7 Of The Worst Business Class Products I’ve Flown

Filed Under: Travel

Back in the day I’d do everything in my power to redeem miles for the world’s best first class products, though for the past couple of years I’ve been doing everything I can to review as many new business class products as possible. I’m not just limiting myself to airlines that belong to the major alliances, but also other airlines that often have reasonable business class fares.

Some airlines have really pleasantly surprised me, while others have disappointed me. I thought it would be fun to put together a list of some of the worst business class products I’ve flown. Let me start by saying that this is inherently subjective, and I’m not suggesting that the below products are actually the world’s worst.

Rather I’m sharing some of the less pleasant flights I’ve had. I’m limiting myself here to longhaul business class products. If I weren’t, you can bet all the spots would go to intra-Europe business class products, which typically just consist of an economy seat with a blocked middle (there are some exceptions, like Aeroflot, which has a real business class product within Europe). So I’m excluding those products.

I’m also taking more of a soft product focus here. For example, objectively Meridiana’s business class product isn’t great, given how outdated their product is. However, the food was quite good, there was a great pillow and blanket, and the service was exceptional, so I don’t really have much bad to say about them.

With that in mind, here are some of the business class flights I’ve taken that I didn’t love. Let me once again emphasize that this is based on the specific flights I took, and in many cases the experience you have on the below airlines may be different.

Azores Airlines A310 business class from Boston to Ponta Delgada

Okay, we’ll start with the absolute worst. As an aviation geek I was excited about flying an A310, but that was about the only redeeming quality of the product. The food was pretty bad, drinks were served in plastic cups, the flight attendants weren’t friendly, and the cabin was so poorly maintained that the legrest barely stayed up, there was virtually no seat padding, etc.

On top of that, there’s no individual IFE, and also no power ports. Flying Azores Airlines is cool for the ability to do a stopover in the Azores enroute to other points in Europe, and for their great business class fares, but that’s about it.

Ukraine 767 business class from Kiev to New York

To start, the flight was delayed by about four hours, which is no fun when you have a connecting flight afterwards. Ukraine’s 767 business class is more like premium economy, but then again, it’s also quite reasonably priced. While the crew was friendly enough, the seats were insanely narrow, the power ports didn’t work, the pillow and blanket were tiny, the food was bland, and the cabin felt oh-so-outdated. While the product is reasonably priced, personally I’d rather fly premium economy on an airline with wifi, decent entertainment, and/or power ports.

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Pakistan 777 business class from Manchester to New York

You know you’re in for a fun flight when the cabin manager makes an announcement after takeoff proactively apologizing that many of the seats and entertainment are broken, and that they’re working on updating their fleet with more modern products. Drinks were served in plastic cups, all the cutlery was plastic, food was presented in aluminum trays, there were no menus or amenity kits, etc.

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However, the crew was friendly in general, and the one part of the meal that was memorable was the delicious Pakistani dessert.

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China Eastern 777 business class from Los Angeles to Shanghai

Talk about an airline that has potential. China Eastern has reverse herringbone seats on their new 777s, though unfortunately that’s where the positives end. On my flight the pilots were constantly smoking, the food was really bad, and the crew wasn’t up to the standard I’ve found on other Chinese airlines, like Hainan and Xiamen.

Saudia 777 business class from Colombo to Jeddah

Funny enough I’ve had great experiences on Saudia since then, but my first flight on them was from Colombo to Jeddah, and was awful. After takeoff, the male flight attendants sat down in business class and had the female “imported” flight attendants do all the service, including serving them ahead of paying passengers. Unbelievable…

Uzbekistan 787 business class from New York to Tashkent

The flight wasn’t actually terrible, though there’s something about the whole experience that made me a bit sad. Uzbekistan Airways invested a lot of money in new 787s, though completely dropped the ball when it comes to the soft product. The blankets and pillows are terrible, entertainment extremely limited, and there are no menus and amenity kits. As a point of comparison, AZAL Azerbaijan’s 787 business class product is significantly better, despite having the same seats.

Investing a little bit of money in their soft product would go a long way, in my opinion.

British Airways A380 business class from Los Angeles to London

While I’m not a fan of British Airways in general, the first longhaul flight I had in their business class featured one of the worst flight attendants I’ve had on any airline. To say she was unpleasant would be an understatement. I’ll leave it at that.

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Bottom line

In my opinion there aren’t many business class products that are worth avoiding if they fly nonstop between useful city pairs. For example, if you’re going from New York to Kiev, flying Ukraine’s not-great business class product might be worth it for the convenience.

At the same time, if you need to connect anyway, you might as well pick a good airline. I’m not suggesting the above are the world’s worst business class products, but rather just airlines on which I’ve had not-great experiences. This is all highly subjective, since at the end of the day I’d take any of the above products over an intra-Europe business class product, where you just get an economy seat with a blocked middle.

What are some of the worst experiences you guys have had in business class?

Comments
  1. Just took China Eastern a couple days ago from New York to shanghai. They had menus but half the food wasn’t there. They menu states light snack but said they don’t offer that. Also said ice cream and was told they don’t offer that either. Food was bland and service was rather poor. Good plane and seats but bad everything else.

  2. @lucky it’s Air India from DEL to SFO
    …..their economy is the worst and their upgrade system is even worse….I still managed business class upgrades…….the FAs are the worst and the food is super super oily……I’m an Indian and I have never seen such oily food in my life!!!!

  3. @Chuck : and that was the same airline those DL apologists were raving on how it could be built into a powerful partnership if the KE JV never happened.

  4. Once flew BA business from Calgary to Heathrow about 4-5 years ago and they told us that we were on their last plane with the super old style business class from the 90’s, that was weird. Not in great condition and a tiny IFE screen but interesting nonetheless.

  5. Thanks for great article. I think you should have listed british airways as the torch bearer here. Londaon- vancouver flight, my wife was told to go downstairs and get some chips if u didnt eat your meal. Can you believe this? This is business class. Never fly again.

  6. I agree!! I usually fly with Saudia Business class, and always!! the men flight attendants seat down and the women are working!!

    British Business class product is so terrible!!!!

  7. The worst was a BA nonstop flight from SAN to LHR. They were out of all menu first courses by the time the FA got to me – no apology just an offer of an economy meal which I declined. But even worse they served some vile smelling curry dish in main cabin and the odor never left for the entire flight. I found out later that a couple of meals had “turned” so the FAs tossed them out. I suppose I should have been grateful that I wasn’t served a bad meal. Even today, I get a sick feeling at the thought of that flight.

  8. How would it be if you fly with Yemenia in Business Class? They have A310 and A320 Airplanes and even 10 A350 on order. But i wonder if they are ever going to take those…Sanaa has also a good Mövenpick Hotel

  9. Hi Lucky,

    Can I make a friendly suggestion? I don’t mean this in a mean or hateful way at all, but could you cut down on the use of the word “product”? I like reading your posts, but honestly, it gets rather tiring reading, over and over, “product”. “Product” this, “product” that. Product, product, product.

    Respectfully,
    A loyal OMAAT reader

  10. I wonder how British airways even manage to hang in there to compete with other airlines when their staff are always on strike and also services are terrible. I guess they didn’t want to work may explain why they go on strikes and offer bad services to customers

  11. I have been flying British Airways business class from Accra to Heathrow… the service has always been very good and the flight crew was polite and very helpful.. as well flight to and from Heathrow and LA or Toronto in business class i NEVER EVER had any complaint…

  12. For me, Air Canada was the worst flight ever. Every time I tried to fly them they wanted to bump me off the flight (paid, not points) which annoyed the hell out of me. When I was returning for the Olympics they tried to bump me, saying that “You know, a lot of people are trying to fly back, eh?” To which I replied, “exactly, that’s why I booked this flight nine months ago!”. Thankfully it worked out. Their business class to the EU was pretty horrible. I felt like I was in a casket. And their FA’s were soooooo delightful! (NOT). Never again.

  13. Back to the BA flights from the East Coast of the US to the UK. They invite you to eat at the buffet in the lounge but fail to tell you there is NO meal service on the flight. Hope you ate that dried salmon filet and liked it!

  14. I can think of a few other airlines that should be on this list in place of others. Some of these don’t look that bad but when after one flies Emirates, the bar is raised much higher.

  15. Have to add Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from MIA or ATL to LHR. You’re forced to stare at the person across the aisle, the seats have shrunk all round (compared to the seats on the earlier Upper Class config) and the flip-over seat to make a sleeping bed is a joke. Impossible to recline and watch a movie while propped up in the awkward corner on one one pillow and cannot lean back comfortably for laptop work.
    Uncomfortable and narrow beds despite the mattress. Service and food indifferent. Not again.
    I do like their leisure wear, however, even that has degraded to thinner and rougher fabric.

  16. Flew redeye BA business from D.C. To Heathrow and yl they ran out of breakfast ?stewardess says they did not expect everyone to eat breakfast and offered to find me something from coach !!! That is my last business class on BA

  17. Flew redeye BA business from D.C. To Heathrow and yl they ran out of breakfast ?stewardess says they did not expect everyone to eat breakfast and offered to find me something from coach !!! That is my last flight on BA

  18. LOL at British Airways. Theyre not THAT bad hahahhah.

    How did you leave out United’s 2-4-2 awful business class?

  19. I fly business class in fiji airways.i had not experienced any disappointments.service is vary excellent.food is great ,had lot of choices .restrooms are vary clean.same goes with Qantas airways.

  20. All Business class. Twice round trip Chicago to Shanghai on Hainan. Nice staff but clueless, resulting in chaotic service. Antiquated, uncomfortable seats (I am of average built). Hainan cannot transfer bags in Beijing. China Eastern Shanghai-LA three trips, hot and cold on service and food. Air China did not have menus and the food was awful. I lived in Shanghai many years and like Chinese food.

  21. Worse Business class I ever flew was AA from Chicago to Rome….Ports did not work, seats did not fully recline, and there was no entertainment except for the 2 TV’s in the cabin. that was it…..I suspected that they changed equipment at the last minute, but this was a 70’s aircraft fling in the 2015’s……the only good thing was the food which wasn’t bad, the attendants which were good, and that we got there in 1 piece. Thank God for sleeping pills to avoid all of it.

  22. My worst experience was with EgyptAir from Cairo to Johannesburg. Very old and broken seats, dirt, and unfriendly staff. The business lounge in Cairo was just as bad as the flight.. never again!

  23. Air Tahiti Nui LAX – CDG A340. The product was laughable. Picture a domestic first class seat which reclines 160 degrees into the lap on the person behind. No partitions whatsoever. I could have scratched the woman’s head from my seat.

  24. @Ben What do you think make the same but for the 7best business products (also excluding infra-Europe)? Cheers

  25. I’m flying business class in a couple wks from Toronto to Cairo on egyptair. Please give me good news lol about this airline and food service .

    Thanks

  26. BA want to maximise sleep time for passengers…. if you are in J class use the Arrivals Lounge at LHR.

  27. In general, I would like to put out a question. In an ideal world, everything would come together perfectly -nice plane, awesome seat and hard product, great crew, good food, varied entertainment and good connectivity.
    But if you had to choose your *most* important deciding factor, what would it be? Answer for me: almost equal are staff and the seat.
    A great crew can make a blah flight wonderful and the seating can make up for lack of entertainment.. Read a book, relax, your own music…
    What are your key points?

  28. Lucky, why not just have a banner on every page saying “I hate BA”, then you wouldn’t need to waste time coming up with bad stories.

    I suppose skewing this whole piece to focus on soft product gives you the excuse you needed – yet everywhere else on your blog you state categorically that business class is “all (sic!) about the seat”. So why isn’t your list of “the worst” judges on the terms you have categorically stated are the most important?

  29. @Lucky: as always I have to disagree with you concerning the Biz of BA. I love the privacy of their window seats (and I totally disagree to the statement, it’s outdated. There are quite a lot reknown airlines with standard seats without direct aisle access (LH, FA, KLM, LATAM, Avianca, AM just to name the biggest European and Latin-American!airlines), so quoting direct aisle access as the actual standard is just not true. My worst Biz flight ever was on AB in May this year: outdated broken seats on a wetleased plane, no response from customer services later at all. I don’t like LH loosing all competion in Germany, but AB was a dead man flying for some time now.

    Coming to the flight attendents, I am flying BA for more than 30 years now and I had never an unfriendly or unattendfull attendent with BA (I had some totally different experiences with LH years ago, though)

    So would fly BA on any European competitor in Biz (not in F of course, lol) at the moment.

  30. Lucky, how can you call this a product, when these are the flights which have been bad. A flight attendant is not a product. A captain smoking in the cockpit spoils the product, but is not the product himself.
    You could have saved yourself a lot of heartache by saying “7 worst business class flights i have taken / flown”

  31. Hey Lucky

    I note you had a bad experience on the Jeddah to Columbo route with Saudia (I refuse to use Saudi products on principle).

    Although I haven’t personally flown with them, I’ve found that some of the other Middle Eastern airlines use their worst equipment and staff between Middle East and South Asian destinations and it’s due to a ‘cultural issue’. To give you a clue, have you ever noticed the nationality of the low-level domestic staff or the building labourers?

  32. We all knew you would just have to include BA in that list, even thought there are many worse airlines that you didn’t mention.

    And you can get bad luck with a rude FA on just about any airline.

  33. @Roger – Lucky said this was based on his subjective experieinces, and based on the reviews of the products you’ve mentioned, he actually had fine times on UA on AA.
    Re Delta – @Lucky – you had a terrible time on DL LAX-LHR a few years ago – I would have thought that would merit a bottom of the barrel mention.
    @Lucky – also, I see Pakistan on this list. Yes the seats werent great, but you seemed to enjoy the flight more than you thought you would, mainly because of food quality and pleasant crew. I’m surprised you dinged it so much.

  34. @Lucky – I Wish you tried Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) premiere service on their A330 leased from Sri Lanka before they returned it.

  35. so disheartened to hear about your BA LAX to LHR trip. I’m taking that in October albeit in the reverse direction. I’m so skeptical of the BA product from the reviews I’ve read. I am fervently hoping to upgrade with miles to F and/or VAtlantic Upper comes open for points. (

  36. I have to agree that BA is horrible. I avoid their flights at all costs due to rude FA. I have never had a positive experience with them … not 15yrs ago when I used to fly Spain to London every week in economy!?! Not in the last 5 years when I have flown trans Atlantic business class with them.

  37. @Culverin – It’s not just the ME airlines. With the exception of the North American carriers (ironically enough), I’ve found that pretty much every single airline reserves their worst crews and equipment for flights to India. Without fail, you get an old, unrefreshed plane and surly service. Guess the NA carriers view the ultra longhauls as flagship routes, so the crews at least are usually OK.

  38. Paul, in regards to ba I had the same thoughts. I usually fly American transatlantic but the time suited me much better coming back last week on ba. I actually really enjoyed it. I was in the exit row window seat upstairs on the 747 so I suppose that helped. Was a very quiet peaceful cabin. Great service. Proactive bringing drinks and food. I really liked it.

  39. Whilst you knock all those airlines, I recently flew from Beijing to Guangzhou on Hainan 787. It really brought home how some airlines are failing passengers. In my cabin at least 30 people were reclined for take off and landing and nothing was even said to them by the crew susosidly doing their safety checks. Worse as we began the take off roll, a passenger was coming out of the bathroom. Hainan’s inflight magazine is a total PR stunt stating how safe they are (3rd in the world apparently) but having spent 20 years in Africa I never saw such utter lack of regard for safety. Indeed I felt the need to email them about the flight and got brushed off. When I mentioned I might raise the issue on some travel blogs I got a message saying they had disciplined the crew member. For me it’s less likely to be a rogue crew member but a company wide issue. Anyhow knock all these airlines but I bet safety was paid far more attention than on this supposed 5 star airline.

  40. Emirates 777 (and similiar product on the now departed 330/340) is terrible! The centre seat isn’t as comfortable as their 380 economy (cause the sides are so high). And the 2kg controller is a monumental waste of space and weight- the cost in fuel to lug those things around must be crazy.

    The bad news is their new ‘Falcon’ seat is more of the same.

    They try to make it up with food and service- but uncomfortable is uncomfortable.

    I try to totally avoid the 777, and use miles to u/g to first if it is a long flight.

    They get a long of things right, but the J seats are just plain wrong. And no hope for a change!

    I have been Platinum for over 3 years, so a loyal follower, but wish J was different.

  41. @ Paul

    On BA’s 777s, get the last, rearward facing window seat in the J cabin – you then have a private suite next to the windows, with direct aisle access.

    BA’s FAs can certainly be mixed, but I have never encountered the rudeness that Lucky says he has experienced – and on the contrary, I’ve had quite a lot of kindness. I made a bad meal choice a few flights back, but didn’t worry too much since I knew I could just go to the pantry and get some good sandwiches whenever I wanted. I got there to find no sandwiches – the crew explained they’d been stopped a couple of weeks back, as part of the cuts. They then spontaneously volunteered that there were probably a selection of sandwiches left over from the crew meals – and one of them raced to the back of the plane, bringing me a choice of (sealed, fresh) sandwiches. Way beyond the call of duty. This story doesn’t paint BA corporate in a good light, but the FAs can be great. And corporate now seems to have realised it has cut too far – hence the new deal with the fabulous Do & Co.

    So yes, on here you’ll see BA slagged off at every opportunity people get. My experience flying longhaul a couple of dozen times a year, year in and year out, is that they are nowhere near as bad as people say. And while I’ve had some great flights on your alternative – Virgin Atlantic Upper Class – I’ve also had the most recent miserable experience in J, where my seat next to loudmouth drunks at the bar meant I didn’t get a moment’s sleep all night.

    Try it. See what you think.

  42. @Andy Seattle – For me the most important would be; seat comfort, legroom, quality of food, added perks (e.g. amenity kits, etc) , entertainment choices, flight crew, in that order. After all if the crew are not nice, its not as if you have to talk to them constantly during the flight.

    @Chilangoflyer – Although I have not flown BA recently when I did I found their FAs below average in terms of friendliness. In fact the last flight I took on BA, the female passenger in front of me was talking to a FA in a normal conversational voice (I could not hear what the passenger was actually talking about), I then heard the female FA sharply respond back in no certain terms, “Ma’am I’m just doing my job and don’t get paid enough to do anymore!” and with that the FA walked away.

    @MeanMeosh – True, when I fly to India from NA/Europe on an Asian airline the level and quality of service including food quality definitely drops after the stopover in Middle East/Asia and the reverse happens after the stopover on the way back.

  43. I’ve done long haul Business with Cathay-Pacific, United, Qantas and ANA. This is the order of my preferred experience, with ANA being a very poor showing for an airline which claims to be 5 Star.

    United was the surprise but it was upstairs on the B747, a nicely intimate space with two attendants to a few passengers and I did like the backwards facing seats which made for the best sleeping, even if it did mean having to leap over the legs of the person on the aisle.

  44. That tinfoil meal on PIA looks like a delivery from any English local ‘Indian’ take out. All you need is a bag of poppadoms and the cardboard lids, maybe a Cobra beer.

  45. .Ouch………Delta..first class..SFO-WashDC…no choice meal’ on first class ‘we don’t hv because we hv not enough people flying 1st class’ !!!**!!!
    ……….Delta Dulles at Delta 1st class counter …she says…only 1st class counter herewithout ever looking at the ticket (first class) !!!!!!!

    ……….the phone agent in Singapore can not understand english….her accent was terrible…messed up on my change of flights….
    ……….singapore air….flight recently….very poor cabin attendants….

    ….specially bad experience…QA
    ………..Qatar Air…..very scary boarding Doha…mean bunch the eastern European attendants…..additional damaged my favorite luggage……seems now one in four trips..airlines damage my luggage…when mostly long haul..

    …….mostly USA domestic and Middle East ….worst..

  46. What is your take on EgyptAir? Now I know why some of these you mentioned have prices that would make anybody buy a seat without thinking twice.

    COPA Airlines has got to be one of the worst when it comes to “Business Class”. Granted I am sure they are not on the list because they don’t do overseas (only American Continent). COPA has several medium-to-long haul flights (SFO, LAX, EZE, GRU, POA, MVD, GIG, LAS, DEN) all around the 7-hour mark and is a total embarrassment that they still use some of their old planes on these routes. Imagine a 7-hour flight with no entertainment, no power ports and bad service (Panamanian FA aren’t exactly known of their kindness). To top it off, the BA seats in COPA are exactly like those you find in Lufthansa PE. They have newer, nice planes but I don’t know where they are flying them. I just flew to Las Vegas in a plane that looked like a Braniff reject. I was pissed.

    Regarding my opinion on the best business product I’ve flown, I would say that Singapore Airlines, Thai and Turkish take the cake.

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