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Who Has the Best Business Class Offering? Head to Head Comparison

By a quirk of scheduling, I ended up flying a different airline on every leg of my multi-continent trip. This gave me a rare opportunity to experience the business class product of five major airlines – United, Singapore, Emirates, Qantas and JAL. Two are from Star Alliance and two from One World (Emirates refuses to join an alliance). So how did they stack up? Here are my rankings and reviews.

#5 – United (Newark to Madrid/Boeing 777-300): Of course, what did you expect? US airlines simply aren’t in the same class as Asian airlines. United has indifferent service, mediocre and uncreative food (the dessert is always an Ice-cream sundae with a bunch of toppings!). As for the wine, they have stopped publishing a wine list in business class because they can slot in any cheap wine they have available! But that said, United does a very decent job by US standards. What’s to like – nice modern flat-bed seats (a little narrow, but comfortable), nice IFE (In-Flight Entertainment) and affordable Wi-Fi on all international aircraft. The flight attendants are professional, but they are jaded and won’t really go out of their way for you.

#4: Qantas (Sydney to Tokyo/Boeing 747-400 upper deck): This is a tough comparison group, so Qantas comes in second from bottom, despite being a very nice airline. I dinged it because the seats are stiff and uncomfortable. Plus, they don’t have an Ottoman to support your legs. There is a lip at the end of the seats, reminiscent of the angled lie-flat seats. IFE is decent, but the movie selection was a little sparse and there was no Wi-Fi on the plane. I skipped dinner and I was pleased to see that they take your breakfast order on a form before you go to bed – just like hanging the breakfast card outside your hotel door. But when I woke up, I was served my dinner for breakfast! I ended up eating kebabs, soup and rice at 3 AM. On the plus side, Qantas is part of One World, which has a neat policy of allowing Emerald members to access First Class lounges, even if you are flying business (not so for Star Alliance – you have to be flying First to access the First Class lounges). So I had a very nice dinner on the ground in the Sydney Qantas lounge – lamb, calamari and a fruity dessert, washed down with a robust Aussie Syrah. Flight atte