The Top 10 Seats in Business Class

BY Joe Sharkey

It’s all about the seat—and more.


New lie-flat seats are 79 inches long, dinners and lunches are five-course feasts served on fine china, and there’s a drinks lounge in the rear of business class cabins on Emirates’ big fleet of A380 super-jumbo jets (it has 28 with 62 more on order). But Emirates’ service doesn’t stop in the air: Business class passengers receive complimentary chauffeur transportation from your home or hotel to the airport and back (available in more than 55 cities)., 800.777.3999 


Long a trendsetter, Singapore service is known for flight attendants selected for poise and charm. Adding to the pleasant experience are new business class cabins with ultra-roomy lie-flat seats (30 inches wide by 76 inches long), available on a fleet of 19 A380s and 27 Boeing 777-300ERs. Singapore’s Book the Cook service allows preflight ordering from an extensive menu, with meals custom-prepared—a boon for very frequent fliers who might tire of regular menu choices., 800.742.3333


Cathay promises a good night’s sleep in extra-long lie-flat seats (82 inches), but it’s also given thought to something lacking in much business-class seating: ample, easy-to-reach compartments for stowing laptops, eyeglasses, books and even shoes, all of which have a tendency to disappear. Forget about work while watching the 15 1/2-inch personal HD TVs, with more than 100 on-demand movies— or provide your own entertainment by hooking up your iPad or iPhone via the in-seat USB ports., 800.233.2742 


Qatar Airways has emerged as one of the premium-class leaders among the flush and ambitious Gulf States carriers. Boosting its reputation are new seats (30 inches wide, 80 inches long) unveiled in March 2012. Seventeen-inch touchscreen TVs with more than 1,000 entertainment options keep passengers entertained on long-haul routes, including Doha to New York, Chicago and Houston. If you can, stop at Qatar’s business-class facilities at Doha International Airport—a 33,000-square-foot premium terminal- lounge with perks like five-star meals, spas and a business center with secretarial services., 877.777.2827


In 2001, as competition with upstart Virgin Atlantic spurred luxury innovations, BA pioneered lie-flat seats in its Club World business class. With the latest generation of lie-flat seats now in place, BA business class is also notable for elegant airport lounges offering preflight meals. One of its most popular offerings is a small, niche business-class service between London City Airport and JFK in New York, on Airbus A318 planes with 32 all-business-class seats., 800.255.5305 


Virgin’s trendsetting Upper Class business class service, hallmark of its rivalry with British Airways, is catching up after some years of lagging. Virgin claims the lie-flat seats in new Upper Class Suites are the longest (87 inches)of any airline. Upgraded food offerings, including a “graze” menu featuring hot and cold snacks are available anytime. And that famous onboard cocktail lounge? It’s been redesigned for more privacy., 800.862.8621 


An innovator among Gulf carriers Abu Dhabi-based Etihad stresses personal service and privacy in business class on its wide-body Airbus A340s and Boeing 777s.Seats are nestled in cocoon-like shells with adjustable mood lighting A la carte food can be ordered any time, along with formal meals with the help of the onboard food and beverage manager., 888.8.ETIHAD


Business class seats being installed throughout the long-haul fleet have concave shells for privacy, though the standard two-by-two arrangement means those with window seats still must do the “straddle of shame” to climb over adjacent passengers for aisle access. You can use a personal satellite phone while in the air, and noise-canceling headphones are a nice amenity not always available elsewhere. And of course the food and service are, well French., 800.237.2747


U.S. carriers have been slow to get up to speed on international business class standards, but Delta is catching up converting its long-haul fleet to a new service. A new partnership with Virgin Atlantic on Heathrow slots emphasizes high-end service, and lie-flat seats all have aisle access and big overhead bins There’s still some work to do: At the end of 2012, only about half of Delta’s international aircraft were on the new standard., 404.773.0305 


An intriguing up-and-comer, Korean Air stresses privacy and a convenient workspace with its new lie-flat Prestige Sleeper Seat (available on Incheon routes to and from Paris, London, Madrid and Istanbul). And global travelers routinely name luxurious, friendly Incheon International as their favorite airport in the world., 800.438.5000 

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2013 issue of Worth. 

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