I Took 119 Flights Last Year, and These Are the Best Business-class Seats in the Sky Right Now

Closed-door suites, lie-flat seats.

<p>Courtesy of Qatar Airways</p>

Courtesy of Qatar Airways

Business-class air travel has come a long way over a short period of time. It was initially conceived as an intermediate level of product somewhere in between economy and first-class. You needn’t be too seasoned of a flier to remember when the business-class cabin was characterized by dense stacks of Lay-Z-Boy-like recliners offering little else by way of meaningful amenities. A lukewarm towel, perhaps?

British Airways elevated things to new heights in March 2000 with the introduction of the first-ever convertible lie-flat seat. Business-class travelers could now enjoy a bed in the sky. And throughout the 21st century, the product has spread its wings further still. Most major airlines have repositioned the service as its premium offering, doing away with first-class tickets altogether. Cutting-edge technology and design has led to a space race, of sorts, amongst these legacy carriers. Each one is eager to outdo the competition when it comes to comfort and aesthetic in this part of the plane. A lie-flat is the bare minimum. More and more you can expect your very own pod, with direct aisle access enjoyed by all.

I have observed this evolution with a great deal of personal appreciation. As a full-time travel writer, I boarded 119 flights last year alone, tackling assignments across every corner of the globe. I was fortunate enough to enjoy business-class upgrades on a few dozen journeys during that time. And I can tell you that they most certainly are not all created equal. Even among airlines which invest sizably in modernizing its cabins, the rollout can be slow across the entirety of its fleet.

If you’re spending top dollar on these types of tickets (fares are almost always measured in the thousands, each way), you want to make sure you’re getting a reliable return on that investment. Book your flight into one of the following cabins and you’ll rest easy knowing that you’re flying in one of the best business-class suites in the skies.

Qatar Airways A350 Qsuite

<p>Courtesy of Qatar airways</p>

Courtesy of Qatar airways

This Middle Eastern carrier is commonly regarded as one of the most luxurious airlines out there. The business-class configuration on its wide-body A350 goes a long way in substantiating that reputation. Each of the plush, 46 seats are enclosed by 52-inch-high walls, including a sliding door so you can enjoy full privacy in your pod. Within your personal space is tons of storage space, all sensibly arranged so that you can access your belongings while buckled in. The food service is well-curated and paired alongside high-end wines and Champagnes, including reserve vintages from Charles Heidsieck. You can enjoy it all while dressed in the soft, smooth pajamas and slippers provided for you at takeoff.

ANA 777-300ER “The Room”

<p>Bryan Bedder/Getty Images</p>

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The newest business-class product from All Nippon Airways underscores just how obsolete first-class has become. It is comprised of suites designed by legendary Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. His minimalist design leverages wood surfaces to evoke kanso. The seats are well-padded and super wide at 38-inches across. Dining options are decidedly more lavish than on most American carriers. Umami-rich proteins, pickled vegetables, and piping hot miso is served in patterned china and placed atop an oversized tray at the center of the pod, directly in front of a 24-inch, 4K viewing screen. The aircraft still features an intimate first-class cabin farther to the front, but it’s difficult to imagine it providing anything substantial enough to justify the upcharge beyond business.

Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR Business Class

<p>Courtesy of Singapore Airways</p>

Courtesy of Singapore Airways

With nearly 19 hours of total time in the air, SQ21 from Newark to Singapore is the longest commercial flight on earth. Thankfully for its business-class passengers, it’s also one of the most comfortable. That's because the pods have a seatback that flips down into a designated “bed mode,” as the airline calls it, with nearly the level of cushioning you might expect on a home mattress. Most of the bed is quite wide at 28 inches, though that middle section curves toward a small footwell, meaning that you’ll have to position yourself diagonally in order to find the ideal sleeping arrangement. In between lengthy bouts of slumber, you can arise for bespoke meal service at your own desired times. The airline maintains one of the most expansive menus in the sky, including farm-fresh salads and Singaporean specialties like laksa. Or you can utilize its “Book The Cook” service to secure an even wider array of dishes by pre-ordering online up to 24 hours before you takeoff.

Delta One A350 Suites

<p>Courtesy of Delta</p>

Courtesy of Delta

Delta prides itself on being the first carrier to introduce an all-suite business-class (back in early 2017). Since then, it has slowly rolled out the product across its growing fleet of A350s. Amazingly, it still feels cutting edge six years later. There’s a full-height door at every seat, a sensibly designed tray table lay out that doubles as a workspace, and customizable mood lighting. Food and wine options are robust, varying depending on the season and specific route. But pescatarians, vegetarians, and even vegans are all catered to in the standard options available with each flight. As far as American-based commercial flying experiences are concerned, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

JetBlue A321LR Mint Studio

<p>Courtesy of JetBlue</p>

Courtesy of JetBlue

The only American-based product to give Delta One Suites a run for its money is Mint Studio, which JetBlue unveiled in late 2021. These closed-door pods are remarkably spacious, especially when you consider that they’re built into an Airbus 321, which isn’t even a wide-body jet. At 45 inches across, the bed is literally large enough for you to toss and turn in as you sleep. An adjoining bench allows you to invite a guest from another pod to socialize with while you fly. There’s also plenty of attention to detail woven throughout, such as a wireless charging pad within arms reach and an adjustable TV screen so that you can view it clearly while fully reclined. Food and drink options are assembled by trendy New York City bars and restaurants. The only downside is that there just aren’t too many places you can go with it. As of now, you’re limited to London as well as select locations in Central and South America.

Emirates A380 Business Class

<p>Courtesy of Emirates</p>

Courtesy of Emirates

Emirates is pretty much synonymous with luxury aviation. And for good reason — the airline pulls out all the bells and whistles for its premium products. Before you even sit down and settle in, you have to admire how pretty it all looks: leather seats, gold-stained wood paneling covering every corner of your cubicle. The perks are a plenty from the lie-flat position, too. Side consoles alongside the window are used as minibars, providing soft drinks and water at the ready. On a table next the bed is a tablet, which can be used to customize your whole experience, or as a secondary viewing device for the in-flight entertainment. Just make sure to book an odd numbered seat, so that you can enjoy added privacy, closer to the window. And don’t forget to take advantage of the airline’s chauffeur service: all first-class and business-class passengers receive complimentary black car pickup from within a 50 mile radius of the airport.

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