I Flew Business Class on 6 Airlines This Year and There Was a Huge Difference Between the Best and the Worst Each airline's luxury product is different — so much so that my favorite and least favorite are leagues apart.
- I've flown in long-haul business class on six different airlines since September 2022.
- My favorite overall was Japan's All Nippon Airways, while Air New Zealand was the least impressive.
- Here's how the airlines compare in terms of privacy, cleanliness, comfort, service, and food.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Over the past 12 months, I've experienced six different international business-class products thanks to my job as Insider's aviation reporter. And — among this particular bunch — I've found that none of them are like the other.
My string of high-class flights started in September 2022 when I flew on Air New Zealand's inaugural trek from New York to Auckland, which is now the world's fourth-longest flight at about 18 hours.
I then flew on the world's longest flight in January from Singapore to New York on Singapore Airlines, followed by a journey from Paris to Newark, New Jersey, on a little-known all-business-class airline named La Compagnie.
In March, I flew on Japan's largest carrier, All Nippon Airways, in its famous "The Room" business class. In June, I tried out the German leisure carrier Condor's new business class from New York to Frankfurt, Germany.
Most recently, I trekked 12 hours from Los Angeles to Seoul, South Korea, in Korean Air's "Prestige" business class.
After experiencing each and having little experience flying in business class before, I realized how different each airline's luxury product is — so much so that my favorite and least favorite are actually leagues apart.
Here's how the six business-class cabins compare and their pros and cons, including privacy, food, lavatory design, and bed comfort. Insider paid a media rate for all of my flights.
The main thing I noticed about this group of six airlines was that not one truly resembled the other, each having distinct differences that would make or break the experience.
The author in business class on Air New Zealand and All Nippon Airways. Taylor Rains/Insider
The six airlines I've flown on in long-haul business class are Air New Zealand, Condor, All Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines, La Compagnie, and Korean Air — which is a pretty mixed bag of business models.
Singapore Airlines, ANA, and Korean Air are all considered five-star carriers in the eyes of the airline-ranking website Skytrax. And it's easy to see how they're in a league of their own in terms of service and comfort.
Condor and La Compagnie, on the other hand, are more leisure-focused and target both business travelers and tourists — La Compagnie actually recently partnered with a travel company to launch VIP tours to the Caribbean starting this fall.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand is sort of on an island of its own, literally and figuratively. It's a major international airline with unique products such as the Skycouch, but it isn't quite at the luxe tier of the Asian airlines — and its 777/787 business class definitely needs some work.
The most significant feature that set each airline apart was probably the privacy, and All Nippon Airways set the bar.
I flew on Japan's largest airline in March, riding in "The Room" business class on the carrier's Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The journey lasted about 14 hours, and it was definitely my favorite ride of the year.
What makes the carrier's business class particularly special is its full privacy door, which makes the product feel more like a tiny hotel room rather than an airplane seat.
It was actually the only airline that offered one. The other five had some sort of winged headrest or a middle divider, but none were nearly as cocooned as ANA.
While I don't necessarily mind not having a door, it's hard to beat having a fully enclosed suite, and it made it extremely easy to relax and sleep.
Korean Air is the only other carrier that provides a somewhat fully enclosed space thanks to its unique "Apex Suite," making it the most comparable to ANA in terms of privacy.
Korean Air's Boeing 747-8i business class is on both levels of the double-decker, with a 2x2x2 configuration on the first floor and a 2x2 layout on the second level.
While a dual-seat layout typically means the window passenger cannot freely access the aisle, Korean Air's Prestige product uses a rare design known as Apex Suites. Only a few other carriers feature these, including Japan Airlines, Oman Air, and Gulf Air.
The Apex design is good because it features a staggered layout, allowing a walkway to be installed between the window seat and the aisle.
This is designed to ensure every passenger has direct aisle access — effectively optimizing space without sacrificing capacity.
On my trip, I loved this design because I felt boxed into my little corner on the upper deck. Plus, the middle divider blocked off my neighbor — truly making the 747's second level feel more like a private jet than a commercial airline.
However, I noticed that this level of privacy was really only reserved for those lucky enough to snag a window seat.
What makes Korean Air's prestige window seat so private is that it's shielded by the aisle seat, meaning flight attendants and other passengers can't easily peer in. The aisle seat does not have this same level of privacy, however, because there is no door to block the entry.
The wall of the seat does stretch pretty far, though, so at least sleeping passengers can feel cocooned from the waist up.
None of the other carriers' seats created a pod-like feeling, with La Compagnie probably lacking the most in terms of privacy.
Singapore Airlines, Condor, and Air New Zealand all had privacy, with the latter taking advantage of an angled 1x1x1 cabin layout to create a capsule-like seat. Each lounger was angled, so you really couldn't see anyone on either side when laying down, though the people across the aisle's feet did poke out — but more on that later.
While I didn't mind the sleeping situation on ANZ, the flight attendants had to set the bed up and down — I couldn't do it on my own, which was an inconvenience.
La Compagnie's 2x2 layout, however, was my least favorite. In some cases, two strangers could be seated right next to each other with just a small white half-circle dividing the space.
On my flight, I was lucky to get a row to myself, but I could see straight across the aisle at the person sleeping in the window seat on the opposite side of the plane from me. So, the divider didn't offer much.
I will give credit to La Compagnie for its unique business model, which flies all-business-class Airbus A321neos between Europe and the US. And fares are relatively less expensive.
La Compagnie flies from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to Paris, Nice, and Milan, so it has a pretty small route map. Ticket prices also hover at about $2,500 for a roundtrip on average.
But, after flying the carrier, I noticed it has an overall lower-tier product compared to the other major international airlines I've flown.
This is mostly due to its 2x2 layout, meaning window seat passengers do not have direct-aisle access — a dealbreaker for many frequent flyers and something airlines are actively addressing as they design new business-class products.
I still think, however, that the airline is a no-brainer for the price, especially for those traveling together, and will not be as impacted by the lack of privacy and aisle access.
Condor also offers lower fares than Air New Zealand and the three Asian airlines, but I appreciate its direct aisle access and improved privacy compared with other carriers.
The view from my seat on Condor during a flight from New York to Frankfurt, Germany, in June. Taylor Rains/Insider
Like La Compagnie, Condor is trying to attract some higher-budget leisure travelers or those who may want to splurge on a one-time business-class ticket for a luxe vacation.
The budget carrier recently overhauled its business class for its Airbus A330-900neos, and I'd definitely recommend it over more expensive competitors.
While privacy is a major selling point for business class customers, the actual bed itself can be a game changer too. Out of the six, ANA and Singapore Airlines easily offered the best lie-flat experience.
How wide the Singapore Airlines (top) and ANA (bottom) seats are, and how big they are when converted into lie-flat beds. Taylor Rains/Insider
Condor and La Compagnie both offered the typical narrow bed that is just wide enough to lay on your back or side. Sleeping on your stomach or kicking a knee out requires a little more maneuvering.
Korean Air and ANZ offered more space. But, none of the four offered as much wiggle room as Singapore Airlines or ANA. Both airlines have a very wide seat, which is really more of a two-person couch.
Because of this, when the lounger converted into lie-flat mode, the seats proved to be much bigger than I expected, and I could sprawl in any way. Plus, both airlines provided two pillows for sleeping, as did ANZ.
Although they had slimmer beds, Korean Air and ANZ still let me get comfortable sleeping on my stomach.
The narrower business-class lie-flat beds: Air New Zealand (top left), Korean Air (top right), La Compagnie (bottom left), and Condor (bottom right). Taylor Rains/Insider
On both flights I slept about seven hours, switching between my stomach and my side. I tried sleeping on my stomach on Condor and La Compagnie, but it was more practical on my side or back.
Overall, every bed across all six airlines was finely padded with enough cushion for sleeping. Condor even offered a thick mattress pad, which definitely made up for the slimmer bed.
Although it's not as big of a deal to me compared with other design features, adequate and effective storage space can definitely make a business-class seat feel bigger — which proved especially true on Korean Air.
Korean has by far the most storage space of any of the six airlines thanks to the two giant bins situated next to my window seat.
I was able to fit my purse, the pillow and blanket, my water bottle and chargers, and all of my other random items between the two boxes — meaning my seat was completely void of clutter.
This really did make the already large space feel even bigger. But this is yet again another unique perk of Korean Air's 747 business-class window seat, as the aisle-seat passengers must make do with fewer cubbies.
While Korean Air wins the storage war, Singapore Airlines and ANA are close seconds thanks to their various cubbies, pockets, and shelves.
The cubby storage on Singapore Airlines and ANA. Taylor Rains/Insider
Both ANA and Singapore Airlines offer a small cubby-like storage space against the front wall of the seat next to the TV. It could hold things such as cups, a passport, and charging cables.
Singapore Airlines also had a slot built into the armrest, which could hold a water bottle, headphones, and other bulkier items.
Condor, ANZ, and La Compagnie definitely falter compared with the Asian airlines, all offering just small slots and nooks for clutter.
The storage on La Compagnie (top left), Condor (top right and bottom right), and ANZ (bottom left) show the small spaces I had to work with. Taylor Rains/Insider
Overall, I didn't feel as if I had a place for all of the things I wanted to keep at my seat on either of the European carriers, or ANZ.
Both had small things such as a side table and a pocket, but I had to get creative with storing my laptop, book, and change of clothes.
ANZ actually has one of the worst products for storage — it's pretty much just what you'd find in economy.
The little shelf was made from the space where the TV was stored into the wall of the seat — meaning it wasn't even available during takeoff and landing. Taylor Rains/Insider
The storage can be a big pain point when flying ANZ, but the company is hopefully remedying this problem with its improved Business Premier cabin coming in 2024.
The new seats are set to come installed on future Boeing 787s and retrofitted onto existing ones, though the 777s will remain as they are.
In addition to fixing the abysmal storage, the new lounger is also set to address the awkward angled seat — which makes it hard for people to enjoy the views out the window — as well as the inconvenience of the cabin crew setting up each lie-flat bed.
While I'm picking on ANZ, it also lost points due to its extremely tiny TV — it was easily the smallest I've ever seen in business class.
While ANZ defines its business class by having a lie-flat bed and premium food, its storage and TV are more like economy offerings.
The 11-inch screen is annoying because it pops out of the side of the seat, meaning it has to be stowed for takeoff and landing and passengers can't use it during those times. Moreover, its awkward position makes it difficult to see when lying down.
There were fortunately plenty of good movies and shows to choose from. And, I will admit, I personally liked how close the television was to my face when sitting up and eating. It just felt cozy — so that was another saving grace.
By comparison, Singapore Airlines and ANA offered the largest televisions, with Condor, Korean Air, and La Compagnie also providing decent-sized flat screens.
The flat-screen TVs on Condor (top left), La Compagnie (top right), ANA (bottom left), and Korean Air (bottom right). Korean Air's was smaller than expected. Taylor Rains/Insider
ANZ's little screen stretches just 11 inches wide — that's less than the 13.3-inch screens in premium economy cabins on carriers such as Emirates and United Airlines.
The biggest TV of the bunch is on ANA at 24 inches wide. Singapore Airlines follows at 18 inches, then Condor at 17.3 inches, Korean Air at 17 inches, and finally La Compagnie at 15.6 inches.
At least every airline offered a remote control, though Singapore Airlines', ANA's, and Korean Air's were better — another thing that makes the five-star airlines stand out.
Singapore Airlines' entertainment system on its A350 business class. Taylor Rains/Insider
Unlike Condor, La Compagnie, and ANZ, the remotes on the three Asian carriers had a touchscreen display. I could look at things such as the flight plan, as well as scroll through titles directly on the remote and make selections.
It's the small touches like this that make some carriers more enjoyable than others.
As far as the other common perks of business class, all six airlines offered some sort of amenity kit, with most also providing slippers and an eye mask.
The amenity kits on board Korean Air (top), La Compagnie (bottom left), and Condor (bottom right). Taylor Rains/Insider
The amenity kits were all pretty similar, containing things such as lotion, socks, an eye mask, and other toiletries. Meanwhile, ANA and ANZ even provided pajamas — the latter's was just special for the inaugural flight, though.
I wouldn't say there was any single amenity that was better than the other, but La Compagnie's bag was my favorite because it has two separate slots for organizing, and I've reused it regularly since.
Meanwhile, the tray tables on all six carriers were adjustable and stored out of the way of the bed, so I didn't feel like any was encroaching on my legroom when sleeping.
Tray tables on La Compagnie (top left), ANA (top right), Korean (bottom left), and ANZ (bottom right). Taylor Rains/Insider
La Compagnie probably had the most basic tray table, which folded in half and could move forward or backward. Condor's was also smaller than its competitors but felt like the robust tray table I expected in business class.
The three Asian airlines and Air New Zealand had giant tables, and I particularly favored the ones on Korean, ANA, and Singapore Airlines because they could adjust to several different positions.
Aside from the physical product itself, I thought the level of customer service was great on all six airlines — which is expected of business class — though a few particularly shined.
Singapore Airlines flight attendants on board the carrier's A380 in 2020 when it was turned into a restaurant. Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images
Major Asian carriers are famously known for having a heightened level of customer service among their cabin crew.
While the differences are more obvious in economy cabins — as I came to realize on a recent international United Airlines flight — it's something I've also noticed in business class.
I thought Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, and ANA had the most overachieving flight attendants — they were always checking in on me, keeping my drinks full, and making sure I was never short of snacks.
Red wine held by the Korean Air flight attendant. Taylor Rains/Insider
Singapore puts a huge emphasis on the performance of its flight attendants, who go through an intense four-month training process that includes a focus on etiquette and elegance, among all of the required safety courses.
In fact, all three Asian carriers I've flown this year were in Skytrax's top 20 for the best airline cabin crews of 2023.
That's not to say that the cabin crews on Condor, La Compagnie, and ANZ weren't terrific, but there is an obvious difference in how they act and perform their duties.
An Air New Zealand business class flight attendant. Taylor Rains/Insider
Personally, I don't care either way.
One of the grosser parts of flying is the lavatory, but I was happy to see all six airlines made a point to keep the bathrooms fresh and clean throughout the long flights.
The lavatories on La Compagnie (top left), Condor (top right), ANA (bottom left), and Korean Air (bottom right). Taylor Rains/Insider
My recent flight on United showed how gross economy bathrooms can get, with toilet paper and overflowing bins always meeting me at the lavatory during my trek from London to Newark.
It was a stark difference from my economy flights on ANA and Singapore this year.
Fortunately, the other airlines didn't falter in business-class-lavatory cleanliness, and I appreciated the toiletries, body mirrors, and even the bidet that showed up across the six airlines.
But, hands down, the best lavatory was on board ANA thanks to its rare bidet.
The bidet settings. Taylor Rains/Insider
Only a few airlines have a bidet, including ANA and Japan Airlines — which makes sense given they are both Japanese carriers. It's truly a game-changer to have on board.
I also appreciate the full-body mirror on Japan's largest carrier, which was also present on Singapore Airlines. The latter also had a touchless bin-opener.
The lavatories on ANZ (top left) and Singapore (right and bottom left). Taylor Rains/Insider
The airlines also kept the lavatories stocked with toiletries, such as lotion, mouthwash, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.
Plus, I liked the design on ANZ and Singapore, the former featuring fun wallpaper and the latter having a wood-like finish to make it feel more homey.
Probably one of the most fun parts of flying in business is trying all of the in-flight meals, many of which include the local cuisine of the airline.
Ramen noodles on ANA in business class. Taylor Rains/Insider
I was thrilled to find all three of the Asian airlines offered cultural dishes alongside Western meal options. Food included things such as sushi and edamame on ANA, a traditional rice dish named bibimbap on Korean Air, and noodle soup on Singapore Airlines.
Up until I flew on Korean Air, my favorite food experience was on Singapore Airlines thanks to the delicious beef dish that came with sauteed spinach, roasted mushrooms, and potatoes.
The appetizer, bread, main dish, and floating island dessert on Singapore Airlines. Taylor Rains
I was also very privy to the "floating island" dessert on Singapore Airlines, which was easily the most unusual and tasty sweet I've had on an airline.
The carrier is also known for its "wellness meals" that help with things such as fullness, insulin spikes, and digestion during the 19-hour journeys from the US to Singapore — and I could tell the difference.
But Korean Air surprised me with what is now officially my favorite in-flight meal.
The bibimbap came with minced beef, vegetables, sesame oil, and gochujang, a hot-pepper paste — I used about 3/4 of the little tube.
I thought the flavors were perfect, and I loved that I could add my desired level of spice and even create little rolls using the seaweed wraps.
La Compagnie also came through on its promise for top-grade in-flight food.
La Compagnie's breakfast pudding and pastries, the truffles, and the salmon main dish. Taylor Rains/Insider
The carrier boasts about its cuisine being a major piece of its onboard product — even inviting chefs from Michelin-star restaurants to create customized dishes — and I found that it puts its money where its mouth is.
The meal on my specific flight was unique thanks to the truffles sprinkled over the scallops — an appetizer I'd never seen on an airline before, but the boutique carrier executed perfectly. The salmon entrée and accompanying cheese plate were also delicious.
Overall, none of the carriers had bad food.
Condor's appetizer (top left), ANZ's breakfast (top right), ANA's bento box (bottom left), and Singapore Airlines' tangy potatoes (bottom right). Taylor Rains/Insider
The food on ANA was delicious, as expected, as were the meals on Condor and ANZ.
I particularly liked the cheese platter, green tea, and bento box on ANA, and I was impressed with the large spread of appetizers on the German carrier.
After flying on all six airlines in business class, there isn't one particularly "bad" airline that was miserable all around. However, I'd pin ANA as my overall favorite.
While I like Korean Air's food and storage best, ANA simply checks every box that I find most important in airline business class: a sliding door, a giant lie-flat bed big enough for me to sprawl out to sleep, local cuisine (extra points for being in a bento box), a great in-flight-entertainment system, and flight attendants who kept my cup of tea full.
The entire cabin felt like a bunch of mini hotel rooms, each offering complete privacy in a cozy, cocooned space. I also particularly loved the pajamas provided, all of the storage, and — of course — the bidet.
Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines and Korean Air outshine La Compagnie and Condor simply for storage and bed space.
Flying in Singapore Airlines' A350 business class from Singapore to New York — the world's longest flight by distance. Taylor Rains/Insider
The three Asian carriers are easily the top three of the six airlines I've flown — though Korean Air's 747 jets annoyingly have zero WiFi, putting it behind Singapore Airlines and ANA for overall favorability.
Condor, meanwhile, beats La Compagnie and ANZ despite it being a budget airline.
I could definitely see the sacrifices made by Condor to keep the fares low — such as privacy and storage — but the new seats are still a major upgrade to its old product with direct aisle access and the mattress pad.
La Compagnie's falls below Condor because of its lack of direct aisle access and minimal privacy. The divider is simply smaller than I'd like, and the wing on Condor gives a better sense of privacy.
Plus, the German carrier also offers "Prime Seats" at the front for an extra fare, which provides more space and better privacy.
When it comes to ANZ, however, business class is at the bottom of the totem pole.
The angled seats across the aisle from me were private from the neck up, but the two side walls blocked off each neighbor when sleeping. Taylor Rains/Insider
Because ANZ was the first business class I flew on for work, I definitely felt more impressed at the time due to the lie-flat seat and food. And, although the angle was weird, I felt as if I had privacy aside from the awkward feet sticking out from the center section of loungers.
But, after flying on several other business products since then, the product's pitfalls are more apparent.
The TV is embarrassingly small, and so is the lack of storage. And the fact that I couldn't make up my own bed and had to wait on the flight attendant was inconvenient.
It's incredible how different ANA and ANZ's business-class products are, especially since both were flying ultra-long-haul across the Pacific.
ANZ's business class is scraping the bottom of the barrel compared to ANA's. Granted, they were good seats back in the day when angled cabins were popular, but the changing market has prompted airlines such as ANA to make changes — ANZ is simply behind.
Overall, I would not recommend flying ANZ's business class if there are other options, such as United Airlines or Australia's Qantas, but it's still perfectly comfortable for the purpose of sleeping — and sometimes that's all you really care about on ultra-long-haul journeys.