Painful To Watch: American & British Airways Compare Their Business Class Products

Filed Under: American, British Airways

It’s not really a secret how I feel about British Airways business class. Even when the food and service is good, the seat is my least favorite fully flat business class hard product I’ve ever flown.

Meanwhile even when American’s food and service is horrible, at least their reconfigured planes feature direct aisle access from every seat, and most of them feature Wi-Fi.

The two airlines are part of a transatlantic joint venture (along with Finnair and Iberia), so understandably they want to promote the benefits of it.


However, I think they’ve taken it a step too far with their latest ad. It’s called “British Airways Versus American Airlines — Which Is Better?” In the ad, two kids (each representing an airline) argue whether American or British Airways business class is better. Eventually they come to the conclusion that both airlines are great.

Here’s the ad:

First of all, the kids in the ad are adorable, and the idea behind the ad is cute.

The problem is that the two kids basically come to the conclusion that both airlines are great. Why?

  • They both have fully flat seats
  • They both have noise canceling headphones
  • They both have personal touchscreen monitors with on-demand entertainment
  • They both have power supplies
  • They both have “luxury washbags”

After covering those points, they come to the conclusion that both airlines sound really good. Again, I get they’re trying to convey the message that American and British Airways have a joint venture, but I think collectively they’re really selling themselves short here. It’s not often I’m advocating for American’s onboard product, but…

Yes, it’s true they both have fully flat seats. But is anyone going to argue that these fully flat seats…

British-Airways-Business-Class-777 - 1

…are the same as these fully flat seats?


Is anyone going to argue that these noise canceling headphones…

British-Airways-A380-Business-Class - 11

…are the same as these Bose noise canceling headphones?


British Airways’ fleet is certainly more consistent, in the sense that all planes have the same sub-par fully flat business class seats.

But American has been investing a lot of money in their international hard product, and there are noteworthy aspects to the product, like direct aisle access from every seat, Bose noise canceling headphones, and Wi-Fi on many of their planes.

When trying to market the joint venture, American and British Airways should instead be focused on the number of daily flights they offer to London, etc. Perhaps the biggest problem with this ad is that virtually all airlines they’re competing with offer all those things — Delta, Virgin Atlantic, and United all have flat beds, power supplies, on-demand entertainment, amenity kits, etc.

But to literally do a side-by-side comparison of the products and to come to the conclusion that they’re basically the same and “both airlines are great” is really an insult to consumers, and also an insult to the money American has invested in their new seats. I guess that would explain why the video was posted on British Airways’ YouTube page, and not on American’s.

Or who knows, maybe American can integrate this into their “World’s Greatest Flyers” ad campaign — after all, the #GreatestFlyers don’t care whether they have direct aisle access or not, and the #GreatestFlyers don’t care whether there are eight or four seats per row, as long as they have a flat bed. 😉

Regardless, the biggest sin of this commercial is that it doesn’t do anything to differentiate the American and British Airways joint venture from the competition, since all major airlines offer what they’re advertising.

What do you think more of this ad? Are they focusing on the wrong similarities, or am I wrong about the onboard products?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. I’ve never flown business or first class, despite having been to 28 countries…

    I’d love to fly in either of these, but when I do finally use my points for something like that, the seat better lay down FLAT

  2. I don’t understand why the kid who is AA speaks with a British accent and not an American accent. I’m not sure who they’re marketing this to either since most people fly economy class (so I would have guessed these kids would compare economy class seats moreso than business class — unless they travel on J all the time.) 😉

  3. Gosh, what is the translation of the German word “fremdschämen”..? Because that is exactly what I felt when watching the clip. It’s so sad – why are people getting paid to put crappy ads like this..?

    And yes, I fly both products a lot, and AA indeed has definitely the better (hard) product.


  4. Ha ha, the ad is really lame and silly, but the funny thing to watch is how upset Lucky gets about it. For him as a die hard fan of American and BA hater, this comparison is of course pure torture 😉

  5. I’ve said it before, the absolute worst thing about AA is their partnership with BA. I wonder how AA leadership feels about this fiction their partner is advancing of equal products? Pretty much discounts AA’s superior (to BA) International hard product. How about aisle access, the horrible food on BA, their draconian seat selection policy and their extreme fuel surcharges on award tickets? No truth in advertising here……

  6. Good article. I agree 100% – have flown both, a world of difference.

    Have friends going on a cruise with J travel included, but they are being put on BA. The BA A380 has lots of J seats so BA can make deals with the cruise lines to try to fill those seats.

    BA J is the worst J I have ever travelled. The food is not that great either.

  7. My impression of the ad is that BA is trying to persuade the British public that flying an AA-operated BA flight is not as dreadful as most people think. It is true that AA has upgraded the Business Class seat on transatlantic runs out of London, but at the same time they downgraded food and service. The first flight of a trip usually leaves the greatest impression, and for passengers originating in Britain headed for the US, it’s a daylight flight where people care more about food and service and less about flat beds. I’ve flown both airlines transatlantic any number of times in Business Class. I’ll take BA any day over AA.

  8. O.K. The direct isle access is nice on AA but the seat on the reconfigured 772 are quite bad in my opinion. There is no cushioning and the compartment is claustrophobic with little of usable space. The food is nothing to be inspired on either of the airlines. BA offering on intra-Europe flights is just garbage. BA is not a desired airline by any means and so is the new AA. The sloppy ad is just another proof of that.

  9. Painfully lame clip…..I don’t think this will be around very long. BA / AA should consider themselves lucky they are not competing with Nicole and Jennifer on US Europe routes.

  10. Aa 77W seats are no doubt better than BA; having said that the aa reconfigured 772 and most of the 787 new seats are significantly worse than BA.

    Without assurance I am getting the 77W seat I argue BA is better for sleeping which is my main priority and what I see that other frequent business travelers do on short tatl -get on board an go to sleep-. Bose are nice but it’s irritating that they are zealously fetched one hour prior to landing and wifi is not that important as you can do other real work other than browsing the web.

    Aa made a major mistake in not using 77W seats or the QR seats across the fleet.

  11. It is very British of them to assume that AA was inferior and has now “caught up”. I wonder if BA even ran the ad by AA to make sure they’re ok with it

    This whole thing feels like some sort of Richard Quest trip report comparison series on CNN…

  12. Reverse herringbone hard product is better than BA’s Club by some distance, but upstairs on a 747 is still my favourite business experience for Trans-Atlantic.

    Some of the AA planes are awful and I’m wary of getting a plane swapped on me when I fly them.

    I enjoy the blog, but not sure I see why you keep flying BA and writing the same thing over and over – it’s clear you don’t rate it and you’re starting to sound like a broken record.

  13. The American boy doesn’t sound convincing at all. He’s either a terrible actor or has no confidence in the product (or both)!

  14. The BA/AA NYC-LON partnership caught me on the wrong foot one time. I was flying super long haul in economy (2 8 hour flights connecting in LON) to go back home after a visit to the USA. I have flown that route often over the last 10 years, typically in economy, but sometimes in business class.

    There are at least 12 flights in a 4 hour window in the evening spread between BA and AA at both JFK and EWR. While booking on the BA website, the flight numbers and code shares (although explicitly shown) were somewhat similar (with AA flights shown as BA).

    I inadvertently booked the AA flight while intending to book on BA. The fare was the same on either airline. No big deal, I thought. The partnership should have me covered with regards to the baggage allowance. BA typically allows 2 check in bags for free on these itineraries to the USA, and I had 2 bags to check in which I brought with me to the USA.

    The lady at the AA check in desk at JFK refused to honour the 2nd bag for free and wanted $100. I refused to pay and had to pull out fare rules, ticket conditions etc. After a bit of excited talk, the lady finally decided to allow the bag for free, with a piece of advice for me – “This is the USA, don’t bring 2 bags next time”. I didn’t know what to say other than “I don’t think I will fly a US based airline again!”

    The on board product on AA was a bit weak compared to BA. Older plane with worn out seats, 5 abreast seating in the center. Although we got a cold meal for free, we had to pay $5 for drinks! Free, along with a hot dinner and a quick breakfast – on BA.

    I feel BA is a much better airline considering the issues involved in long distance travel – more consistent aircraft and service. Journeys typically do not end in London or New York for a large number of people. I guess everyone has a different perception of what an airline should provide or not, but there is huge world out there beyond USA / London – and beyond business class!

    In my view, US based airlines are completely inadequate for long haul international travel. There are better options out there at much better prices.

  15. I would gladly take BA J class to London over AA. The window seats are very private, have direct aisle access, and are quite comfortable for sleeping. Plus, the full dinner served in the BA lounges is far better than what I’ve had on any airline. I can eat a good meal before I get on the plane and sleep all the way across the pond.

  16. Oh dear, I can’t decide whether Brexit or BA make me more ashamed to be British!

    It is interesting though, 6 years ago when I started flying transatlantic I used to shudder when my BA flight was operated by AA, now I go out of my way to make sure it is. A reminder I guess that BA used to have the superior product but when you fail to invest in it….

    Painfully cringeworthy.

  17. O, the window seat is private when the divider is up. Now, I don’t care about being face to face with a stranger, but face to face with a coughing/hacking stranger during flu season is another thing. You just don’t have that kind of forced intimacy with AA biz seats.

  18. I fly DFW-LHR twice a year, usually in business class, and have flown on both carriers. The seats on AA’s 77W are far superior to BA’s on either the 772 or the 747. Having to crawl over the passenger seated next to you to reach the aisle in BA business is just painful. And BA’s “luxury washbag”? What a joke. A cheap cotton bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste and a couple of Elemis products thrown in. It must be the very worst business class amenity kit distributed today. But my biggest gripe about BA business class? Having to pay $100+ for an advanced seat assignment to ensure that I can sit next to my traveling companion. Absolutely obscene!

  19. You guys are getting carried away arent you lol the AA new biz class product is a recent thing… of coz the BA stuff is gonna look crappy in comparison.. also BA is in decline look at them starting to charge for food and such.. it is going down the crapper.. I have never had the opportunity to fly BA biz. why them when I can fly SQ biz… not my first option…

    Also I HATE lay flat seats on the air plane, even on SQ I do not lay flat I am 6ft3 and 200+ pounds I do not fit nicely into those coffin seats. there are sooo many reasons to this. the part where you are supposed to put the feet, do not fit with my shoes on, so I would have to take them off and every time I wanna take a piss I would have to put my swollen feet (feet swells up on planes..dont ask me why) back into those shoes… I have gotta get some slippers for the plane/hotel.

    Also I like my head to be elevated from the rest of my body, and flat airplane pillows do not do that, so that is the main reason I do not like to lie flat in a public space makes me feel odd and vulnerable .

    So if I HAVE to fly in one of those coffin type biz class seats, I would not lie flat. You gotta really tiny to fit nicely into those seats… SQ.. now thats a biz class seat.. u can toss around….

  20. @randy, fly lufthansa business, maybe you haven’t experienced the worst. Of course, there is united too….

  21. AA 777-300 Business Class is BY FAR the best Business Class ever, in terms of seat anyway, but including AA’s service, food, and more. I have flown so many C classes, there is currently no comparison.
    Flying on the new LX 777 to LAX soon, and am surprised that they have 5 abreast seat, vs 4 in the same AA aircraft. So I’m curious to experience the difference

  22. BA has one of the worst business classes in the industry. Most of BAs fleet are 8 abreast in club cabin. Which is, if you think about, having the premium economy seats made to flat beds. Absolutely cramped seats and for god knows what reason they take pride in their business class, where as CX and even AA uses 1-2-1 configuration. Food, Id say better than AA, but thats it. Any given day id give my business to AA, CX or even the older QR 2-2-2 for a great hard product.

  23. AA has the better product. The 77W (and by extension the 787) hard product is just excellent. Add to that the fact that the DFW-based crews are extremely friendly and you’ve got a good soft product too.

    On BA the seats are not long enough. 185 cm bed length!? Hello, BA? I’m 186 cm (and the shortest among my friends). How am I supposed to fit in that “bed”. And those dividers are annoying too. Do yourself a favour and change your product ASAP.

  24. Of course for many years it was the other way around, BA’s product was light years ahead of AA’s…..

  25. The theme of the ad shouldn’t be “My airline is better than yours!”, it should be “My airline sucks less than yours!”

  26. @Ken – I have flown LH J on both the A380 and 744 and UA J on the 772 2-4-2 arrangement (as well a LH F on 748 and UA F on the 744).

    I guess it is the tight arrangement of the BA J with alternating front/rear and the need for the FA to constantly up and down the partition to server the passengers at the window or middle seats. The foot part of the BA J is a manual pull down.

    BA just seems tight. While the UA J is bad as well it doesn’t seem as tight as there is no partition and the entire row faces the same. Plus I find the UA J seat to be nicely padded and comfortable. We will have to see how tight the new Polaris seat is going to be.

    The LH J product is an older angled typed seat but seems roomier. Some people prefer that arrangement when traveling together – that is two seats together facing the same.

    Food wise – BA is no list favorite. Not bad, but nothing special – seems more like an upgraded coach meal.

    But the main issue is BA J seat versus AA J seat. The AA J seat is just more roomy space and more private. BA J is too narrow with 2-4-2 to have all those partitions and again – the constant up and downing of the partition by the FAs.

  27. I love BA but this made me cringe.

    Makes me wonder who BA Comms are trying to convince: “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”

  28. I just flew business on AA from LHR to LAX and back within the last week, and the food was worlds better than the last time I took the flight (December 30th, 2015). I’m convinced they’ve revamped it (can anyone confirm?).

    That being said, transferring in LHR is just a nightmare. I’m based in CPH, and will 100% start exclusively flying to LAX via Stockholm on SAS, where the transfer is a breeze.

  29. This ad and the new EK Jennifer Aniston ad are not even in the same galaxy.

    I can’t believe they spent money on this, and wasted a day of these nice kids’ time.

  30. Last spring the wife and I had run out of miles and 2 for 1’s so we flew BA WTP lax to lhr. After that ride I’ll take business on BA any day.

  31. …….. One more thing to add: British Air actually charges you to select these sub-par business class seats!

  32. BA is worried about Brexit and AA is worried about 2 poor probable Presidents. That’s also a similarity!
    Lol, western world is like a sinking ship!

  33. This may be controversial but having been very impressed with the look of the new AA seat I found it uncomfortable for 7 hours in a way that the BA seat never is. The fold down ottoman is not flimsy on the BA planes as suggested by the author on recent reviews but it’s for your feet, not your knees/fellow passengers to sit on etc. The Bose headphones on AA are nice but get taken off you an hour before you land and only Americans could give details of the Prosecco being served in the section titled champagne. Someone recently commented about how BA club is actually very competitive when it comes to seat width. How about an article that compares actual seat dimensions instead of the constant BA bashing? Yes, not having direct aisle access is arguably annoying but it is only an issue if the person is reclined with the footstool down in which case it really isn’t a big step across their feet. My actual annoyance with the seat is that there is nowhere to stash the bottle of water they give you

  34. I too used to sigh to discover my BA coded flight was operated by AA, but the new 777 product is excellent and now my preference over BA – except upper deck 747.

    In bed mode, the BA seat is actually my favourite because it allows me to raise my knees; which you can’t do on AA, KLM, Delta or Qatar type seats where your lower legs are tunnelled within the seat infront.

    The major weaknesses of the BA seat is a lack of storage, combined with a tiny screen and small table. Once you are served food in BA you are stuck in the seat until service is over.

    BA service itself makes no effort to suggest quality e.g. removing plastic plate covers and decanting foil containers on to serving plate at seat.

    Overall I get the impression that BA continually tests the market to see how low they can go. The most recent further unbundling of the economy product will surely descend further. Their one saving grace is good lounges compared to the US and most other European carriers.

  35. BA have “enhanced” their advertising budget as well, I see. Such a disgraceful downgrade from the literal tear-jerkers of the past. *sigh*

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