suite configurations available for added comfort.
When fully reclined, the seat becomes a cushioned bed which is made up by the crew, so you don’t have to lift a finger.
The beauty of having this much space is that you can complete your evening routine while on the plane.
If you need some pointers, I’ve written a detailed post on the most effective evening routine that can be done even when travelling.
You can also expect to get a fresh pair of pyjamas to add another touch of luxury to your journey.
- Quality of food & drink
I already mentioned the improved quality of refreshments and meals in business class, but first class takes it even further.
If you’re a fine diner with a taste for high quality food, first class might be the option for you.
It’s common to be offered the choice of caviar or expensive seafood. You also get the choice of the finest wines, spirits or craft beers.
The difference in food quality between first class and business class is undeniable, but remember, all of these luxuries come with a cost, as I will discuss in detail later.
With first class tickets, you are usually treated to transfers in fancy cars (sometimes even limousines!) which transfer you to and from the airport.
There is even likely to be a porter awaiting you, ready to carry your bags. No more long hikes from terminal to terminal!
Due to the high prices of first class tickets, the crew is instructed to do their utmost to ensure that you are happy and have everything you need during your flight.
Some airlines have specific crews especially for the purpose of tending to first class passengers needs. This crew is trained to be intuitive and anticipate the needs of the passenger.
With first class, you can expect to be treated as somewhat of a celebrity. You won’t have to wait for anything, and any requirement within reason will be met by the crew.
First class is definitely the most luxurious way to fly. But all of this luxury comes at a cost. Prices for first class tickets on a premium airline can cost tens of thousands of dollars!
Is it worth it? Casey Neistat has filmed his first class experience at Emirates here:
The differences between domestic and international flights
One factor worth considering is the difference that domestic and international flights differ when it comes to their business and first class tickets.
It makes a huge difference where you’re travelling to.
Need some ideas? Check out my list of 60 incredible places to visit around the world.
To put it simply, when flying domestically, the quality of the service provided is likely to be inferior than that of international flights.
Typically, domestic flights only have two cabins – one for economy class and one for first class.
However, first class seats on a domestic flight are not comparable in quality to those of an international flight.
Business class seats on an international flight are usually of a better quality than the first class seats of a domestic flight, to put things into perspective.
What are differences in cost between business class and first class?
In truth, many airlines have limited the number of first class tickets they offer or even stopped altogether. This is largely due to the advancements in business class and the limited number of people willing to pay the extortionate fees for international first class tickets.
On average, first class international tickets will cost you twice the amount of business class.
It’s down to you to decide whether the extra perks are worth double the money.
The reality is that modern business class seats are even better than what first class seats were in the not too distant past.
You might not get the caviar and lobster, but you still get a guaranteed comfortable flight.
Of course, flight prices can be unpredictable at times.
If you need some tips on booking cheap flights online, I’ve written a comprehensive flight booking guide here.
Does location affect first and business class tickets? In the majority of airports around the world there isn’t a massive difference between the first-class lounges and the business class lounges.
In Asia and a few other countries though, there is a noticeable gulf between the two. First class really means first class there, and the experience will usually be of the highest standard in that part of the world.
You can find out more about how to find cheaper airline tickets in a recent video I made on the topic below:
Now that we’ve discussed in detail the pros and cons of business class vs. economy and first class vs. business, I think it’s fair to say it all comes down to your personal preference.
There’s no denying that flying in luxury with ample leg room, service on command and good quality food makes the experience much more enjoyable.
The gulf in class between business and economy is, in my opinion, larger than that of first class and business. With business class, you can rely on getting more space, privacy and amenities than in economy.
Can you justify spending twice the amount on a first class ticket? That’s a question only you can answer, but whether you choose business or first class, there’s no doubt you will have an all-around more pleasant experience thanks to the added comfort provided.
Business class vs first class – which one won? Let me know in the comments!
This was written by Julia Lundin, an ex-Google employee turned nomad with the mission to help spiritual seekers awaken their power, create a life of freedom and step into their purpose and passion.