I live in West London so British Airways is my immediate airline of choice due to its base at Heathrow. I feel like I know Heathrow Terminal 5 almost as well as I know my home sometimes. I fly British Airways often and am currently on silver status. To clarify, British Airways has never paid …
For some people, the flight to a destination is stressful. For others, it’s the best part of the journey. I’ve been lucky to travel quite a bit on my life journey, so I’ve been able to compare several different airlines and offerings along the way.
For the most part, economy flights are similar, and the differences are marginal. But when you decide to upgrade to premium or plus classes, there are some interesting differences to observe.
This raises an intriguing question: Is upgrading to a business or economy plus class worth it?
With the benefit of some experience in this regard, I’ve been able to write a number of detailed airline reviews, which you may find beneficial. As an additional bonus, here are my top tips for finding cheap flights in business class.
US Airline Reviews
US companies generally pride themselves on their extensive loyalty programs. This could be a great way to take advantage of the premium economy or business class options for frequent flyers.
The Delta, Alaska, and American Airlines premium packages all have their highlights and niggles.
The Delta experience was a little problematic from an admin perspective. I had a few issues while attempting to upgrade in transit. Aside from that, though, the general experience on the Delta Premium Select package was fairly pleasant. I especially liked the fast service in the cabins on their A330-200/300.
American Airlines and their micro-airplanes on internal flights have the potential to really make a domestic flight uncomfortable. Anyone would be forgiven for not considering American Airlines when flying in any class. But that would be a mistake as the premium offerings are fantastic.
It turns out that when it comes to the American Airlines Premium Economy 777 experience, they’ve almost perfected the entire journey for a traveller. Everything from check-in to cabin luxury to boarding was top-notch, and that’s saying a lot, given my experiences with airlines.
I flew Alaska Airlines First Class between Seattle and Anchorage, and while the experience was fine, there is a caveat regarding cost. That particular flight doubled in cost when upgrading to first class from economy.
I would argue that upgrading is well worth it on a longer flight. Your threshold may vary, but for me, three hours or more would justify that cost. A one or two-hour flight in economy would be alright for half the price.
European Airline Reviews
I live in England, and flying in and out of Europe is big business, especially for holidaymakers and business people. There’s also a lot of competition for the traveller buck. So it would stand to reason that the airlines do their best to provide top service, especially for its premium classes.
If you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Airline customer loyalty programs, the British Airways system may feel complicated. Nonetheless, I tried the British Airways World Traveller Plus on my journey between London and Washington, DC.
This turned out to be interesting and fun, as the Plus allows more options than the comparably standard World Traveller.
On another occasion, I tried out British Airways Business Class (also called Club World or Club Europe for short-haul flights). BA Business is overall one of the better offerings out of England and compares favourably to the Asian airline options.
It’s worth noting that the Club World business class is a major upgrade from the aforementioned World Traveller Plus option.
I opted for Air France Business Class on a long journey between London and South Africa. It turns out that connecting via Paris was way cheaper than a direct flight, and it only added two hours to the haul. This is great value for money.
The onboard service is excellent, and the ability to access the lounges always works when you’re in transit for ten hours or more.
As with Air France, Swiss Air offers significant discounts if you fly via their hub. Provided you can find a quick connection, you can save oodles of cash without sacrificing too much time. In my case, Swiss Air Business Class offered the best deal between London and Bangkok.
Unfortunately, I fell victim to a luggage issue, which might have soured me on the airline service somewhat. Read my review and decide for yourself.
Virgin’s real difference maker is its business lounges. The food and drink here are just excellent. This might justify the slightly higher pricing of Virgin’s premium tickets for you.
Virgin Atlantic has what is called an Upper Class, which may or may not be a tongue-in-cheek jab from the product designers. I flew Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (which is slightly different from the premium economy) and made some observations you may want to consider.
I also had an opportunity to check out the Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy offering. It is, in my opinion, one of the better premium economy offerings available — better, perhaps, than British Airways.
For the most part, the Iberia Business Class does not compare well to other airlines in terms of service. It’s a pity, as I was excited by the unique food offerings and lower pricing.
Asia & Middle East Airlines
Generally, Asian airlines have high levels of service. When it comes to premium classes, this is also true, though there are a few aspects that each airline could improve on.
Emirates is one of those airlines that just gets it right regarding business class, especially with the added extras. My Emirates Business Class review for my flight between the UK and Australia is a testament to this.
Malaysia Airlines has had a very unlucky last decade. It’s quite remarkable that they are still putting in so much effort to recover from their two major disasters in recent years. To their credit, their Malaysia Airlines Business Class is a fair effort, considering their pricing is among the lowest.
From the massive business lounge to the luxury of its own bus from the terminal, the Qatar A380 Business Class is a superb offering. Seriously, the pond inside the lounge is big enough to swim laps in it.
The service levels for Thai Airways Business Class are extremely high, especially on board and at the various check-ins. If there’s a weak area, it’s the service at the lounges at Bangkok Airport. That said, it’s still a top-quality choice.
When I booked my first-ever flight with Alaska Airlines, I noticed that trading up to first class on my return flight from Seattle to Anchorage would only cost an extra couple of hundred dollars. Considering that the flight is 3 1/2 hours each way, it seemed sensible to pay extra to fly first class on …
My new favourite way to find a good business class fare on a long-distance flight is to add in another stop counterintuitively. I fly in and out of London, so I go into Skyscanner and put in London say Bangkok (as was the case for this flight) and tick the two stops box. The benefit …
I have flown Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy several times and it is my favorite premium economy airline offer. I had flown Virgin Atlantic Upper Class about ten years ago in my pre-travel blogging days. I remembered it as a positive experience – particularly as I got fun pajamas and there was a bar. I was …
I am a big fan of Virgin Atlantic and didn’t realize that Virgin Atlantic and Delta have the same owners. I haven’t had much experience flying with Delta, so I was pleased to discover that what I thought was a London to Seattle Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy flight was a code share with Delta on …
This was my first ever flight with Emirates. I can’t believe after all my years of flying between Australia and the UK that I had never taken flown with Emirates in any class. As I am a big fan of Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar and Etihad I was really looking forward to flying business …
My experiences with US airlines, in general, have been mixed. I can’t bear those internal flights in the super tiny planes where everyone appears to have brought the maximum hand luggage allowed on board. I have tended to avoid US airlines when it has come to Business and Premium due to my low expectations. My …
Virgin Atlantic is definitely one of my preferred airlines. However, I often find its prices higher than that of competitors. Their premium economy is usually quite reasonably priced relative to their economy seats. However, business class on Virgin Atlantic is usually at a much higher premium than on similar airlines. I flew on Virgin Atlantic …
It has been a long time since I flew with Air France. Direct flights from London to Johannesburg in business were super expensive. Air France has nice tight connections so going via Paris only added 2 hours each way – and it was 1/3 of the price. I was flying into Durban and then out …
Last time I flew with Qatar Airways it was about 8 years ago and in economy. My key memory was how dreadful Doha airport was – it was a giant tacky duty-free shop plus endless smoking rooms. Well, things have changed. I was beyond delighted with my Qatar Airways business class experience and Doha airport …