Business Class vs. First Class: How to Choose the Best Seats and Travel in Luxury

​Flying is just one of the many ways to travel in today's world, and it can sometimes be one of the fastest options available, especially when you need to travel vast distances. However, when it comes to flying in coach, the experience isn't always a pleasant one, depending on your airline, the people around you, and several other factors.

While doing a little bit of research before you book a ticket can help improve your time in the sky, there is one other way to do so: by upgrading your seat from coach to a higher class. Both business and first class tickets tend to be an option on most flights and they provide a step up from economy seating, they aren't the same, either.

So what makes the distinction between the two? Read on through our business class vs. first class breakdown to see where the differences lie—and how you can get the most luxury possible from your next flight.

Better Seating Accommodations

Man sitting inside an airplane

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To be an effective form of travel, plane interiors have designs meant to fit as many people inside as is safely possible. When in economy class, this setup can mean having very little leg room and difficulty navigating around other passengers. Both business and first class seating work to solve this problem in different ways.


To start, business class will often have much more leg room available than economy bookings. The seats will also be much more comfortable. In many business class areas, you'll also find that the chairs can recline back further than those in coach, which can make it much easier to fall asleep when on long flights.


In turn, first class is then a further upgrade from what business seats have to offer. First-class passengers can usually expect to have seats that recline farther, laying flat to provide a level of comfort that isn't always available in business seating. Many airlines also offer curtains for first class passengers on international flights, allowing for a private area throughout the trip.

Pre-Flight Accommodations

A rule of thumb when going to the airport is to arrive in advance so that you have plenty of time to head through security and make it to your departing gate. The downside is that there can be gaps of time before you can even board your plane, and the same applies if you have unfortunate timing when it comes to a layover.


Both business and first class can usually expect to have access to some pre-boarding lounge, which will provide more comfortable waiting seats, access to fast wi-fi, and a quiet space in comparison to the rest of the terminal. This area is one where it varies on the airline whether or not business and first class passengers receive separate treatment.


Some airlines will give first-class ticketholders access to other free perks, while some different airlines will allow business and first-class passengers to use the same lounge. If you happen to want more benefits for your money, you should research what each airline has available.


Another bonus that you can gain when flying business or first class is that some airlines even provide chauffeur services for these passengers, which can pick you up and drop you off if you're destination is close enough to the airport. Taking the stress out of traveling even before you get on the plane is a benefit many of us would consider worth paying to have.


Even if the pre-boarding lounge doesn't have many different bonuses, first-class ticket holders will still have boarding priority, followed by business class, then economy passengers.

Price

It's no surprise that both business and first class tickets have a higher cost than their economy counterparts. After all, the accommodations are much better than those in coach, and they come at a higher price. Even so, these two areas have their gap in cost.


As you may have guessed based on what we've covered so far, first class is the superior of the two, so it then has the higher price tag. In some cases, it's substantially much more than the cost of business class, sometimes costing twice as much for first class accommodations—and potentially up to five times as much. For some, the bonuses are worth the additional investment, but that's a decision that's up to you.

Food

When it comes to airlines, the food isn't always something that highlights your trip. Unless you're on an international flight, you'll likely get one drink and snack in economy, or an unimpressive meal for flights longer than a few hours. Once you upgrade to business or first class, that whole ballgame changes.


Business class meals are often a step up from their economy counterparts. For one, you can expect to have many more food choices available to you. Additionally, these servings use authentic dishes, rather than cheap plastic fare. Rather than feeling as if you're eating for the sake of it, meals in first class can feel like you're sitting at a real table and not at a flimsy airline tray.


First class seating takes this a step forward and turns mealtime into a near experience. Usually, chefs provide custom-made meals to passengers, and it often includes high-class items you'd expect from fine dining. You have much more choice at your beck and call, which can make the perfect addition to your time in the sky.

Drinks

We can't talk about the food of business vs. first class without talking about the drinks. If you've ever flown before, you've likely noticed that, while in coach, you have the option of sodas, juices, and water, with alcoholic beverages available at an additional cost. Once you upgrade your seating, alcohol is no longer an extra you have to order.


Generally, both business and first class seating provide alcoholic beverages whenever you ask for them. Some flights even have dedicated bars for these passengers. The variety of drinks will vary depending on the airline you choose, and the quality can differ as well. However, you're likely to find some enjoyable drinks in the available selections.


Another benefit to upgrading from coach is that you don't have to wait until you're in the sky to actually receive a drink; your flight attendants will offer you a drink before takeoff, which is a pleasant refreshment to have ready for you. You'll also have the chance for multiple refills throughout your flight, regardless of whether you're interested in alcohol or not.


Overall, business and first class amenities don't differ too much when it comes to drinks, but you'll have a marked upgrade from economy.

Additional Amenities

Upgrading your ticket from economy class is usually about having a better experience when it comes to convenience and comfort on your flight. While the seats in business class are an upgrade, you can expect much more in the realm of extra amenities when you fly first class.


Depending on the flight, you can potentially find pajamas, slippers, bathroom supplies, eye masks, and other bonuses as part of your first class flight package. Naturally, you're more likely to receive these when flying overnight or on international flights, where sleep is often a priority. First-class usually also receives better blankets, pillows, and other bedding needs, providing quality rest.

Mileage Bonuses

Woman near an airplane window

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For those with certain rewards cards, taking a flight will usually earn you miles, which in turn are generally convertible into bonuses, depending on the offer you have. One thing to consider, though, is that the amount of mileage you can gain for flying in business class is usually comparable to what you'll receive in first-class cabins.


This issue is another one that comes down to how much you're willing to spend on your flight. Just know that even if you pay the extra cost to receive first-class bonuses, you likely won't gain much more miles towards whatever rewards you're seeking.

Dedicated Flight Attendants

The flight attendants that are taking care of coach on any given flight have numerous people to look after, and that includes tending to food and drinks, gathering trash before the end of the trip, and keeping an eye out for whatever other needs a passenger may have. That can make it difficult for you to receive a dedicated experience.


Once you upgrade, you'll usually have dedicated flight attendants that are in charge of your cabin, making it much easier for you to get what you need at any point in time. Even so, business class still has a system that's still similar to an assembly line, just in a smaller space. If things are busy, it can be tricky to ask for something extra.


When it comes to first class, you'll have an experience much more like how you'd receive service in a restaurant. You can enjoy meals, drinks, and amenities at your own pace, without feeling rushed by whatever deadlines the crew has to consider. As such, your flight can be much more relaxing in the long run.

Business Expenses

Many people have jobs that require them to fly regularly, which usually involves some form of compensation for employees that take flights, considering that the costs can add up over time. Something of note is that it's generally easier to write off your plane ticket as a work expense if you choose to opt for business class.


Considering the price gap between the two, it can be easy to tell why a company would be more willing to pay for business class than a first-class seat. Then again, this accommodation will depend on the policies in your workplace, but it's something to keep in mind.

International vs. Domestic Flights

While this guide focuses on helping you understand the aspects of business class vs first class, it's still important to consider whether your chosen flight will be international or domestic. Generally, the first class is accommodation available on international flights, while local planes will see only the economy and business classes. Once again, this depends on the airline, but it's something you may encounter.

How to Choose the Best Seats

So with everything outlined between the two classes of air travel, how do you go about selecting the best available seats for a comfortable and luxurious flight? Here are some things to consider when searching for your tickets.

  • See what accommodations are available. While the first class does surpass business seating in many ways, the gap between the two has been shrinking over the past few years. Because the price discrepancy is still there, though, it's worthwhile to see just what distinctions are available from your chosen airline before you commit.
  • Compare prices and plans between airlines. While you'll see a steady incline in quality if you upgrade your ticket from economy, not all business and first class cabins are equal. You'll see differences if you fly on various airlines, so keep that in mind. If you see similar ticket prices, compare what accommodations they have to get the best possible deal.
  • Consider when you want to disembark. The closer you are to the front of the plane, the easier it is to get off once you've landed. Naturally, upgraded tickets are the first seats available, giving you the first shot at getting off without any hassle. First-class seats will be the first to disembark, with business class following after. Neither will be as hectic as coach, but there is a slight difference.
  • Join a frequent flier program. If you plan on regularly flying in business or first class, it's more than worth it to join a frequent flier program. That way you can be in line for upgrades and have a better chance at receiving a comfortable seat—even if you choose not to upgrade entirely to first class in the process.

When it comes to flying, where you sit can completely change your experience, and understanding the differences between first and business class is the foundation for having the most comfortable flight possible.

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