If you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming about what it would be like to fly business class on your next international flight, you know it can be tempting. After all, the thought of extra legroom, free drinks, and gourmet meals can make regular old economy class feel like a total drag.
But is business class really worth the higher price tag? Let’s find out!
Is Business Class Worth It?
Whether you’re looking to book an international flight from the UK to Australia, or a long haul business class flight, there’s a lot to consider.
While you can sometimes find business class on domestic flights, it’s mostly found on international flights, and offers more comfort and amenities than standard economy, premium economy, or domestic first class.
One thing we can guarantee, because business class is more expensive, and geared more to solo business travelers, you’ll likely have fewer babies and children in business class.
Not all business class tickets are made equal
A word of caution first. Not all business class tickets are equal.
Some business class flights have lay flat seats, meals designed by celebrity chefs, multiple bars for business class passengers, and fantastic service. Other business class tickets are minimally upgraded economy tickets, with barely larger seats, the same food as economy, and a seat toward the front of the plane. There are huge differences in business class between different airlines, specific routes, and even airplanes.
Different airlines may also call their business class seats by another name, like executive class, upper class, club world, or club Europe.
The biggest knock against business class tickets is their cost. A long haul full fare economy ticket can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, while a business or first class ticket can set you back thousands of dollars. But if you’re looking to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime trip or fly in comfort for an important meeting or event, the extra money might be worth it.
Generally, business class is more expensive than economy, but considerably less expensive than first class.
Short haul flights also tend to have smaller cost differences between economy and business class than long haul flights. For some long haul flights, for example between the UK and Australia, business class can literally cost thousands more than economy.
If you’re flying over several time zones and want to thoroughly enjoy your journey, then it might be worth shelling out some extra cash for quality meals in business class.
Many airlines offer better quality food than what’s available in economy (think fresh salad instead of soggy sandwiches) plus complimentary wine and champagne (if that’s your thing!). Business class also often includes on-demand snacking.
In general, business class food is marginally better than economy, but there are certain exceptions where business class food is much higher quality. For example, Air France has commissioned Michelin star chef Anne-Sophie Pic to create eight dishes for business class customers.
On short haul business class flights, however, the meal won’t make much of a difference, since most flights don’t have time for a proper in-flight meal service anyway.
Seats and comfort
Business class seating can be night and day compared to the experience you get in economy. First off, business class seating provides added luxury and comfort with bigger, reclining seats, and more legroom.
Long haul business class flights generally offer a lie flat bed, but it isn’t guaranteed. With some airlines such as TAP, the business class seat only partially reclines.
A great seat isn’t just about comfort. On a long haul flight, a comfy experience can give you a much better sleep and less jet lag, leading to a more enjoyable vacation (or business trip). It can also mean choosing an overnight flight and a decent rest rather than a day flight. Not only can you save on hotel costs, you can also get off the flight rested and ready for your first adventure.
Want to know the specific details of your seat? Find your airline on seatguru and check the specifications. Here are a few things to look for. How wide are the seats? How close are you to other passengers? How many seats fit in a row? Does the seat recline? Will the seat convert into a bed?
Departure and arrival
Some, but not all, business class tickets offer a better departure and arrival experience. Depending on the airline and route, this can include express check in, fast track security, priority boarding, priority immigration plus a more generous baggage allowance for the best business backpack.
Services and perks
You can expect better perks in business class than economy, from powerful chargers to keep all your devices in working order, better entertainment options, and even complimentary amenities like free Wi-fi access, newspapers and magazines.
Plus, business class travelers get priority boarding and check-in services so they can be one of the first passengers on board. Business class generally has a higher flight attendant to passenger ratio, leading to better service, including faster meal service which means meals served first and more time with lights out for a better sleep on long haul flights.
Some business class flights offer extra perks like chauffeured pick-up and drop off, and an in flight amenities kit including items like socks, eye masks and toiletries.
Generally, (though not always), a business class ticket gives you access to the airline’s airport lounge. Lounge access often includes amenities like free meals, alcohol, showers and clothes pressing.
Business class vs first class
In business class, you’ll expect perks like wider or more comfortable seating and priority boarding.
When you upgrade to first class, you’re pampered from start to finish. From dining experiences that rival high-end restaurants and personalized concierge services, to private suites with beds, showers, and sound-proof areas for business conferences, first class is a much more luxurious experience.
Food in first class can often rival that of the best restaurants, and can have menus designed by famous chefs.
Business class has more legroom, but not always a private space while first class sometimes offers seats that turn into a bed or an mini apartment.
How to save money on business class tickets
If you just can’t stomach the cost of business class there are a few tricks that may help drop the price.
Wait for a last minute upgrade. You may simply get an offer from the airline at the last minute to upgrade. At one point in the past, they often gave someone a free bump up but those days are generally over since planes often max out their occupancy and it will usually cost you, though oftentimes at a much reduced rate, than you’d pay ahead of time.
Use your airline points or frequent flyer status. If you have points or miles, then it may be worth it to you to shell out some of those points to upgrade. If you time it right, there are times where using points makes the most sense.
Consider premium economy tickets. If you can’t quite justify the cost of business class, premium economy is another option. Generally, premium economy gives you bigger seats, seats toward the front of the plane, better food, and a few more perks at a much lower cost than business class.
Book early. The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the cheaper business class ticket. Book as far in advance as possible to secure the best deals. While hoping for a last minute upgrade can sometimes be cheaper, there is zero guarantee a better deal will pop up.
Consider alternative airports. Sometimes, flying into a nearby airport can save you money on business class tickets. Don’t overlook smaller airports in the area.
So is business class airfare worth it?
In the end, choosing business class or economy is a personal choice. It really depends on your budget and how important comfort is to you when flying long distances (or short distances).
If you’re cash rich and time poor, business class may be for you, and by all means go ahead and book yourself a seat in the front cabin, but make sure that you maximize your benefits by taking advantage of any perks offered along with your ticket, like lounge access or priority check-in privileges!
Should a business class ticket be on your business travel checklist? A good business class experience really makes getting from point A to point B a pleasure rather than an endurance test!
However, if saving money is more important than indulging yourself, then economy may be the way to go. Just remember that there are always ways to make your flight more enjoyable by researching airlines’ amenities before booking your ticket!
We've been traveling around the world since 2003, first as a couple and now as a family of four. We love sharing our adventures and the lessons we've picked up on the road. Check our About page for more info.