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6 outstanding international business-class experiences

Fodor's logoFodor's 2/06/2015
Business class is a treat in luxury.  © Fodors Business class is a treat in luxury. 

On a three-class service aircraft, everyone dreams of those coveted first-class seats. But when business class is the only option for upgrading, the prices are generally more attainable, but the service is just as good. For international airlines that only offer a two-class service, most try to ensure their business class is something their economy passengers will want to book in the future. Accordingly, international carriers have been ramping up their business-class service by collaborating with textile designers and world-class chefs while changing cabin configurations and seats to set themselves apart. Air travel isn’t necessarily inexpensive these days, but these six airlines are making sure they offer not only a quality economy experience, but also an attainable business-class model that is attracting more and more first-time-upgrade passengers.

LAN Airlines

In 2006, LAN merged its first class and business class to offer what they now call Premium Business Class, which incorporates the best of each class and is available on its Boeing 767-300 and Boeing 787-800/900 Dreamliner aircrafts. The 787 is the most modern of the fleet and includes a lumbar massage feature, a memory system that records your seat position, and, of course, 180-degree lie-flat seats/beds. The entertainment system onboard includes 110 films, six new releases, 40 TV programs, and a music library, all accessible via a high-resolution 15.4-inch screen.

LAN works with Latin America’s only Master Sommelier, Hector Vergara, to offer guests a carefully chosen wine selection that is updated monthly and features the region’s best wines. Executive chef Hugo Pantano creates a menu inspired by fresh South American flavors and ingredients chosen by a panel of renowned chefs from the region. All passengers are given an amenity kit, which includes face and hand creams, a mirror, a 100% cotton eye mask, lip balm, and other beauty/grooming products in a multipurpose bag, all courtesy of Salvatore Ferragamo.

Finnair

Having recently completed a renewal of its business class and introducing the new Airbus A350 XWB aircraft in fall 2015, Finnair is not being left behind. The Zodiac Seats UK Vantage model seats provide fully flat beds with individual reading lights, mood lights, and a range of inflight entertainment options. They worked with Finnish design house Marimekko, known for its timeless but bold patterns, to create the textiles and tableware specially designed for Finnair business-class use

When it comes to dining, the airline has stepped it up and partnered with chefs from top Finnish restaurants to create different signature menus. Chefs Matti Jämsén from G.W. Sundmans, Ari Ruoho from Nokka, and Kari Aihinen from Savoy have each created business-class menus offered on long-haul flights from Helsinki from January 2015 through spring 2016. During this time, Finnair will also serve a unique Christmas cuisine and special menus to honor the reveal of its new aircrafts.

Air Tahiti Nui

Just because an airline is small in size and limited in routes doesn’t mean it can’t compete with top-quality in-air service. Air Tahiti Nui has recently updated its Poerava Business Class, one of the most affordable upgrades out there. Passengers are immediately immersed in Tahitian hospitality from the moment they step onboard and are handed a Tiare flower, the national flower of Tahiti. The thirty-two business seats are configured in a two-by-two arrangement, as most passengers are headed to paradise as a couple. A 12-inch high-definition touch screen offers movies, TV shows, and features about the destination. Although the seats are not fully lie-flat, they are 160-degree angle lie-flat seats and come with a multi-point seat adjustment control.

The cuisine in Poerava Business is French-inspired and complemented perfectly with a wide selection of fine wines, spirits, and other hot and cold beverages. Passengers flying business are offered priority check-in, baggage handling, and access to a VIP lounge at LAX, when available.

Air Berlin

Germany’s second largest airline is gradually refurbishing all its aircrafts in its long-haul fleet with the new business-class seats, which are manufactured by Sogerma. Most of the seats are positioned to provide individual seating, delivering increased privacy and eliminating disturbances when other passengers need aisle access. The seat reclines into a fully lie-flat position, includes a massage function, and is built into a separate pod that provides practical storage and shelf space. Entertainment comes in the form of a 15-inch monitor with more than 200 hours of options.

Air Berlin ensures passengers are pampered during their flights with its discreet and professional personal service and outstanding meal service. Its menu offers a wide array of main courses from famed restaurant Sansibar on the German island of Sylt. Sansibar also pairs each selection with handpicked wines. The amenity kit includes personal care products and travel accessories like an eye mask, warm socks, ear plugs, a dental kit, lip balm, and skin moisturizer.

Brussels Airlines

Available on all long-haul flights on board Airbus A330 aircrafts, business class with Brussels Airlines provides both quality service and relaxation. The luxurious full lie-flat beds with integrated massage functions come with a revolutionary inflight entertainment system, with one of the largest individual business-class touch screens at 15.3 inches. Passengers traveling in business have access to business-class lounges and priority check-in, but they also have City Check-In, an option to avoid airport lines by checking in at one of the city offices, available in Africa.

On its long-haul flights out of Brussels, Brussels Airlines has also introduced its Belgian Star Chefs menu, which was created by a host of Michelin-starred Belgian chefs and offers special dishes using regional produce. On business-class flights, passengers are offered a choice of two appetizers and three main dishes accompanied by a salad. A fine range of cheeses, desserts, and Belgian chocolates are also offered, in addition to five different cellar-bottled wines.

Turkish Airlines

Started with only five aircrafts in 1933, Turkish Airlines is now a four-star airline with a fleet of 276 aircrafts flying to 265 cities around the world. Its business class has continually been awarded in various categories—the business-class seat includes an ottoman and creates a 75-inch-long sleeping space in the fully lie-flat position. The seat comes with a multi-function control, which includes a massage feature. The Planet digital entertainment system and individual touch-screens are offered on all international flights on its B777, A340, A330, and B737-800 aircrafts. The system has close to 350 films and short programs, including new releases. Inflight connectivity provides passengers the opportunity to send and receive text messages and emails, as well.

“Flying Chefs” onboard Turkish Airlines’ long-haul international flights assist the cabin crew in the preparation and presentation of their award-winning menus. An impressive selection of hors d’oeuvres is served from a cart and followed by soup service, a Turkish tradition. A choice of multiple entrees ending with an assortment of fruits, cheeses, and sweets is offered on all intercontinental flights. The full bar on board includes a wide selection of cocktails and an assortment of Turkish and international beer and wine.


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