Hi Frugalistas! My work colleague D is taking her first Business Class flight. She is heading to Europe in April. It’s only her second flight to Europe, and is definitely not an experienced flyer. She is excited, but a bit intimidated. What goes on behind that curtain, or up those stairs? What is a Business Class flight like, and what does a Business Class ticket even buy you?
What does a Business Class flight include?
Everybody knows that a Business Class ticket buys you a bigger seat. It also buys you a lie flat seat on most airlines’ long haul flights. But of course there’s far more to a Business Class flight than a big, lie flat seat and more space.
A Business Class flight buys you priority.
While exactly what that means will depend on your airline and your destination, expect a priority check in, priority baggage handling for checked luggage (and an increased luggage allowance), and often a fast track card for priority clearance at Customs and Immigration counters. You will be invited to board ahead of other passengers, often through a separate boarding lane.
A Business Class flight buys you perks.
Everybody knows about the lounges airlines offer to First, Business and high value frequent fliers. Often tucked away in a quiet corner of the airport, lounges offer a peaceful haven away from the noise and crowds, refreshments and food, often showers, and sometimes even Spas.
Some airlines (particularly Emirates and Etihad) will also offer chauffeur car pick up in certain destinations. It’s so nice to know when you arrive in strange city that there will be someone waiting to deposit you at your hotel front door. The perks don’t stop on the ground of course. Sit back and enjoy your preflight champagne or juice. Refresh yourself after that “icky” walk from the lounge with a sweet smelling hot towel.
Then of course there is the amenities kit. Ah, yes, the amenities kit. Along with the lie flat seat, the holy grail of premium class travel. Before you dig into the goodies in your kit, my advice is to check the amenities in the bathroom. Why you say? Because often the exact same toiletries (even down the toothbrush and toothpaste) are available in the bathroom for your use. When that is the case, I save my amenities kit content for my 3-1-1 bag.
Airline food often gets a bad rap. Sometimes it is deserved, sometimes not. While a Business Class flight doesn’t make you immune to a menu failure (like the paperweight croissant served to me once), airlines certainly do step up the options and experience. From 5 course gourmet extravaganzas, to “anytime” snack menus, your airline will tempt you with a consistent procession of tempting treats. A proper table cloth and place setting (and often no tray), full bar and premium wines will complete your experience.
A Business Class flight buys you space
Now, finally, the lie flat seat. Add in the larger, comfier pillow and a nice soft warm blanket or duvet and you should sleep like a baby. The only downside? Sometimes fellow passengers sleep so well that snoring does break out – even on a Business Class flight!
Not all Business Class seats are created equal. On some airlines, the seating is still in a side by side seat configuration. So yes, even though the seat pitch is much better, you do need to climb over. Many airlines have now moved to a staggered configuration, so everyone has direct aisle access. You can check out what your airline offers by looking on their website.
On long haul flights you should expect a lie flat seat unless you are travelling on a very cheap airline and/or a very old plane. Some airlines offer a Business Class flight with an angled seat – lie flat, but angled downwards to save space. I have heard travellers complain of sliding down these angled seats, although I’ve never personally had that problem. Airlines are moving away from the angled lie flat seat to more modern fully flat versions, so hopefully you won’t experience that problem.
Short haul international Business Class seating is a bit different. More like what a Business Class flight was like 15-20 years ago. Expect a reclining, but not fully flat seat and a foot rest that won’t elevate your legs to horizontal.
Making the most of your Business Class flight
My number one tip for making the most of your Business Class flight is to make use of the services that are available, provided they are of value to you.
You have paid for them, and the airline wants you use them.
If the airline offers free transfers, and it fits with your travel plans, use it.
Avail yourself of the priority check in counter and express Customs & Immigration lanes. No one likes standing in a queue longer than they need to, and when you have booked a Business Class flight you don’t need to!
Use the lounge, but also take the opportunity to walk around the airport if you need to stretch your legs. Most lounges are quite happy for you to come and go as often as you like before your departure. If there are showers (there usually are) and you want a shower, ask a staff member for a shower pack and enjoy it.
Eat and drink as much or as little as you like. There is always plenty of food available between “meal times”. If your supplied bottle of water runs out, don’t hesitate to request another (and another, and another……). If someone has taken the last glass of champagne from the pre-take off drinks tray, feel free to politely ask for one.
Don’t assume that because it is Business Class that people will be “dressed up”. They won’t be. Dress appropriately, but comfortably. I normally board and disembark in clothes appropriate to my departure/arrival cities, but change into comfy lounge wear once the seat belt sign is off.
Enjoy and appreciate the experience. The cabin crew really are there to make your journey as comfortable as possible. If there is anything you need, don’t be afraid to ask.
But most importantly, remember that flying in Business Class is a privilege that most travellers will never experience. Although I regularly fly internationally on a Business Class flight I still appreciate the privilege. Savour every moment, and when things go wrong (as they will sometimes – yes, even in Business Class) keep it in perspective. Don’t let a single paperweight croissant ruin your entire flight!
If you have travelled previously in Business Class, what would you recommend to a Business Class newbie?
Not all Business Class seats on the one plane are equal. Check Seat Guru website to get a rundown of the airline and type of plane for their seat reviews. We always avoid seats close to either the loos or the galley. Of course you may wish to be near one or the other. You can specifically ask for your preferences (including aisle or window) if available.
a) I always take a good eye mask – there is normally one in an airline amenities pack but I usually find they’re not as comfortable as my own.
b) Don’t wear tight shoes with really high heels. After a long haul flight your feet may be have swollen making it difficult to put them back on at the end. I usually wear a smart (as sneakers can be) pair of comfortable sneakers or lace-up shoes that work with the pants I’m wearing on board. Also the walking distance between lounges and area where you board the plane can be a substantial distance – not good if you’re wearing stilettos. You also have to get off the plane at Singapore or Bangkok or Hong Kong while it refuels – often the business lounge is miles from the gate.
c) Sometimes Sephora sell amazingly good facial treatment masks (cooling and moisturising – with holes for nose and mouth) that I put on after removing make-up before the longest night flight). they’re heaven. Sadly, not always available. I bought multiple packs last year in Paris and will be using one on my next flight Singapore-Heathrow.
d) If you’re a reader, take a good book that will grip you but doesn’t weigh too much, eg not “War and Peace”. Consider leaving it behind at one of the hotels you stay at or posting it home.
Best wishes, Pamela
Hi Pamela – I definitely second the idea about not wearing high heels. There are often long distances to walk, regardless of what class you travel, your feet will probably swell, even if you keep your legs horizontal, and you’ll just be over dressed!
We’ve got our first ever Business Class coming up with ANA (Tokyo-London) and we’re dead excited 🙂
Hope you have a wonderful experience – enjoy!