Monday, April 22, 2013

Top 10: Airlines with the best business class cabins in 2013

In the first guest blog here at, we invited Jonny Clark, founder of, to share his Top 10 Business Classes to look out for in 2013.

10. Swiss Airlines

Swiss Airlines Business Class Cabin
Welcome to Swiss, the simply sophisticated airline, with a seat that has been copied by many airlines such as Brussels Airlines and Austrian Airlines too, proof of the successful cabin they have created. Stepping aboard you feel like you are in a set for the film The Single Man; wooden veneer, deep warm greys and stunning modern design touches make everything feel like they have a place and purpose. Clean dining and drink options match the environment. Whilst there are no bells and whistles to this stripped-back Swiss product, it is consistent, practical and comfortable. The perfect and honest business class for European business travellers. The seating configuration is one of our favourite options right now, providing privacy when you need it and the ability to travel and talk with a partner if you desire, plus it solves the dreaded ‘step-over-a-sleeping-stranger’ manoeuvre for the usual 2x2x2 seating configuration.

9. Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways Business Class CabinEtihad‘s newest incarnation of their Pearl Business Class seat may have been around for a couple of years now, but it’s still effortlessly beautiful. Wonderful privacy and clean modern lines really make the airline a contemporary business class that the worldly traveller will have come to expect in this day and age. Fine dining, massage functions, fully flat bed seat, and all seats now having direct aisle access are big bonuses, and each one of these boxes are well and truly ticked. Whilst the ‘World’s Leading Airline 2013′ has a lengthy award list, the business class cabin itself hasn’t won any awards for the past couple of years, but we think the cabin is consistently of award winning quality, and firmly deserves its place in the Top 10 list. Plus secretly are huge fans of the ‘Humbug’ bedding, super chic!

8. American Airlines

OK, so it's time to admit here like most, we aren’t a huge fan of the new American Airlines livery, and hopefully with the impending US Airways merger, we will see a more considered and more established tail fin grace the fleet, but there is one thing American have got right, and that is their new cabin offerings. American has now moved on from it’s painful slide-down-into-a-heap-at-the-end-of-the-flight seats and offer fully flat, cocoon seats that offer privacy and comfort more than ever before. These seats have a hint of BA’s First Class offering but obviously at a fraction of the cost. Whilst we haven’t experienced the new inflight service yet, we hope to still get creature comforts such as hot chocolate in a real mug. Whilst American isn’t an airline to fly to get the best dining experience, you’ll never have a terrible meal. For American travellers though who have sadly always had an inferior travel experience compared to the rest of the world, this is a real improvement.

7. Oman Airways

Oman Air Business Class Cabin
Oman Air is a relatively quiet airline when it comes to news, and only recently announced their launch of a new low cost carrier to help with dwindling revenues. But there is something truly elegant about their inflight product. More like the Orient Express than airline cabin, you expect to be sat next to an international passenger set who are more ‘Panama hat’ that ‘peaked cap’. One of the widest seats in the sky at 22inches and at a 6foot 5 inch length, one of the longest too. Calm toffee coloured tones add a sense of style and class to the cabin, and let’s not forget the whopping AVOD entertainment or the pretty spectacular dining options. One of the best bits of the Oman Air business cabin is the fact the cabins are so small and split by galleys each mini cabin feels so exclusive it feels almost as if you have stepped into First Class by accident! We wouldn’t blame you for thinking that. In fact, it seems most of you think that, considering it was voted ‘Best Business Class Airline Seat’ at the prestigious World Airline Awards™, run by Skytrax (two years running!) Maldives anyone?

6. Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand Business Class CabinAir New Zealand always brings a smile to our faces here at thedesignair. An innovative airline that consistently thinks outside the box to better it’s product. The amazing herringbone seat that is the twin brother of the older Virgin Atlantic seat is a sheer dream to sleep in due to the mattress being a seperate entity to the actual seat. White leather and clean lines though make the space feel light and airy and super slick (although lets see how that holds up in a few years). The best elements though are in the food and drink selections (think amazing new-world wine options here) and staggering library of top-notch films. Let’s not forget their history of tongue in cheek safety videos too! For those who can’t afford business class, their premium economy, which is more space ship than aircraft is more than worth a try too.

ALSO READ: Top 10 Airports In The World (i.e. winners of Skytrax’s 2013 World Airport Awards)

5. Eva Air

Eva Air Business Class Cabin
Eva last year leap-frogged ahead with a brand new business class cabin that is state of the art in all aspects. The muted moss colour tones might not be appealing at first look, but sat in the cabin after a few hours, the mellow tones really aid to a sense of relaxation and calm. The seat, (the same as the American Airways amongst others) is well appointed with more plug points, buttons and lights than an office block, but more importantly it gives you a sense of space that is becoming the normal for all major international business classes. Eva Air has reinforced its position as a major player in the International arena, and against the other Asian carriers where competition is fierce, they are certainly pulling their weight. Eva also has a great network with many business destinations. What’s more, their understated but excellent service is reason enough to travel with Eva. It seems 2013 is going to be the year for Eva.

4. Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways Business Class Cabin 787
Qatar’s experience isn’t just about the flight, and that’s why we love Qatar. Chauffeur services, private terminals, award winning cuisine and service, it is a pure delight to fly with Qatar even before you board. And when you board, the new 787 seating (battery problems permitting) are next generation and competitive with their Middle Eastern counterparts. But the previous seating, which cover most of their fleet is still excellent. Whilst not the most impressive seats on the list here, they are still comfortable, and most travellers on Qatar will happily agree, it’s less about the seat, and more about the whole experience. Winning countless awards inclusive of Airline of the Year 2012 by Skytrax, it is no surprise that the name is on our list, but with the introduction of the new business class seat (pictured above) across the fleet or the improvement of the current seats would boost the airline to the top of the airlines.

3. Virgin Atlantic Airways

Virgin Atlantic Business Class Cabin
Virgin Atlantic‘s New Upper Class Dream Suite has helped secure and strengthen its competitive streak within the airline industry. Whilst their Upper Class seat was still far and above most competitors offerings, Virgin had toiled for 4 years to tweak and develop the chair into what it is now, offering more space and more comfort than its predecessor. But it’s not just about the seat, a brand new bar, art works onboard, everything about the airline is about making flying fun again. Perhaps less of a ‘business’ airline, as the airline still only offering mobile phone connectivity on it’s new Upper Class suite planes (read A330′s) and let’s face it, you will be more inclined to prop up the bar than get knee-deep in a spreadsheet on a flight with VS. What’s more, new lounges in New York and Gatwick make for an excellent travel experience on the tarmac too. Whilst the food has improved dramatically this year from how it was, we still feel this is the achilles heel to the airline, and with a better food offering, Virgin will reign supreme once again.

2. Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines Business Class Cabin
Singapore Airlines mantra should be ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’, as it works for them, the seat hasn’t changed in a fair few years now, but still is one of the widest and most spacious seats in the sky, far outdoing most airlines first class seats, let alone business classes. But the cabin crew, and food are still the biggest selling point to fly with Singapore. Fine china, excellent and extensive menus, beautiful wine pairings and champagne until you are full (and a little giddy) are all reasons to take to the skies with what still is one of the best (If not the best) airlines in the sky. Sadly, they are also perhaps some of the most expensive, as when we have looked at travel options, Singapore has never come up the cheapest option across our flight options. Sadly though, the longest flight in the world, flown by the Singapore Airlines A340-500 in an all business class configuration is coming to an end soon, so the 19 hour excuse to be pampered so much you look 10 years younger when you land is soon to finish, so if you are flying New York to Singapore, make sure you take Singapore Airlines before it is a part of aviation history.

1. Cathay Pacific

So admittedly the third instalment of exactly the same seat here in our Top 10 (American and Eva Air have exactly the same seat – that we don’t need to go into again, safe to say, it’s pretty comfortable and intuitive to use), but Cathay rightfully deserves to take top spot of the three for their difference in customer service. Whilst the image may look familiar and the hard product in many cases is identical to its competitors, Cathay Pacific has never failed to be a market leader and has always been up against Singapore Airlines, Malaysian and Virgin, vying for king of the carriers. What Cathay Pacific has done over the past two years is really impressive in the form of lounges, cabin crew service and frequencies, making them an airline of choice, whilst ensuring their price point still remains competitive. We are huge fans of Cathay, and quite rightly so, their new Business class are our number one for 2013. Now all we need are more reasons to travel to Hong Kong and beyond.

What are your thoughts on the top 10? Are these the best business class cabins in the world? As always, please feel free to share your comments here, and you can also get in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ - I look forward to connecting with you!

REVEALED: The world’s best airline amenity bags in 2013


  1. Chitipat Alex ManonApril 23, 2013 at 7:10 AM

    EY is on the list also. Well done.

  2. I am sure you must have heard this from someone else, but Emirates missing from the list was a surprise.

    1. emirates are not in the same standard as these airlines yet but they are working on it

  3. Also missing is AY (finnair)

    1. So it should be - Finnair offer a really poor J class service

  4. Yeah...seriously, Emirates their J class seats no good?

  5. Emirates wasn't included this year, as even though the product is of good quality, the 'pack-them-in' business class product hasn't changed since its inception years ago, and there still isn't enough consistancy with their hard product across their fleet. Air New Zealand's hard product may be just as old, but the carrier has made huge developments in both their catering and inflight entertainment offerings, which is well worth recognising.

    To close though, Emirates is still a good product, just didn't quite make it into the top 10.

  6. British Airways started the first FULL FLAT Business more tha ten years ago! Difficult to compare oil rich airlines as they came out ONLY recently! & with A380's with more spaceto play with. Will be interesting to see BA'A380 business class!

  7. "Welcome to Swiss, the simply sophisticated airline, with a seat that has been copied by many airlines such as Brussels Airlines and Austrian Airlines too"

    AFAIK Brussels Airlines was the first to use these seats in their cabin, swiss followed.

  8. Very enjoyable, sharing your review!!!

  9. Please publish the top 100 airlines' Business Class fitouts, want to see if AI makes it..

  10. hmmm, surprised that Qantas A380 Business didn't get a guernsey?

  11. I don't agree with the BA comments, regardless if they brought out the first full flat bed, their service is horrible, even in Biz Class, and their layout and seats are awkward and old fashioned. I take Cathay often as their service is second to none. Their AVOD and facilities on board are extensive. Although, they don't have a bar like Emirates and Virgin Atlantic they are more focused on passengers who are "business" type passengers, rather than over paid fat cats who get really drunk on board... Good job CX!

  12. I totally agree with Cathay being number 1. Even though others have the same seat, they have taken it further and better in certain refinements. Flew CX from Sydney to Paris return in June and July. Business class was superb, on all fronts, especially service and foot. I slept for many hours on different parts of the trip and arrived feeling refreshed. Also, loved the fact that you felt like you were the only passenger due to the layout and design. Will be flying CX again later in the year to Paris. In fact, I am also looking to fly them to NY even though it means having to fly up to HK then across to the States; the fare is very competitive and only a little longer in the air (better than Qantas, United or Delta).

  13. I think Emirates is not on the list because of its bad product consistency. See here, A380s get a fully flat bed and many other fancy gadgets. Also gets the holy grail of business class - aisle access. However B777s? and A330s/40s? The angled lie flat seat and the recliner. And no DAA.

  14. The 1-2-1 seating on some Singapore aircraft really is the best with service to match and I would put them No 1. However whilst the service is equally good, the seating on their A330s is poor by comparison. 2-2-2 seating, not quite lay flat so you feel as if you are about to slide off the end, small cramped toilets, even short sear belts! I personally don't like the herringbone layout. On one CX flight a child cried for its mother as it could not sit next to her. The 2-2-2 seating on QF and some others probably cost them a place.


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