Go to Homepage
An exclusive collection of the best Asian hotels, resorts and spas

AIRLINE REVIEW

Business class seat survey

A nit-picker's guide to the ultimate executive class stretch. A look at the A380 seats on SIA, Cathay Pacific's new business class seats, and the price of ordering Viagra inflight. Who has most legroom and widest seats?

Visit our Fackbook pagePrintE-mail Page

by Vijay Verghese

SEE ALSO First Class Seat Survey | Economy Class Seat Survey | Small Airlines Guide | Airbus vs Boeing | Frequent Flier Programs | Business Class Seats Review | Round the world fares

Widest business class seats, SIA new business class seats starting September 2013 on B777-300ER aircraft

SIA's new flat beds

Widest business class seats, Emirates

Emirates sleep stretch

Stretch room on United business class, formerly Continental Business First

United leg room

Cathay Pacific new business class seats are fully flat

Cathay's new biz

Club World seats on British Airways

BA's Club World

THIRTY THOUSAND feet aloft, coddled in business class, having mortgaged the car, house, wife, kids and dog, it is perhaps reasonable to expect two things – that the champagne is fizzy and the bed is flat. After all this is the FRONT of the plane, not the cattle-class rear end where noses are jammed into armpits, tighter than Rubik's wettest dream.

Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor

Airline Seat
Pitch
Seat
Width
Seat
Recline
PTV
/Size
Air Canada
(Exec. First)
A319-100 *
A330-300
B767-300
B767-300 **
B777-200(77L)
B777-300(77W)


38-39"
Individual
Individual
38"
Individual
Individual


21"
21"
21"
21"
21"
21"


124°
180°
180°
151°
180°
180°


12"
12"
12"
-
12"
12"
Air France
B777-200

B777-300

61"

78"

20.47-
20.9"
24"

180°

180°

10.4"

10.4"
Air New Zealand
B747-400
B767-300
B777-200
B777-300

Full bed
50"
Full bed
Full bed

22"
19.5"
22"
22"

180°
150°
180°
180°

10.4"
10.6"
10.4"
12.1"
Asiana Airlines
A321/320-200
A330-300
B767-400
B747-400
B777-200

39"
58"
53"
60"
60"

20.5"
21"
20.2"
20.2"
20.2"

133°
133°
135°
166°
166°

Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
American
Airlines

B767-300

B777-200


59"

60-61"


20-
23.6"
21-
23.6"


171°

171°


10.6"

10.6"
ANA
B747-400
B767-300ER
B777-200ER
B777-300ER

62"
49-50"
60-63"
62"

20"
18-20"
20"
20"

170°
139°
150-170°
170°

9"
9"
9"
9"
British Airways
B747
B777

72"
72"

25.25"
25.25"

180°
180°

10.4"
12.1"
Cathay Pacific
A330-300
A340-300
B747-400
B777-300ER

82"
81"
81"
82"

20.2"
18.5"
18.5"
21"

180°
180°
180°
180°

15"
15"
15"
15"
China Southern
A330-200/300
B777-200

58"
40"

26.3"
26.7"

6"
8"

10.4"
6.5"
Delta
B747-400/A330
B777

60"
44"

20"
26.7"

165°
180°

10.6"
10.6"
Dragonair
A320-200
A321-200
A330-300

42"
42"
45-63"

20"
21.5"
26.5"

8"
127°
9-9.5"

No
No
9-10.4"
Drukair
A319

38 "

28.5 "

-

No
Emirates
A330-200
A340-500
A380
B777-300

59-63"
55"
87-88"
72-78"

18.25"
20.24"
18.5"
20.5"

15"
50.19°
180°
180°

10.4"
10.4"
17"
17"
Etihad
A340-500/600
B777-300ER

72"
72"

20"
19.7"

180°
180°

15"
15"
Eva
A330-200
B777

61"
61"

-
22"

-
-

10.4"
10.4"
Finnair
A330-300
A340-300

62-63"
62-63"

20"
20"

180°
168°

15"
10.6"
Garuda
A330-200
B717-800NG

74"
42"

21"
21"

180°
120°

9"
9"
Gulf Air
A330-200
A340-300
B767-300

50"
47-50"
48"

19"
20"
19"

10"
10"
8"

10.4"
10.4"
10.4"
JAL
B767-200/300ER

B777-200ER
B777-300ER

44.8-
48.8"
47-59"
60"

17.7-
18"
19.2"
19.2"

10"

10"-170°
170°

Some

9-10.4"
10.4-15.4"
Jet Airways
A330-200
B777-300ER

49"
49"

23"
23"

180°
180°

Yes
Yes
Kenya Airways
B767-300

58"

-

180°

Yes
Korean Air
Prestige Sleeper
A380-800
B777-200ER
B777-300ER
Prestige Plus
A330-200
A330-300
B747-400
B777-300


74"
60"
74"

65"
60"
58-60"
60"


21.6"
20"
20"

20"
19"
21.6"
21.6"


180°
170°
180°

170°
170°
170°
170°


15.4"
10.4"
15.4"

15.4"
15.4"
10.4"
15.4"
Lufthansa
B747-400

A340-300
A340-600

57-59.8"

57-59.8"
57-59.8"

19.7-
22"
19.7"
19.7"

168°

168°
168°

10.4"

10.4"
10.4"
Malaysia Airlines
A330-200
A330-300 (New)
A330-300
(Classic)
A380
B734
B738
B747-400
B777-200

62"
60"
45"

75"
36"
42"
58"
75"

18.5"
21"
16.4"

-
21"
19"
24"
22"

8.5"
180°
21"

-
13"
7"
180°
180°

10.4"
15.4"
10.6"
Portable
17"
-
10.6"
10.4"
10.4"
Myanmar
Airways

MD82


40"


18.88"


6.5"


No
Philippine Airlines
A319-100
A330-300
A340-300
B747-400
config 1
B747-400
config 2+3
B777-300ER
 

39"
45"
48-52"
38-65"

58-60"
 
78"
 

20.45"
19.8"
19.8"
22"

19.77"
 
20.42-
21.49"

6"
10-12"
10-12"
12-16"

180°
 
180°
 

9"
Yes
Yes
6.5"

10.6-15.4"
 
15.2"
 
Qantas
A380
B747-400/
A330-300

80"
60"
 

20.5"
21.5-
23.5"

180°
172°
 

12.2"
10.4"
 
Qatar
A330-200/300

60"

19.6"

160°

15"
Royal Brunei
B767-300ER

57"

21"

167°

10.4"
Scandinavian
Airlines

A340


61"


20"


170°


10.4"
SilkAir
A320-200
 

40"
 

22"
 

8"
 

Overhead/
9.4-10.4"
Singapore Airlines
A340-500
(All business)
A380
B777-300ER
B777-300R

55"

55"
51"
62"

30"

34"
28"
22"

Full Flat

Full flat
132°
172°

15.4"

15.4"
18"
15.4"
Sri Lankan
Airlines

A330/A340


48-49"


20"


20"


10.4"
South African
Airways

A340-300/
A340-600


73"
 


21"
 


180°
 


10.5"
 
SWISS
A340 Reburbished

45"

20.5"

180°

10.4"
Thai Airways
A340-600
A340-500
A300-600
A330-300
A380-800
B737-400
B747-400
B777-300
B777-300ER
B777-200
B777-200ER

60"
60"
38"
58"
74"
33"
60"
61"
49"
60"
60"

19"
19"
20"
20"
20"
19"
20"
20"
23"
20"
20"

167°
167°
126°
167°
180°
126°
167°
163°
180°
167°
163°

10.4"
10.4"
-
15"
15"
-
10.4"
15"
15.4"
10.4"
15"
Turkish Airlines
A340-300

54"

21"

12"

No
United Airlines
B747-400
B777-200

76"
55-57"

23.5"
27"

180°
180°

15.4"
15.4"
Vietnam Airlines
B777

52-59"

27.5"

8-16"

Yes
Virgin Atlantic
A340-600
B747-400

79.5"
82"

22"
22"

180°
180°

10.4"
10.4"

† Garuda listing only reflects planes that fly to Hong Kong
* Executive First Suites are not available on A319-100 aircraft that provide seasonal service to select international locations.
** Executive First Suites and service are not available on some Air Canada B767-300 aircraft.
^ Continental and United have merged. Continental Business First is now United Business.

This is where those Airbus adverts have you believe you'll discover that buzzing bar with long-limbed beauties, sensuous spa, and a full-size Coliseum where Christians – and reality show producers – are being fed to the lions. It is the very pinnacle of success. Share it with a G&T, or your inner child, if you can afford the extra companion fare.

The proof of the pudding is in the sleeping. How flat is that bed? Can both corporate cheek bottoms coexist in unfettered harmony as you stretch out languorously for yet another prime cut of juicy steak?

Generous aircraft seat size, roomy seat pitch (the distance between rows, seat anchor to anchor), and comfortable seat recline, are not the only prized assets of Club Class travel. More often than not, you'll get a personal TV (or PTV), sometimes with movies on demand, swivelling screens that might let you watch a movie upside down in case you happen to be Australian, and even occasional Internet access. For on-the-go executive travellers, inflight Web access is a great way to stay ahead of the competition and buy the cheapest Viagra. A few minutes online and you can bankrupt your boss. All in the line of duty. "Give me a raise, or I'll send you a long e-mail." "Oh my God, no, not that."

We surveyed a broad range of airlines to see how their bottom lines compare in business class. Strap in, lie back, and read on.

First things first. If you're travelling flat out, you'll need to be flat. It took a while but airlines are cottoning on faster than you can say 180-degrees is the new black. The first three airlines capable of escorting you absolutely horizontal were Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and South African Airways, and now 22 airlines have at least one longhaul aircraft where you can kick back and find a perfectly flat bed business class seat. Recline is measured in degrees, inches and centimetres. A simple rule of thumb – six inches (15cm) translates roughly into 25 degrees.

Unabashedly over-the-top is Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com) whose A380 now flies to Sydney, Melbourne, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong. This behemoth carries just 471 passengers (not the sweaty 800 of lively scuttlebutt, though that figure does represent the aircraft's maximum capacity). In addition to 12 partitioned Singapore Airlines Suites in a grade beyond first class – where a double bed can be created for passengers travelling together who might thus fully enjoy the feel of Givenchy linen aloft – the 60 business class seats on the upper deck recline fully flat and offer USB ports, in-seat power for a laptop, a height adjustable table, and a 39cm (15.4-inch) LCD video screen. These are the widest business class seats in our survey at 86cm or 34 inches. A forward-facing configuration of 1-2-1 permits aisle access from every seat. These seats have already appeared on the B777-300ER fleet. SIA A-380 business class toilets offer special amenities including a shaving mirror but, for practical and weight considerations, no shower. Sensitive ears will be happy to hear that the SQ A380 cuts take-off and landing noise in half and dramatically reduces it in-cabin throughout the flight.

On 9 July, 2013, SIA announced its NextGen look with the first new seats in all classes rolling out - with enhanced KrisWorld entertainment - from September 2013 on the Singapore-London route on new B777-300ER aircraft. SIA's new business class seats are an evolutionary rather than revolutionary step with the same popular forward-facing seats with additional stowage (including for the laptop), better lighting and lumbar support. Set in a semi-private "enclosure" there's 132 degrees of seat recline. With the seat flipped down (train style) and covered with a duvet, passengers enjoy a spacious, extra wide, fully flat 78-inch-long bed. Two additional lounging positions have been included on the seat button menu - "Lazy Z" and "Sundeck".

KrisWorld content flashes up on an18-inch LCD touch screen and for workaholics, the seats include sockets for USB, HDMI and in-seat power. The new KrisWorld is based on a state-of-the-art Panasonic Avionics platform. SIA is the launch customer for the next-gen eX3 system that debuts on the A350s, with the current B777-300ERs boasting several eX3 features. Meanwhile inflight web connectivity is being rolled out on the A380.

In mid 2014 Singapore Airlines announced an upgrade to business class seats on B777-300ERs with a 132-degree recline and 78-inch length when the seat is fully extended as a flat bed. New aircraft will have the new seats in place while older aircraft will undergo a steady overhaul. Expect a padded headboard and soft cushion, a "Lazy Z" seating control for varying posture, expanded stowage choices, and entertainment by way of the signature KrisWorld with on-demand movies and music on an 18-inch video LCD screen.

SilkAir’s (www.silkair.net) Business Class cabin for its Airbus 320 aircraft boast ergonomically designed seats, which, in a perfect world, should mean no neck pain, stiff legs or swollen toes. Seats are leather and measure in at 40 inches for pitch and 22 inches for width. The recline is eight inches and headrests can be adjusted six ways.

Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com) introduced the de rigueur herringbone business class to an expectant audience, who were split down the middle. Long haul passengers appreciated the private space and flat bed. But for short haul flyers (who flayed the “anti-social” seats), “herringbone” was a dirty word. See our business class seats review.

The latest version of the Cathay business class seats were introduced March 2011 on select A330s flying HK-Sydney and from April 2011 on select B-777ERs on HK-USA routes. European routes will see these changes in 2012. The new CX seats offer a robust rejoinder to the earlier feedback with some very generous specifications. The new business class seat on the A330 reclines fully at 180 degrees, doubling as a flat bed. It also offers considerably more stretch space as the armrests retract and elbowroom materialises. While the seat cushion width is an unremarkable 20.2 inches, the bed extensions and retracted armrests offer a usable bed breadth of 27.6 inches. On the B-777ER the seat width is 21 inches with a full stretch bed width of a comfortable 29.5 inches. The bed length has also increased to 75 inches (up from 71 inches) on the new Cathay Pacific business class seats.

Perhaps the most appealing thing about the new design is an end to the W configuration of the herringbone and the introduction of an M configuration that is almost the exact opposite. The single window seats angle modestly towards the window (offering a view this time) and with swivel tables. The LCD screen is vast. The centre two seats angle in gently towards each other, toes almost touching, offering passengers a chance to chat with each other while a screen can be employed to create private space. Also expect power supply, a USB and an iPod dock enabling playback through the personal TV.

Malaysia Airlines (www.malaysiaairlines.com) has gracefully bowed to the pressure of horizontal pleasures and added a business seat that reclines a full 180 degrees. That's flat. There are innumerable variations in position and lumbar support. Go ahead and play around. The seats are being introduced progressively on the B-747 and B-777 fleet, along with the “new average” 10.4-inch personal TV screen and a 50-inch seat pitch. On B777s the seat pitch could be as high as 75 inches while some B747s offer 58 inches of leg room. From July 2012 the first MAS A380 offers 64 seats in business, with a 2-2-2 configuration, a 75-inch seat pitch and a large 17-inch PTV.

Korean Air’s (www.koreanair.com) new A380 (June 2011) has an entire upper deck devoted to to on-the-go business travellers. In Prestige Class, the layout features 94 lie-flat beds with a spacious seat pitch of 74 inches and large privacy screens. Even the 301 economy seats have a roomy 36 inches between them. The aircraft has 407 seats including 12 first class Kosmo Suites. Routes from Seoul to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok are the first to greet the A380 with transpacific flights following. The carrier has ordered 10 aircraft with half to be delivered by the end of 2011 and the rest in 2014.

Korean Air’s B747-400 will also offer the fully reclining Prestige Sleepers along with Prestige Plus and Prestige Class seats. Prestige Plus is a bed-type seat that reclines 170 degrees and comes with adjustable privacy screens and personal TVs with 10.4-inch screens. Expect a little less tilt from the Prestige Class seats, which only recline 138 degrees but come with ergonomic headrests. Park on a seat that is 20.2-inches wide and stretch your legs out with a seat pitch of 50 inches. Personal TV screens are a little less generous at only 6.5-inches. The B777-300 also offers the Prestige Sleepers and Prestige Plus seats. Japan's All Nippon Airlines (ANA, www.ana.co.jp) has the distinction of operating the first B787 Dreamliners in Asia. The space age seats are wide, spacious, and look onto a wide screen PTV (more details as we receive them).

The Air India B787 Dreamliner has roomy high ceiling interiors with the overhead bins well away from tall heads. The large windows are welcoming of light though the blue UV sun blocker that shuts out light turning the glass a deep opaque blue, garners mixed reactions. You can darken or lighten the window at the press of a button.The 2-2-2 seating in business class is roomy enough with forward facing seats in tan with lots of legroom and large on-demand video LCD screens. Alas, the choices are somewhat limited.

THAI Airways offers a new business class seat

THAI Royal Silk Class

Qantas SkyBed

Qantas: roomy

Widest business class seats, Korean Air Prestige Class

Korean: Prestige Class

Jet Airways lie-flat business seats

Jet Airways

New Garuda business class seats

Garuda: new seats

Thai Airways (www.thaiair.com), which has searched for some years to find the right mix, has been making a strong comeback with its new A380-800s since September 2012 serving up a flat bed, 74 inch seat pitch and 20-inch cushion width. There is also a 15-inch personal LCD TV that can compete with the best in the sky. Business class is in shades of pink and grey with mood lights and, wonder of wonders, a 1-2-1 seat configuration that is private but not anti-social. The design of the seats is a bit stubby, lacking the moulded curves of some competitors, but everything you need is available, including the ability to talk with your neighbour on the centre seats, which are set in an alternating pattern of two together and then two apart. This makes excellent sense should you need to travel with a business partner or family. Expect an ottoman for your feet with stowage space underneath and pipe reading lights. The new business seats are in the upper deck with a nice option being the rear cabin seats, rows 25 to 27 where 12 seats are in a more private space. Bulkhead seats are on row 12 and 25, while row 24 is perhaps too close to the toilets.

The older version of the THAI business class product called, unsurprisingly, Royal Silk Class, has seats that recline, but not quite the whole hog, at 167 degrees. This was launched on the longhaul A340-500s plying the groundbreaking 17-hour Bangkok-New York nonstop route. The route was canned in July 2008 and the THAI Airbus A340-500 fleet was put to pasture. Retro-fitted B747-400 aircraft also offer generous 167-degree recline (old B747’s retain the 49” pitch and 133 degree recline). Personal entertainment options have started appearing with 10.4-inch screens and a choice of over 30 films and documentaries on all classes on younger and re-fitted aircraft.

{The new CX business class seats offer a robust rejoinder to the earlier feedback with very generous specifications along with some excellent service aloft
 

Hongkong Airlines, flying A300-200 and B737-800 aircraft, launched a revolutionary all-business service Hong Kong to London’s Gatwick 7 March, 2012 but scrapped the route by September 2012. The aircraft were fitted out with two classes – Club Premier, and Club Classic. Club Premier in the front of the fuselage served up fully flat beds in a 1-2-1 configuration with 6’1” inch of leg wiggle room. The Classic cabin had 82 cradle seats in a 2-2-2 configuration with 22 inches of bottom space and a 51” seat pitch.

Jaunty Indian newcomer Jet Airways (www.jetairways.com) offers a 180-degree fully flat bed onboard its B777-300ER aircraft as well as on the Airbus A330-200s. Jet Airways offers some of the widest business class seats in this survey at 23 inches, but newbie Jet needs to watch its back as a swathe of upgrades outdo 23” with widths of 27.5” on Vietnam Airlines, and vast acres of bottom space on SIA. There's a truckload of in-flight entertainment on a large touch screen and there's power for your laptop too. The Qantas (www.qantas.com.au) International Business Class Skybed is almost flat. It is a very accommodating six feet six inches in length and almost 24 inches wide when fully reclined, with a curving cocoon headboard that offers greater privacy. In fact several other airlines provide flat, but angled, beds. This means that while your body is flat, it is not horizontal. Your head will be positioned slightly higher than your feet. The A380 changes all that with a 180 degree flatbed, an extra 20 inches of leg room and a 12.2-inch personal TV screen. It’s onwards and upwards for the Aussie carrier.

Not to be outdone, Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.com) introduced Business Premier featuring "lie-flat" beds, 22-inch-wide leather chairs that open out into six-feet-seven-inches of stretch space when you decide to nod off, an Ottoman footrest that doubles as a visitor seat, in-seat power and a 12.1-inch screen (B777-300) for on-demand entertainment.

South African Airways (www.flysaa.com) provides an exceptional bed, roomy, spacious (using a traditional 2-2-2 seat layout on the A340-600). The pitch is a yawning 73 inches so there’s lots of leg room for a good stretch and a seat width of 21 inches will accommodate a reasonably successful upwardly mobile girth. SAA has won accolades for its seat not only for its lie-flat position, but also for the numerous sitting and recline variations that account for much of the flying time. The traditional seat layout is a definite plus. For one, you can talk with a companion aloft and need not be thrust into someone's smelly socks.

On British Airways (www.britishairways.com), seats are coupled, with passengers sitting next to, and diagonally facing, each other in twos. It's a private, but conversation-damping, arrangement. Separating the passengers was a flip-open fan that provided a stylish yet somewhat flimsy partition. This has been replaced in the new BA Club World with a more solid partition that covers the space at the press of a button. The new Club World business class seats recline 180-degrees flat – six feet in the fully flat position, and six feet six inches in the NASA-inspired "Z" position with the knees drawn up a wee bit. This, NASA, claims, is the most restful posture for recline. If it works in space, it should at 30,000ft. The new seats offer a few extra inches of elbow room as the armrest flattens out flush with the bed as the seat back drops down into the horizontal position. This opens up 25.25 inches of width. With a 2-4-2 seating configuration, only the centre two seats, twinned together, face the same way, forward. This is where romantics might park. Club World seats have been upgraded to offer in-air Internet access.

Expect touch-screen 12.1-inch LCD with movies on demand, a footrest (not an extra seat), a small drawer for personal effects and a Club Kitchen well stocked with fruit, juice and muffins to grab munches along the way. The 110 volt power socket will need a US adaptor for some. The Boeing 747s on the Hong Kong-London and Singapore-London routes are already largely equipped with the new product (reflected on our seat chart). The new Club World offers a cosy stand-alone cubbyhole sort of feel with firmer surrounds and more legroom though passengers using the centre two seats will need to step over their neighbour's outstretched feet to get to the aisle.

Widest business class seats on B787, ANA club

ANA B787 business

Lufthansa flat seat

Lufthansa A380 seats

Business class, Malaysia Airlines

MAS: more recline

 Virgin Atlantic leg room

Virgin Atlantic

SAS business class seat

SAS cool lines

On then to trendsetter Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com), which has come out with a revolutionary piece of club-class kit. The Upper Class Suite (as the new rig is termed) features single seats angled in from the windows and two in the middle forming a V-shaped herringbone. This is a 1-2-1 layout on B-747s but as seats are not really next to one another, each is an utterly private space unto itself. On A-340s the configuration is 1-1-1. On the plus side, each pod is a self-contained bedroom, working room, dining room and meeting room with a seriously draughty 79-82 inches of legroom – that’s 6.8 feet.

When the seat is upright, a guest can sit on the facing leg-rest with a fold out table in between. The guest "chair" has a seat back but can be a squeeze to slip into. Full marks for gadgetry though. There's room to stow your books and the laptop can be tossed under the footrest. The downside is you cannot actually look out of the window (as you are facing away with your back to the view), nor can you cosy up to a neighbour. These are stylish cubicles for singles who appreciate a chic open-plan office layout. Seats are 22 inches wide, claiming the edge on the average seat width on this business class seat survey. Whip out your laptop and get working. Yes, there's power.

China Southern (www.csair.com), one of the largest carriers on the Chinese mainland, has roomy A380s that offer primarily economy and first class. On A330 aircraft, the business class set-up introduced "cocoon-style flat-bed" seats. The new Premium Business Class seat features electronically adjusted footrest extensions, a lumbar massage function, a 10.4-inch LCD video screen, power plugs for laptops (no adaptor needed) and a roomy 58 inches of seat pitch. Air China (www.airchina.com) is overhauling business class on 16 of its A330-200 aircraft. Spacious new seats are 180-degree fully flat and feature a revamped entertainment system.

Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com) is something of a dark horse. It does not claim to dazzle you with technology but it certainly offers comfortable seats that stretch out almost flat though the recline is described by the airline at 180 degrees. Not to be outdone, Air Canada's (www.aircanada.com) ultra-longhaul A340-500s linking Toronto and Hongkong offer a 180-degree recline Executive First (cheeky misnomer for business class) bed with stowage compartments and lumbar support. There is video on demand on a 12-inch screen, and a seat pitch described as “individual” because it points into the aisle – although we’re certain that you can’t stick your feet into the aisle. The Air Canada A340-300s on the Vancouver-Hongkong run offer a still comfortable 151 degrees of recline.

With customary German efficiency, Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) presents exact figures for its PrivateBed: 57-59.8” pitch, 19.7-22” width and a 168-degree recline. On some B747s the middle seats are a couple of inches bigger – watch out for these to make sure you have the insider ticket and the last laugh on Lufthansa. Lufthansa flies spacious A380s as well with daily services linking Franfurt to Asian points like Tokyo, Beijing and Singapore. Both Air France (www.airfrance.com) and Finnair (www.finnair.com) have rolled out new business seat versions. The Air France B777 and Finnair A330 products offer a 180-degree recline with the Finnair A340 offering 168 degrees. The tall slender Finns on their way to Hongkong can enjoy a generous seat pitch of 62 inches, a slim-ish 20-inch width and a 15-inch screen (on the newer A330). There’s power and even e-mail/SMS capability – at US$2 a pop. Air France does one better with the introduction of its “full sleep” seats on newer B777-300s. With a seat width of 24 inches and stretch room of over 78 inches, awkwardly angled knees and elbows are a thing of the past. Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com) has rolled out its Blue Ribbon business class on select routes including Bangkok-Phnom Penh, Bangkok-Samui, Samui-Hong Kong and Samui-Singapore.

{The Singapore Airlines A380 hosts a 60-seat business class on the upper deck, with 34-inch wide seats that recline fully flat

Continental has merged with United Airlines (www.united.com) and now flies under United flight codes. Continental's Business First seats are now sold under the United Business brand. The livery transition to United continues over 2012 and 2013. They are a real contender in the front-of-the-bus sweepstakes with a satisfying 180 degrees on the B777-200. Not best known for its in-flight entertainment, the older former Continental aircraft offer an audio-visual on demand system with a 15.4-inch PTV. There's more. Since late 2009 the airline has been rolling out its new flatbed BusinessFirst seats in most of its Boeing 777 aircraft. The 180-degree seat recline creates two metres of horizontal sleeping space, plus the seat is a generous 27-inches wide – plenty of room for tossing and turning – with a seat pitch of 55 to 57 inches. Equally welcome is the now larger 15.4-inch PTV and on-demand entertainment system offering 250 movies, 3,000 songs and 25 interactive video games. Delta's (www.delta.com) newly acquired (January 2010) Northwest Airlines aircraft following the merger, with former World Business Class "cocoon" seats stretch out an extraordinary 201cm, with a six-way adjustable headrest, lumbar support (and massager) and 176 degrees of recline. This easily puts these aircraft at the top of the US airline heap. American Airlines (www.aa.com) B777-200s flying transpacific routes offer a seat pitch of up to 61 inches with generous recline and laptop power.

Emirates (www.emirates.com) offers "sleeperette" seats in a 2-3-2 configuration on A-330s and B-777s with lumbar support and electronically adjustable footrests. Seats are flat – and 78 inches when fully reclined – on the A380 and refurbished B777s, but even if there’s a little more rod to your back, there's sufficient distraction in the form of riotous in-flight entertainment. Seat pitch is a generous 88 inches. The B777 and A380 surge ahead in the inflight entertainment category with 17-inch personal television screens, still by far the largest in our business class survey. Most Emirates aircraft are kitted with external cameras offering up-close views of take-offs and scenery below en route.

Gulf Air (www.gulfair.com) is rolling out its refurbished A-330s with a new premium cabin designed to enhance travel comfort with “rich, deep-pile carpeting complemented by warm, Arabian colours”. The new seats stretch out into beds with sheets, duvets and pillows. An onboard changing room, done up “spa style”, with a window and timber flooring, gets guests into the mood. Later pore over a 10.4-inch PTV and enjoy some sumptuous menus.

Finnair club seats

Finnair club seats

Qatar business class

Qatar business class

Air China business class

Air China seats

Air France

Air France

Air New Zealand business class seat

Air New Zealand

Qatar Airways (www.qatarairways.com), an aggressive relative newcomer to the Far East, offer a generous 60-inch seat pitch with plenty of legroom though its seats are a modestly tighter 19.6 inches wide. Seats recline a comfortable 160 degrees and there's a large 15-inch PTV for video entertainment aloft.

And how do the Asian giants compare? The Singapore Airlines A380 business class seats offer an expansive 34 inches of bottom wiggle room while the Raffles Class SpaceBeds open up when the armrests are stowed, to a full 27 inches wide, more than any other seat surveyed (save for Virgin's bed which, when fully deployed, has up to 33-inch breadth in certain areas of the sleeping space, and Vietnam Airlines, which trumps SIA with 0.5 inches extra). Regional flights offer the Ultimo seat with a 142-degree recline and seat width of 21 inches. On SIA's new B777-300ER aircraft business class seats go up to a roomy 30 inches wide with a 180 degree recline. The layout here is 1-2-1 with a seat pitch of 51 inches. The bed length is 76 inches.

{Emirates offers sleeperette seats in a 2-3-2 configuration on A330s and B777s with added lumbar support - always a sound choice for those stopover trips
 

Thai Airways International offers a generous 167-degree recline on its A340-500, B777-200 and newer B747-400 series. Seat pitch on the jumbos is 49 inches and there's a personal TV – this could be a measly 6.5 inches or an excellent 10.5 inches depending on your B747 configuration. Newer A380s will up the ante considerably. The older B747 version also has no power for laptops so, if craving technology, make sure your aircraft is a configuration two jumbo. Seat pitch on the B777-300 is 61 inches (on the B777-300ER it's 49 inches but with a wider 23-inch seat that flips down fully flat). The aircraft features a large 15-inch PTV, telephone and PC port. THAI’s business class overhaul has seen a 170 degree recline become the norm with around 20 inches more legroom than older models and vast improvements in onboard technology.

Japan Air Lines (www.jal.com) offers a staggering 60 possible configurations in its JAL Executive Class – Seasons. The greatest recline and pitch is on intercontinental flights that offer "Shell Flat Seats" as on the B747-400 and B-777s. Fly on a Malaysia Airlines A330-200 and business travellers will be treated to a substantial 62-inch seat pitch. That's a fair bit of legroom. Royal Brunei's (www.bruneiair.com) retrofitted B-767s servicing routes to Australia, New Zealand, Europe and some Asian destinations provide a modest 57-inch recline.

In April 2006, Finnair became the first airline in Nordic countries to offer lie-flat seats in long-haul Business Class. Finnair A330 aircraft offer the 180-degree beds, while the A340 goes almost all the way at 168 degrees. The A330 business seat has a 15-inch PTV, power port and access to email aloft. Send email and SMS for US$2. Seat pitch is 63". The Scandinavian Airlines (www.flysas.com) Business Sleeper seats on the A340 business class recline 170 degrees now in a comfortable 2-2-2 configuration with a 61-inch seat pitch. The SAS business class seats offer a 20-inch width between armrests, 6.1 feet of stretch when extended, and a 10.4-inch video screen.

Etihad’s (www.etihadairways.com) new Pearl Business seat reclines the full 180 degrees and has a generous seat pitch of 72 inches. There is power access, USB port and an RCA socket for you to connect your laptop and work the hours away. Or if you’d rather space-out to some mindless entertainment, enjoy the Plug-and-Play feature, which works as an IP TV, to view your own videos on the 15-inch screen.

A personal TV is available on most airlines but don't take it for granted. The largest 17-inch monitor can be found on Emirates, while Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Qatar, THAI, JAL, Korean Air, PAL, and United Airlines all serve up 15-15.4 inches of screen space. Making a valiant effort with 12 inches are Air Canada, Air New Zealand and Qantas. The average size on most airlines is now a generous 10.4-10.6 inches of PTV screen. Anyone falling below this should have their knuckles rapped. AVOD or video on demand is also becoming the industry standard, which means you can time the Hollywood gore pre-meal and finish with a glass of port. On SIA's SpaceBed, unwind with a choice of over 40 KrisWorld movies and features, and 50 games. Or play a networked PC game with a friend sitting on another seat. On some Finnair flights DVD players are available for in-seat viewing. We can't think of a better way to hone those executive skills. Malaysia Airlines' new business class also features a dramatically expanded inflight entertainment selection with over 200 music CDs and 40 movies available on demand.

The idea of connectivity while flying is not novel and has probably been around since Charles Lindbergh discovered on 20 May, 1927 that he had taken off for Paris with just four sandwiches. Connexion by Boeing pioneered the onboard concept in 2005 but the initiative – trialled by Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Korean Air and others – petered out within a year. Other such ventures soon flopped. Cathay Pacific's NETVIGATOR inflight e-mail experiment shut down 1 June 2006 but stirrings are afoot in the new business class product that arrived early 2011.

In the first half of 2012, Singapore Airlines, is teaming up with inflight connectivity alchemist OnAir, and will start streaming in WiFi Internet with e-mail and texting facilities for smartphones and the BlackBerry (but not voice telephony initially). The service is phasing in on 43 aircraft – the A380 behemoth, A340-500s and the B777-300ERs. Travellers pay their own service providers for international roaming while SIA levies a charge for Internet use. This is nothing short of revolutionary. Spamming the boss comes at a price, so check the rates carefully. By 2012, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair expect to introduce a "Panasonic Avionics Global Communications Suite" that will provide Broadband connectivity to all aboard. Talk, text, play games or knock out your teeth with a hot iron as an alternative to chatting with your eager office accountant. All this through a Cathay portal. Passengers could ring up a few dollars on live TV too. Emirates, ahead of the curve, has already rolled out WiFi on some of its A380s with the rest to be wired soon. Not only that, but on several Emirates flights a day passengers can use their cellphones to text and make calls. Hongkong Airlines has also announced plans for on-board WiFi in its new all business class flights to London (from 7 March,2012).

And darting through the electronic static is low cost gadfly AirAsia, albeit with a limited footprint. It has teamed up with Malaysia-based Maxis and OnAir to trial full service smartphone access on a few aircraft for Maxis subscribers who can e-mail, text, and access the Internet (through GPRS) at their normal roaming rates. This facility is a serious blow on the chin at around US$3.50 per minute.

Qantas International Business Class SkyBeds come with telephones capable of sending and receiving inflight short messages (SMS), a handy facility if all you really need is to make contact and plan arrangements for your appointments on arrival. On Emirates, send or receive SMS at US$1 per item. Even Aeroflot (www.aeroflot.ru) the Russian behemoth is in on the act with a rebranded image and new business class featuring a la carte menus, food served on fine china and inflight crew undergoing rigorous training in service and hospitality. On its Hong Kong run the airline is code-sharing with Cathay Pacific. The new image features a silver fuselage with an orange stripe and a dark blue tail with the Russian flag.

What are you waiting for? Get online and key in www.SmartTravelAsia.com – At least we're free.

Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor

▲ top

NOTE: Telephone and fax numbers, e-mails, website addresses, rates and other details may change or get dated. Please check with your dealer/agent/service-provider or directly with the parties concerned. SmartTravel Asia accepts no responsibility for any inadvertent inaccuracies in this article. Links to websites are provided for the viewer's convenience. SmartTravel Asia accepts no responsibility for content on linked websites or any viruses or malicious programs that may reside therein. Linked website content is neither vetted nor endorsed by SmartTravelAsia. Please read our Terms & Conditions.