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Not all business classes are created equal
Long gone are the days when British Airways offered the only “lie-flat” experience ( they innovated the experience in the early 2000s). Now, if you’re offering anything other than lie-flat, you’re substandard. Even more, if you don’t offer all aisle access you’re behind the curve, and . Here’s the thing: most people that I interact with, that aren’t geeks like me, believe that British Airways is better than American in most regards. Crazy, but if you haven’t done any research, and mainly fly on American domestically, the allure of the Queen’s airline is quite strong. American Airlines and British Airways have a close partnership, but offer VERY different experiences in business class. Let’s take a look.
For the sake of this comparison, let’s put BA’s flagship A380 up against AA’s Flagship 777-300ER. These are arguably their best.
You can see on the left that the upstairs cabin is configured in a 2-3-2 setup ( The lower level is in 2-4-2). The only seats with direct aisle access are those actually on the aisle and a window seats at the end of cabin on either side. The seats are very exposed, and if you don’t know your neighbor, you’ll be staring a stranger upon takeoff and landing.
American’s 77W features a Cirrus designed seat in a reverse herringbone configuration. What this means is that your head is to the aisle and your feet angled in. It provides a great amount of privacy and every single seat is extremly private. It’s heralded as one of the very best seats in business class. Even if you’re not in the 77W you will have a 1-2-1 configuration on all of American’s internationally configured aircraft: ( the only exception of the 757 which features this seat)
British Airways offers one seat. Whether you’re on the 747, A380, or 77W you will have this seat. It may be setup in a 2-4-2, 2-3-2, or 2-2 configuration, but it’s pretty much the same. It goes completely flat once the body portion is lowered and the footstool is pulled down. You’re also going to be stepped over, or stepping over someone to get to the aisle. There are a few seats that avoid this problem, but the odds of landing one are very low. In terms of storage, choose a window seat. You can see in the pics below, there is very little in the seat, and I couldn’t lie flat with the tray table down without bumping it.
American Airlines offers a variety of seats.
- Their flagship 77W offers a Zodiac Cirrus seat that is wonderfully comfortable, offers a ton of storage, goes completely flat, and has ample countertop space to work or store a drink/glass while you sleep.
- The 772 comes in two designs: The Super Diamond, and the Zodiac. Both are lie flat, configured in a reverse herringbone design, but are quite different in quality.
- The Super Diamond is, IMO, as good as the flagship Cirrus seat. It has a ton of storage, faces front, lies flat, and is super comfy with a large IFE.
- The Zodiac alternates between forward facing and reverse facing, has decent storage, is a bit narrow, and the worst part…most of the seats wobble because they’re attached to companion seats. When your neighbor moves, you feel it.
- AA has two different versions of 787 dreamliners, the 787-8 and 787-9. The 787-8 offers the same Zodiac seat that wobbles on the 772. The 787-9 offers the incredible Super Diamond seat.
- The 767 offers a forward facing 1-2-1 all aisle access seat, that is decently comfortable, offers tablets for IFE, and is the least desirable of the international planes.
- The A330 are legacy US Airways planes that offer a 1-2-1 configuration, all aisle access, and were called Envoy Suites when US Airways flew them. They have decent IFE
- The 757 offers the same Diamond seats as you’d find on AA’s transcon A321T in business class. They are comfortable, fully flat, have good IFE, however they don’t offer all aisle access.
The Food, Service, Bedding:
British Airways recently overhauled their food, and it’s made quite a difference. I had the opportunity to try the new food on their A380 from LHR to LAX. It was a significant step up in quality, freshness, and overall tastiness. They’ve also partnered with the White Company to offer better quality bedding and amenity kits. It was certainly a step in the right direction.
Up until BA changed their menu options, I thought AA offered much better food in terms of quality and taste. With the new upgrade I think they are about par for the course. I haven’t been able to check out AA’s new Casper bedding, but will do later in the year, but it looks very nice! The image below is of First ( but the bedding is the same in business)
British Airways is debuting a new business class cabin and seat in 2019.
This update is WAY overdue and there is quite heavy speculation that they have chosen the Zodiac SkyLounge Core.
Personally, if given the choice, I would go AA every single time. However, I’m willing to sacrifice certain creature comforts to earn the MEGA bonuses currently being offered through Alaska on BA flights.
So answer the question…Yes, there is a large difference between the “hard products” of BA and AA business, which in laymen terms means the seat and cabin. I find the seat and cabin to be the most important aspects of business class. You want to be able to do some work and sleep. The bulk of the passengers in this cabin are eponymously business class travelers, not those looking for leisure and luxury. All things equal, if given the choice, I’m choosing AA every time.
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