I’m an airline product geek, and every year I like to publish a list of what I consider to be the world’s best first class airlines, best first class lounges, best business class seats, etc. Admittedly coronavirus has greatly impacted the premium products being offered by some airlines, but that’s not going to stop me from keeping tabs on the best products out there.
In this post I wanted to provide an updated ranking of what I consider to be the world’s best business class seats.
Business class seats have come a long way
We’ve seen a significant amount of innovation when it comes to business class seats over the past several years, with some of the world’s best business class seats having only recently been introduced.
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 suites with doors. 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 wanted to share an updated post with what I consider to be the world’s 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 from at least most seats 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. Given the choice I’ll always take a seat that offers more privacy over one that doesn’t — I find it awkward to sleep next to strangers on the ground, and the same applies in the air.
- 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 exceptional 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.
Why you should trust OMAAT seat rankings
Hopefully I don’t have to explain this to regular OMAAT readers, but I feel like this is worth mentioning for those who aren’t regular readers…
All the time I see media outlets ranking the best business class seats, though typically they’re just going off stock media images and how airlines describe their seats, rather than actual firsthand experience.
While I’m absolutely not saying you need to agree with my rankings, here’s why you should trust OMAAT rankings, in the sense that I’m sharing my honest and informed take here:
- I pay for all of my own flights, either with cash or miles
- I don’t let the airlines know that I’m reviewing their products, and go out of my way to remain as anonymous as possible (there are some rare exceptions, which I always disclose)
- I’ve tried virtually every kind of business class seat out there, and have flown business class literally hundreds of times, so have lots of context for what makes a great seat
- I don’t have any sort of financial relationship with any airline
- This is my passion, I’ve been reviewing airlines for 15+ years, I’ve written hundreds of flight reviews, and have logged millions of miles
The world’s 10 best business class seats
Let me now share what I consider to be the world’s best business class seats, counting down from number ten to number one. Just a few final notes, before I do so:
- 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
- In situations where only one airline has a seat type, I’ll refer to it by airline, while when it’s a situation where multiple airlines have the same seat, I’ll refer to it by the seat name
- 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 Wi-Fi out of this equation; this list is about the seat itself
Here are my rankings, counting down to the top business class seat:
Most of the products on this list are cutting edge business class seats, so this is 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 the carrier’s 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 around 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. It really is a blast from the past, in a good way. Oman Air is in the process of reconfiguring planes to replace these with Apex Suites, though, so the seats won’t be around for long.
Where to find this seat: This seat is available on select Oman Air A330s. No other airlines have this product.
Singapore Airlines offers fairly new cabins on its A380s. 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 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. This is a good seat in most regards, I just don’t find it to be especially comfortable for sleeping.
Where to find this seat: This seat is available on most Singapore Airlines A380s. No other airlines have this product.
United Airlines has been working on installing its new Polaris business class seats on long haul aircraft, featuring a staggered configuration. On 777s and 787s, 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.
Where to find this seat: This seat is available on all United 777-300ERs and 787-10s, as well as on select 767-300s, 777-200s, 787-8s, and 787-9s. Air France also has these seats on its A350-900s, and plans on installing them on select 777-300ERs. While not quite the same, EL AL has similar seats on 787-9s, and TAP Air Portugal has similar seats on A330-900neos.
I’m putting this seat on the list separately from the Vantage XL seat because it’s heavily customized, because of how innovative JetBlue was, and because I think this is fundamentally a different product when on a narrow body plane.
JetBlue deserves credit for introducing the first business class seat with a door. It’s amazing that a low cost carrier with narrow body aircraft that didn’t traditionally even have a premium cabin was the first airline to introduce this.
The traditional 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, and each seat 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.
I’d note that JetBlue has introduced an all new business class product on its A321LRs, which are used for transatlantic flights. However, I’d argue that the new Mint Suite isn’t a better hard product than the old one, and the Mint Studio doesn’t meet my threshold of there being an average of one of the seats per row (since only two of the 24 business class seats are Studios).
Where to find this seat: This seat is available on select JetBlue A321s. While other airlines have put the same staggered seats on A321s, they haven’t added doors. No other airlines have this product.
Etihad’s newest business class seat that’s currently in service is a modified staggered configuration, with seats alternating between being closer to the aisle and closer to the windows. 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.
Where to find this seat: This seat is available on all Etihad 787s (it was also on A380s, but Etihad has grounded all of those planes, and they may not fly again). No other airlines have this product.
Delta’s flagship business class product is the Delta One Suite, which is a business class suite with a door. Delta uses a modified Vantage XL seat (similar to what you’ll find on Philippine Airlines, Qantas, RwandAir, and SAS, for example).
The Vantage XL seat isn’t otherwise on the list because I consider this to be an evolved version of it, given the addition of 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 a better job could have been done with the finishes, in my opinion.
British Airways sure made a quantum leap with its business class hard product in 2019, when it went from a product that it had for nearly two decades, to a brand new reverse herringbone seat with a door.
As such the seat isn’t that innovative, in the sense that it’s a standard Collins Aerospace reverse herringbone seat. As a result I won’t otherwise include the seat on the list, since this is just an evolved version of that, and you can find that on Air Canada, American, China Airlines, Qatar Airways, Virgin Australia, Xiamen Air, and many more airlines.
In general I like reverse herringbone seats because 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 ideal when traveling with someone, since even the center seats are quite private.
What makes the seat special is that it has a door, and that sure is a nice feature. You of course don’t have to use the door if you don’t want to, or if you find it to be too claustrophobic.
Where to find this seat: This seat is available on all British Airways A350-1000s and 787-10s, and on select 777s, as many planes will be reconfigured with these seats in the coming years. Etihad has installed a similar product on its A350-1000s, but these planes are grounded.
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.
Qatar Airways introduced the Qsuite in 2017, and set a new standard for business class at the time. 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.
Qatar Airways has introduced a new business class seat on its 787-9s — while it looks great, I’m guessing it’s not quite to the level of Qsuites. I’m hoping to fly it soon.
Seemingly out of nowhere, All Nippon Airways introduced an all new first and business seats in the summer of 2019. This is simply an incredible product — each seat has a door, the suites are massive, and the amount of personal space is unparalleled.
With this seat I really feel like airline products have come full circle, because this business class suite is better than many first class suites out there. I didn’t think anyone could beat the Qsuite, but ANA did…
Where to find this seat: This seat is available exclusively on select ANA 777-300ERs, and more 777s are expected to be retrofitted with these seats. No other airlines have this product.
There you have it, those are what I consider to be the 10 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 being switched around, depending on whether I plan on sleeping the whole flight, am traveling with someone, etc. The only rankings I’m pretty committed to is my top three choices, though I could also see the order being moved around depending on the circumstances.
What do you think the world’s best business class seats are? How does your list compare to mine?