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Business-class seat on a Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300

Business class is a travel class available on many commercial airlines and rail lines, known by brand names which vary, by airline or rail company. In the airline industry, it was originally intended as an intermediate level of service between economy class and first class, but many airlines now offer business class as the highest level of service, having eliminated first class seating.[1] Business class is distinguished from other travel classes by the quality of seating, food, drinks, ground service and other amenities. In commercial aviation, full business class is usually denoted 'J' or 'C' with schedule flexibility, but can be many other letters depending on circumstances.[2][3][4]


See also: Business class airline


Airlines began separating full-fare and discounted economy-class passengers in the late 1970s. In 1976, KLM introduced a Full Fare Facilities (FFF) service for its full fare economy-class passengers, which allowed them to sit at the front of the economy cabin immediately behind first class, and this concept was quickly copied by several other airlines including Air Canada.[5] Both United Airlines and Trans World Airlines experimented with a similar three-class concept in 1978, but abandoned it due to negative reactions from discount economy-class travelers who felt that amenities were being taken away from them.[6] United also cited the difficulty of tracking which passengers should be seated in which section of the economy cabin on connecting flights.[7] American Airlines also began separating full-fare economy passengers from discounted economy passengers in 1978, and offered open middle seats for full-fare passengers.[8]

Around this time, there was speculation in the airline industry that supersonic aircraft would corner the market for the highest-paying premium passengers, and that a three-class market would emerge consisting of supersonic first class and subsonic business and economy classes.[5] In 1977, El Al announced plans to reconfigure its aircraft with a small first class cabin and larger business-class cabin on the assumption that most transatlantic first class passengers would shift their business to the Concorde.[9]

British Airways introduced "Club World", a separate premium cabin with numerous amenities, in October 1978 under CEO Colin Marshall as a means of further distinguishing full-fare business travelers from tourists flying on discounted fares.[10] Pan Am announced that it would introduce "Clipper Class" in July 1978,[11] and both Air France and Pan Am introduced business class in November 1978.[12] Qantas claims to have launched the world's first Business Class in 1979.[13]

On November 1, 1981, Scandinavian Airlines System introduced EuroClass with a separate cabin, dedicated check-in counters and lounges for full-fare passengers. Simultaneously, first class disappeared from their European fleet.

Domestic and regional

Australia and New Zealand

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia offer business class on their domestic networks as well as on trans-Tasman flights to New Zealand. Flights between Perth and Sydney typically feature lie-flat seats, with deep recline cradle seats on other routes.

On the other hand, Air New Zealand does not offer business class on its domestic network. Business Class is available on flights between New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands when operated by Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 family aircraft, both of which have lie-flat seats.

North America


On short-haul flights Air Canada offers recliner seats, which are similar to what is offered on regional business class in the United States. However, on some high-capacity routes, such as Vancouver–Toronto, Air Canada utilizes its long-haul fleet, such as the Boeing 777, Boeing 787, Boeing 767, and the Airbus A330. On flights using internationally configured aircraft such as these, the business-class product is a lie-flat product. However, on discount carriers, such as Air Transat, business class is "euro-style", an economy-class seat with a blocked middle seat for added comfort.

With the introduction of their Boeing 787’s on select domestic and international routes, WestJet Airlines offers 16 lay-flat business seats on each of their 787-9’s.

United States

All three major US airlines (American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines) exclusively use fully lie-flat Business Class seats with direct aisle access on their widebody aircraft, as well as some longer range narrow body aircraft like the Boeing 757 and Airbus A321. A multiple course meal is served on china after takeoff, and depending on the flight length a chilled snack or light meal will be served before landing. International Business Class passengers have access to priority check-in and security, along with lounge access. United and American both also offer premium lounges with enhanced food service in their hubs for these passengers.

Select routes between the East and West coasts are deemed "premium transcontinental" and offer a comparable experience to long haul international Business Class. However, it is uncommon for all seats to have direct aisle access. American uses a dedicated sub-fleet of 3-cabin A321T planes with 20 lie-flat Flagship Business seats in a 2-2 configuration for these flights. JetBlue also has a sub-fleet of A321s featuring their Mint Business Class, which alternates between a 2-2 lie flat seats and 1-1 suites with a closing door. United and Delta use a combination of wide and narrow body aircraft for these routes, with a variety of lie-flat seat designs.

Nearly all other flights in the US (as well as to Canada, Central America, and the Caribbean) on American, United, Delta, and Alaska use 2-cabin narrowbody aircraft. The forward cabin is marketed as "First Class" on domestic routes but regardless uses a Business Class fare basis. These fares include a larger "recliner" seat, priority check-in/security/boarding, and increased service. Only Alaska Airlines allows lounge access for customers in "First Class" without further international travel. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included, and are served in glassware or ceramic mugs. Meal service is highly variable depending on the airline, departure time, and route. Flights between hub airports during daytime hours are usually catered with a full warm meal regardless of the flight time. Regional jets do not have ovens, and all entrees are served chilled. At the very least, a flight attendant will pass around a basket containing premium snacks.


European carriers generally offer a business class consisting of enhanced economy seating with better service. There may be a curtain to separate business from economy class, based on demand, but the seats are in the same cabin. Some airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa use convertible seats that seat three people across in economy, or adjust with a lever to become two seats with a half seat length between them for business-class use.

Business class has started to disappear from some short/medium haul routes, to be replaced with full fare economy and discount economy (KLM and SAS). On these routes, the seats are the same for all passengers, only the flexibility of the ticket and the food and beverage service differs. On shorter routes (typically less than one hour) many airlines have removed business class entirely (e.g. BMI on many routes) and offer only one class of service. British Airways used to offer "Business UK" on their domestic system, offering the same service as economy class, with the addition of expedited check-in, baggage reclaim, lounge access and priority boarding. In flight, until January 11, 2017, drink, tea or coffee and a snack were served to all customers, with a hot breakfast on flights prior to 9.29am.

Discount carriers

See also: Premium economy class

Business-class seats on a Biman Bangladesh Airlines Boeing 777-300ER en route to Dhaka from Jeddah.

Most low-cost carriers, such as Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe, Tigerair in Australia, Southwest Airlines in the United States, and even some national carriers such as Aer Lingus and Air New Zealand on their domestic and regional networks do not offer any premium classes of service. Some, however, have options above a standard coach seat:

Long haul

Qantas' Airbus A330 business-class seat with mattress overlay
Qantas' business-class seat in lie-flat mode
Fully flat seat on Singapore Airlines, used on shorter flights
Angled lie-flat seat on Air China Boeing 747-400
Fully flat herringbone seat on Air Canada
Delta Air Lines' Delta One suite on an Airbus A350

Business class is a much more significant upgrade from economy class for long-haul flights, in contrast to a regional or domestic flight where business class offers few relative advantages over economy class. The innovations in business-class seating, incorporating features previously only found in first class (see below), has narrowed the comfort and amenities gap with traditional first class seats. These advances and added features to business class, as well as the late 2000s recession, have caused some airlines to remove or not install first class seating in their aircraft (as first class seats are usually double the price of business class but can take up more than twice the room) which leaves business class as the most expensive seats on such planes, while other airlines have reintroduced first class sections as suites to stay upmarket over contemporary business class.[15]

As with first class, all alcoholic beverages are complimentary and meals are of higher quality than economy class. Economy-class passengers are usually not permitted in the business-class cabin though first class passengers are generally allowed to cross the curtain between business and first class.


Long-haul business-class seats are substantially different from economy-class seats, and many airlines have installed "lie-flat" seats into business class, whereas previously seats with such a recline were only available in international first class. There are essentially three types of long-haul business-class seats today. These are listed in ascending order of perceived "quality".

Recaro claims its CL6710 business-class seat is one of the lightest at 80 kg (176 lb) while other can be beyond 100 kg (220 lb), adding up to a 2–3 t (4,400–6,600 lb) for 60 seats.[20]


While flying on a long-haul business-class flight, airlines such as Swiss, Lufthansa, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, and many others offer in-flight gourmet meals with a choice of entree. Upon seating in their seats, business-class passengers are presented with a choice of champagne, orange juice, or water (called pre-flight service), with a 3-5 course meal (typically including a salad, soup, entree (typically up to 3 choices), and a choice of dessert) to follow during the flight. Depending on the time of arrival, the flight may offer either a breakfast with a variety of choices or a light snack approximately 90 minutes prior to landing. Some airlines, such as Singapore Airlines, allow travelers to request specific meals not on the regular menu prior to the flight. The alcoholic beverage choices for business-class cabins are generous, with airlines offering different premium wines, and an assortment of beers and liqueurs.[21]


Philippine Airlines' Airbus A330 business-class seat.
Cathay Pacific 77W business-class seat

The exact name for business class may vary between operators. Bold text indicates airlines for which business class is the highest class of service offered.

Airline Service name Status
Aegean Airlines "Business Class" active
Aer Lingus "Business Class" (formerly "Premier Class") active
Aeroflot "Президент" (long-haul; translated "President")
"Премьер" (short and mid-haul; translated "Premier")
Aerolíneas Argentinas "Club Cóndor" active
Aeroméxico "Clase Premier" active
Air Algérie "Rouge Affaires" active
Air Astana "Business Class" active
Air Austral "Club Austral" active
Aircalin "Hibiscus class" active
Air Canada "Signature Class" (international, formerly "International Business Class")
"North America Business Class (domestic and regional, formerly "Executive Class")
Air Caraïbes "Classe Madras" active
Air China "Capital Pavilion" active
Air Europa "Business Class" active
Air France "Affaires" (translated "Business") active
Air Greenland "Nanoq Class" (translated "Polar Bear Class") active
Air India "Executive Class" active
Air Koryo "Business Class" active
Air Macau "Business Class" active
Air New Zealand "Business Premier" active
Air Seychelles "Pearl Class" active
AirAsia X "Premium Flatbed" active
Alaska Airlines "First Class" active
All Nippon Airways "Business Class" (international; formerly "Club ANA")
"Premium Class" (domestic)
American Airlines "Domestic First Class" and "Flagship Business" active
Asiana Airlines "Business Smartium" or "Business Class" active
Austrian Airlines "Business Class" (formerly "Grand Class") active
Avianca "Clase Ejecutiva" (translated "Business Class") active
Azul Brazilian Airlines "Business Xtra" active
Bangkok Airways "Blue Ribbon Class" active
Bassaka Air "Business Class" active
Batik Air "Business Class" active
Beijing Capital Airlines "Business Class" active
Biman Bangladesh Airlines "Business Class" active
British Airways "Club Suite", "Club World", and "Club Europe" active
Brussels Airlines "Business Class" active
Cathay Pacific "Business Class" (formerly "Marco Polo Business Class" in the 1980s and 1990s)
"Aria Suite" (Available from 2024 Q2,for Boeing 777-300ER only)
China Airlines "Business Class" (formerly "Dynasty Class") and "Premium Business Class" active
China Eastern Airlines "Business Class" active
China Express Airlines "Business Class" active
China Southern Airlines "Business Class" active
Chongqing Airlines "Business Class" active
Copa Airlines "Clase Ejecutiva" active
Cyprus Airways "Apollo Class" active
Delta Air Lines "Delta One" (formerly "Business Elite") and "Delta One Suite", "First Class" active
Donghai Airlines "Business Class" active
Druk Air "Business Class" active
El Al "מחלקת עסקים" (translated "Business Class") active
EgyptAir "حورس" (translated "Horus") active
Emirates "Business Class" active
Ethiopian Airlines "Cloud Nine" active
Etihad Airways "Pearl Business Class" and "Business Studio" active
EVA Air "Royal Laurel", "Premium Laurel" and "Business Class" active
Fiji Airways "Tabua Class" active
Finnair "Business Class" active
Garuda Indonesia "Business Class" (formerly "Executive Class") active
Gulf Air "Falcon Gold" active
Hainan Airlines "Business Class" active
Hawaiian Airlines "Premium Business Class" (international)
"Business Class" (domestic and regional; formerly "First Class")
Hebei Airlines "Business Class" active
Himalaya Airlines "Business Class" active
Hong Kong Airlines "Business Class" active
Iberia "Business Plus" and "Business Class" active
Icelandair "Saga Class" active
Iran Air "هما کلاس" (translated "Homa Class") active
ITA Airways "Business Class" (international)
"Superior Class" (domestic)
Japan Airlines "JAL Business Class" (international)
"Class J" (domestic)
Jazeera Airways "Business Class" active
JetBlue "Mint" active
Jetstar "Business Class" active
Juneyao Airlines "Business Class" active
Kenya Airways "Premiere World" active
KLM "World Business Class" active
Korean Air "Prestige Class" active
Kunming Airlines "Business Class" active
Kuwait Airways "Business Class" active
LAN Airlines "Premium Business" active
Lao Airlines "Business Class" active
Lucky Air "Business Class" active
LOT Polish Airlines "Elite Club" (Boeing 787 only) and "Business Class" (other aircraft) active
Lufthansa "Business Class" active
Mahan Air "Business Class" ("Premium Economy" in A340 long-haul flights; not available in BAe 146 aircraft) active
Malaysia Airlines "Business Class" (formerly "Golden Club Class") active
Maldivian "Business Class" active
Malindo Air "Business Class" active
MIAT Mongolian Airlines "Business Class" active
Middle East Airlines "Cedar Class" active
Myanmar National Airlines "Business Class" active
Nam Air "Business Class" active
Nepal Airlines "Shangrila Class" active
Norfolk Air "Premium Economy" (formerly "Bounty Class") active
Olympic Air "Business Class" or Gold Business Class (literally "Distinguished Class") active
Oman Air "Business Class" active
Pakistan International Airlines "Business Plus+" active
PAL Express "Business Class" active
Philippine Airlines "Business Class" (formerly "Mabuhay Class") active
Qantas "Business Class" and "Business Suite" active
Qatar Airways "Business Class" and "Qsuite" active
Regent Airways "Business Class" active
Royal Air Maroc "Premium Class" active
Royal Brunei Airlines "Business Class" active
Royal Jordanian "Crown Class" active
Saudia "درجة الأفق" (translated "Horizon Class") active
Scandinavian Airlines "Business Class" (intercontinental)
"SAS PLUS" (within Europe)
Scoot "ScootPlus" active
Shanghai Airlines "Business Class" active
Shenzhen Airlines "Business Class" active
Sichuan Airlines "Business Class" active
Sky Angkor Airlines "Business Class" active
Singapore Airlines "Business Class" (formerly "Raffles Class") active
South African Airways "Business Class" (formerly "Gold Class" ) active
SpiceJet "SpiceBiz" (Boeing 737 only) active
SriLankan Airlines "Business Class" active
Sriwijaya Air "Business Class" active
Swiss International Air Lines "SWISS Business" active
TAAG Angola Airlines "Executiva Class" active
TAP Portugal "TAP Executive" active
TAM Airlines "Executive Class" or "Classic Class" active
TAROM "Business Class" active
Thai AirAsia X "Premium Flatbed" active
Thai Airways "Royal Silk Class" active
Thai Lion Air "Business Class" active
Tianjin Airlines "Business Class" active
Tibet Airlines "Business Class" active
Turkish Airlines "Business Class" active
Turkmenistan Airlines "Business Class" active
United Airlines "United Polaris" (international)
"United First" (domestic)
"United Business" (regional)
US-Bangla Airlines "Business Class" active
Uzbekistan Airways "Business Class" active
Vietnam Airlines "Business Class" active
Virgin Atlantic "Upper Class" active
Virgin Australia "Domestic Business" and "International Business" active
Vistara "Business Class" active
WestJet "Business Class" active
XiamenAir "Business Class" active
AirTran Airways "Business Class" defunct
Alitalia "Magnifica" (translated "Wonderful")
"Ottima" (short-haul; no longer in use)
America West Airlines "America West First" defunct
British Caledonian "Executiv.e" and "Super Executive" defunct
Canadian Airlines "Business Class" defunct
Cathay Dragon "Business Class" defunct
Continental Airlines "BusinessFirst" defunct
Jet Airways "Premiere Class" defunct
Kingfisher Airlines "Kingfisher First" defunct
Malév Hungarian Airlines "SkyClub Business Class" defunct
Mexicana de Aviación "Elite Class" defunct
Midwest Airlines "Signature Service" defunct
Mihin Lanka "Business Class" defunct
Northwest Airlines "World Business Class" defunct
Pan Am "Clipper Class" defunct
Spanair "Premium Class" defunct
Spirit Airlines "Big Front Seat" (formerly "Spirit Plus"; service is no different from economy since transitioning to a no-frills carrier, but seats are roomier) defunct
Trans World Airlines "Ambassador Class" (until the 1980s); "TransWorld One" (after 3-class service reduced to 2 in the 1990s) defunct
US Airways "Envoy" (Brazil, Europe and Israel)
"Business Class" and "First Class" (domestic)

Environmental impact

Greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, are emitted from aircraft due to burning fuel. About 2% of global carbon emissions are produced by aviation industry.

Flying business class results in greater emissions than flying in economy-class seating, in part due to the amount of space associated with it.

For long-haul flights, carbon emissions per passenger per kilometre travelled are about three times higher for business class and four times higher for first class, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The length of the flight impacts the environment: as most emissions are generated through the takeoff phase in a plane's journey, it means short-haul flights are more impactful on the environment, as a larger proportion of the journey is in this phase. Whereas for longer haul flights, the plane is cruising for a longer proportion of the journey, making it less impactful on the environment than a short-haul flight, but it is still causing emissions. Transfer flights or routes that encompass multiple connecting flights also increase emissions as the takeoff phase is repeated. Private jets are also problematic, as emissions are generated for only a small number of people. [22]


Business-class cabin of a China Railway CR400BF-GZ electric multiple unit which features staggered seats.

Business class is the highest class of service in China high-speed rail, while first class and second class are the more affordable options. Business class passengers have access to a pre-departure lounge if available. Train seats of business class are arranged in 1-1 or 2-1 configuration with fully enclosed seats. Free meals, unlimited snacks, and beverages are provided for the business class passengers throughout the journey.[23]

Select Amtrak trains in the United States offer a Business Class service. On Acela trains, Business Class is the primary class of service, and does not include any additional benefits on board. On other routes, Business Class includes a refundable fare, and seating in a reserved area. Depending on the specific route, lounge access, wider seats with legrests, newspapers, or complimentary non-alcoholic beverages may be included.

Until June 2009, Via Rail in Canada premium-class service was called "Via 1", on short-range routes oriented towards business travel. The premium service on the transcontinental route (The Canadian) is called "Silver & Blue". In June 2009, "Via 1" was renamed "Business Class" and "Silver & Blue" (The Canadian) and "Easterly" (The Ocean) were renamed "Sleeper Touring Class" and "Totem" (The Skeena) was renamed "Touring Class".

Eurostar also offers business-class accommodation on their rail services – named "Business Premier", the seats are similar to the premium economy "Standard Premier" offering (wider seats with more legroom and greater recline compared to economy "standard class") but include faster check-in, boarding and a full meal service, among other features. Chiltern Railways offers a business zone on selected services.[24]

Queensland Rail in Australia also offers business class on its Electric Tilt Train.

Austrian federal railway service ÖBB also offers a business class in their high-speed Railjet trains.

See also


  1. ^ Perry Garfinkel (2008-03-10). "On some airlines, business class goes first". The International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2015-12-15.
  2. ^ "UN TRAVEL POLICY SUMMARY" Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine United Nations Environment Programme. Retrieved: 20 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Understanding Airfares". Retrieved: 20 September 2012.
  4. ^ Bennett, Andrea. "Deciphering Airline Fare Codes Archived 2012-08-29 at the Wayback Machine" Airfare Watchdog, 21 October 2008. Retrieved: 20 September 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Why airlines are wooing the business high-fliers".
  6. ^ "'Three-class' air service is scrubbed by TWA".
  7. ^ [dead link]
  8. ^ "'FULL-FARE' Passengers to Get Better Service on Airliners". Archived from the original on 2016-07-07. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  9. ^ Williams, Winston (1977-08-18). "El Al Sees Financial Drain Resulting From Fare Cuts – El Al Expecting Reduced Fares To Cause Severe Financial Drain – Article –". Archived from the original on 2012-11-06. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  10. ^ Petzinger, Thomas (1996). Hard Landing: The Epic Contest For Power and Profits That Plunged the Airlines into Chaos. Random House. ISBN 978-0-307-77449-1.
  11. ^ "Pan Am Profit Hit High in 2nd Quarter; Revenue Rose 16%". 1978-07-27. Archived from the original on 2012-11-06. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  12. ^ "air france | 1983 | 1806 | Flight Archive". 1983-10-01. Archived from the original on 2012-01-30. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  13. ^ "Boeing Aircraft Take Qantas Further". Archived from the original on 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  14. ^ "AskAirAsia – What is a Hot Seat?". Archived from the original on 2017-06-01. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  15. ^ "Airlines mull future of first-class after success of business-class beds". Archived from the original on 2014-12-21. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
  16. ^ Woodyard, Chris (2003-08-05). "More airlines to offer seat-beds". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  17. ^ Tom McGhie (1999-05-26). "Losing economy seats to launch club class 'flying bed' revolution may not add up". London: Guardian. Archived from the original on 2014-05-07. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  18. ^ "Airlines in the hot seat over Virgin's Upper Class patents". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  19. ^ Peter Rusanoff. "US Airways Business Class Around The World". Archived from the original on 2015-04-04. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
  20. ^ Kerry Reals (Jan 3, 2018). "Business Class Seats A Weighty Issue On Ultra Long Range Flights". Aviation Week & Space Technology.
  21. ^ Peter Rusanoff. "Business Class Review". Archived from the original on 2014-06-27. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
  22. ^ "Climate change: Should you fly, drive or take the train?". BBC News. 2019-08-23. Retrieved 2023-11-22.
  23. ^ Chamberlin, Chris (4 December 2019). "Business class vs first class on China's high-speed rail network". executivetraveller.
  24. ^ What is the Business Zone? Chiltern Railways

Media related to Business class at Wikimedia Commons First and business class flights travel guide from Wikivoyage