What’s the Difference Between First Class and Business Class?

What are the actual differences between first and business class air travel?

What’s the Difference Between First Class and Business Class?

Image: Nerd Wallet

Flying economy is not always comfortable for everyone, and the lack of leg space is notorious on almost every airline. For those who wish to travel in high comfort, there are two options to choose from: Business Class and First Class. Both options offer high-end amenities that allow air passengers to travel in style and enjoy their flight.

Although some airlines offer First-Class lever services to those flying with Business Class, most have notable differences between the two. In this article, you will learn more about first class and business class so you can make the appropriate choice.

What to Expect from First Class

Emirates First Class Source travelandleisure.com
Source: travelandleisure.com

First-Class flights offer top-of-the-line amenities to those who wish to travel in supreme comfort. That said, it’s important to note that First Class can differ depending on the airline you take and the route you go on. For instance, while international First-Class flights might offer cabins with fully reclining seats that turn into beds, domestic ones may not always provide this kind of benefit. 

Most First-Class flights offer dedicated lounges and premium features such as fully flat sleeping beds, gourmet dining, priority boarding, and more. Some First-Class flights (for example, those operated by Etihad or Emirates) even offer luxurious amenities such as in-flight showering or quick passing through immigration. It’s usually recommended to check with the airline to see what first-class features you’ll get for your route.

What to Expect from Business Class

Emirates Business Class Source travelandleisure.com
Source: travelandleisure.com

Business Class is often less expensive than First Class, but the features received often depend on who you are flying with and where. For instance, Business Class may be regarded as First Class if you travel domestically. The two may only differ if you decide to fly over a greater distance.

Created with business air passengers in mind, this type of service offers features such as gourmet dining, spacious seating that can be turned into beds, entertainment options, and more. Some airlines, such as Virgin Australia, have cancelled their First-Class offerings, relaunching and labelling them as “Business” instead. That said, many of the First-Class services they previously provided still stand in this scenario.

Breakdown of the Differences 

We know Business and first classes have similarities and differences, but we only briefly touched upon them. Below, you can learn more about how these types of services differ.

1. Configuration and Seat Size

Depending on the route you are flying through, Business Class and First Class have different seating configurations. For instance, the Business Class offers spacious seating areas with reclining seats that can be turned into a bed. Upon request, the flight attendant can also provide blankets, pillows, and earplugs to improve seating comfort even more.

For most domestic flights, this same configuration also applies to First Class. However, many airlines kick their First Class up a notch for long-haul flights by offering private cabins or suites. This makes the passengers feel like they are in their own private studios, without outside noise bothering them. The feature is often present in some airlines such as Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad for Business Class, but this also depends on the flight length.

2. Ground Service

Ground service is similar when it comes to First Class and Business Class, with both options enjoying priority. Someone possessing those kinds of tickets has access to premium lounging, priority services (i.e., check-in and boarding), and more.

For the most part, the First-Class group takes priority over Business Class, which means they will go first through customs. That said, if the flight you are going with does not offer First Class, then Business may as well be considered that way. The ground services often depend on the amenities of the airport, but both options are usually high-end.

3. Dining Options

Both Business Class and First Class offer top-notch dining options, usually cooked by top chefs from Michelin-rated restaurants. The menus vary depending on the airline you are going with, and change based on the length of the flight and available options. Still, their “fineness” depends on the taste of the air passenger, as some may find Business Class meals more appealing than First Class. 

The main difference is in the presentation, with First Class having the food delivered on fine China plates. Other than that, the foods and drinks provided are often similar. Both Business and First Class receive multiple-course food options, fine beverages, and quality snacking options.

4. Amenities

First and Business classes offer amenities that travellers can enjoy, such as skincare, toiletries, and travel-sized treats like perfume. However, First Class usually takes it up a notch by offering benefits such as premium PJs and slightly more luxurious brands. 

Some First-Class options also include showering cabins for those with such a ticket. This service is not usually available for Business Class, as most showers are in private First-Class suites. This can vary from one airline and route to another, so it is a good idea to check with them first. Most of the time, Business Class gives access to lounges at the airport, where passengers can grab a quick shower.

5. Price

The price is likely the most notable difference, although it might also depend on the route and circumstances. For the most part, First-Class tickets have a higher price tag than Business, but that depends on the airline and boarded aircraft. The season of travel and the moment of purchase could also affect the price.

In some cases, a First-Class domestic flight and a Business-Class one has similar prices. Still, going on the long haul and requesting finer suites can bump the cost of First Class. That said, a First-Class long-haul ticket booked ahead of time and a Business Class booked on short notice could share similar prices.

The Bottom Line

Overall, First Class is usually superior to Business Class, but this depends on various factors. First Class often provides higher-rated amenities on the long haul, but the two services might be the same on the short haul. It’s worth contacting the airline first to see what benefits are offered on that specific Business or First-Class flight.