We’ve seen a significant amount of innovation when it comes to business class seats over the past several months, and I’d argue that we’ve just seen two of the three best business class seats introduced within the past year.
However, it’s worth acknowledging that this is part of a larger trend, as over the past 20 years we’ve seen business class seats go from recliners, to angled flat seats, to flat beds, to seats with direct aisle access, to even more over-the-top cabins. In many ways, the premium economy cabins being introduced nowadays aren’t that different than business class 20+ years ago.
Given the amount of innovation we’ve seen, I think it’s time for a post about what I consider to be the world’s nine best business class seats.
What makes a great business class seat?
My ranking will be subjective, since not everyone is looking for the same thing when flying, and I think creating a formula for ranking these seats would minimize the perspective I can provide, having tried all of these products myself. Some people love direct aisle access from every seat. Others don’t, since they love to sit next to their travel companion. Some people love seats with doors. Others hate them. The list goes on and on.
What goes into my decision as to what I consider to be the world’s best business class seats? A fully flat bed with direct aisle access is a given to make this list, though here’s what I’m looking for beyond that:
- A comfortable sleeping surface — First and foremost, business class is about the bed, so a comfortable sleeping surface is the single most important factor. Part of that is lots of space for my feet, since some airlines seem to be developing elaborate seats with small footwells.
- The ability to maximize privacy — This is something I personally care about, though I know others don’t. I don’t like sleeping around, and the same applies on a plane. Ideally I won’t have to see anyone else when I recline my seat and go to sleep.
- Attention to detail with the design — Often I wonder if the person who designed a particular business class seat has ever actually been in business class before, because the design doesn’t have great attention to detail. I’m talking about where buttons are located, how good the lighting is, how easy it is to use the tray table, and more.
- Different seating configurations for different occasions — Everyone travels with a different purpose, so it’s important that seats are customizable depending on whether you’re traveling alone, with a companion, or with your family. It’s great to have a lot of privacy, but truly great airlines have designed their cabins in such a way that you can choose whether you want to sit alone, or next to someone else.
- Beautiful finishes — While the substance of a seat is most important to me, there’s also something to be said for a cabin that’s stylish.
- Individual air nozzles — This is something I won’t be able to cover too thoroughly here, since in some cases I’ll be talking about seats that are used by many airlines. However, for any airline product folks reading this, individual air nozzles make a huge difference in terms of being able to sleep comfortably, given how warm cabins are often kept.
A few more notes
Before I get into the ranking, I want to note a few more things (long time readers will know some of these, though I want to be thorough):
- I’ve flown every single product I’m ranking
- I don’t have any financial relationship with any airline, and paid for the tickets on all these airlines on my own, whether in cash or with miles
- Some of the seats I list are only available on one airline, while others are available on dozens of airlines, so I’m only going to be listing each type of seat once, even if there are minor variances
- One general struggle I have with these rankings is deciding which seat in a configuration to judge (for example, Singapore Airlines’ bulkhead business class seats are phenomenal, while the rest of the seats aren’t nearly as good); so I’ll be judging seat variations only if at least an average of one seat in each row has the comfort that wins it the ranking
- I’m leaving service, food, drinks, entertainment, and wifi out of this equation; this is all about the seat itself
The world’s nine best business class seats
Without further ado, here are what I consider to be the world’s best business class seats, counting down from number nine to number one:
Most of the products on this list will be cutting edge business class seats, so this will be the only seat on the list that has been around for over a decade. Oman Air is one of my favorite airlines, and some of their planes have outdated but incredibly spacious business class seats. They’re in a 1-2-1 configuration, and remind me of what first class used to be like on many airlines about a decade ago.
The technology and privacy of the seats isn’t cutting edge, but the comfort, storage, and spaciousness can rival just about any new seat today.
This product is available on select Oman Air A330s.
Singapore Airlines recently introduced their new cabins on the A380. In business class, the new seat is a mild improvement over the old one. On the plus side, the cabin is beautiful, the seats are spacious, there’s plenty of privacy (even though the seats don’t have doors), and the seat controls and functions are well designed. Furthermore, for couples traveling together, all the pairs of center seats can turn into a double bed.
The problem? The sleeping surface is hard, and you need to sleep at a strange angle. So this is a good seat in most regards, I just don’t find it to be especially comfortable for sleeping.
This product is available on select Singapore Airlines A380s.
Last year United introduced their new Polaris business class concept, featuring staggered seats. Every other row has “true” window seats, which are quite private, and every other row also has “honeymoon” seats in the center section. These seats are comfortable and functionally designed. However, they’re not especially spacious, and I find the footwell to be a bit on the tight side.
This product is available on all United Boeing 777-300ERs, and select 767-300s. EL AL also has a similar seat on their 787s, though the reason I list United Polaris first is that I found the seat to be a bit more spacious, given that the 777 is wider than the 787.
JetBlue deserves credit for introducing the first business class seat with a door. It’s amazing that a low cost carrier with narrowbody aircraft that didn’t traditionally even have a premium cabin was the first airline to introduce this. The JetBlue Mint cabin is in a staggered configuration, and every other row features Mint Suites, which are available on a first come, first served basis. The cabin is well designed, has a door, and features ample storage. The main downside to the seat is that the footwell (where you place your feet when sleeping) is pretty tight.
This product is available on all Mint configured Airbus A321 aircraft.
Etihad’s newest business class seat is a modified staggered configuration, with seats alternating between being closer to the aisle and closer to the window. When traveling alone I love the “true” window seats, while many people traveling with a companion like the “honeymoon” seats in the middle of the cabin.
What sets Etihad’s Business Studio apart from other staggered configurations? The finishes are stylish, the seat functions are thoughtfully designed, the seat is spacious, and there’s a good amount of privacy.
This product is available on all Etihad 787s and A380s.
Nowadays there are dozens of airlines with reverse herringbone seats. While each airline customizes their own finishes, there are two most popular types of seats — you have B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat, and you have the Zodiac Cirrus seat. Personally I slightly prefer the B/E Aerospace version of the seat, as it has more storage and I prefer the seat controls.
What do I like about reverse herringbone seats? Each seat is virtually identical, so there are no bad seats. The seats have plenty of privacy, the window seats face the windows, and the seats are comfortable regardless of whether you’re relaxing or sleeping. The downside is that these seats aren’t identical when traveling with someone, since even the center seats are quite private.
Delta recently debuted their business class suites with doors. Delta uses a modified Vantage XL seat (similar to what you’ll find in SAS business class, for example — the Vantage XL seat isn’t otherwise on the list because I consider this to be an evolved version of it)), except they added a door. The configuration is staggered, and the seats are private, spacious, and mostly well designed. However, I do think the seat is a bit rough around the edges — the window seats lack storage, the door doesn’t quite close the whole way, the doors themselves are pretty low, and they’re difficult to open. This is a very good product, but they dropped the ball on the finishes, in my opinion.
This product is available on all Delta A350s.
2. Apex Suite
When you look at Apex Suites you may initially think that they’re just average business class seats, as they don’t look that impressive. For example, on a 787, Apex Suites will be in a 2-2-2 configuration. What makes these seats superior is the window seats, as they feature an incredible amount of privacy and personal space. The window seats have a private walkway leading to the seat, and you can raise or lower the partition between seats for full privacy.
For many other business class seats, you have to sleep with your feet in a small footwell, while in an Apex Suite you have an unlimited amount of space for your feet. The other nice thing is that if you’re traveling with someone you can select an aisle and a window seat and sit next to one another, though you won’t have the same level of privacy in the aisle seat.
Finally the world’s best business class seat. Qatar Airways introduced the Qsuite last year, and it’s simply unrivaled. Just about everything about it is incredible — it’s private (it features a door), it’s spacious, it’s stylish, it has plenty of storage, and everything is thoughtfully designed. What really seals the deal is how customizable these suites are. You can choose a window seat for full privacy, you can choose a double bed in the center section, or if you’re traveling as a group of four, you can even reserve a “quad” and create a huge suite.
Qsuites are available on select 777s and A350s.
There you have it, those are what I consider to be the nine best business class seats. As you can see, in some cases these seats are specific to one airline, while in other cases many airlines have the same seats.
These rankings are highly subjective, and on a given day I could see the order of some of them reversing for me, depending on whether I plan on sleeping the whole flight, am traveling with someone, etc. The only rankings that I’m 100% committed to is Qatar Airways Qsuites being number one, and Apex Suites being number two.
What do you think the world’s best business class seats are? How does your list compare to mine?