W hen booking business class you should do some research beforehand to find out more about the product you'll be flying. Here are a few tips on maximising the business class flight experience...
1. Know Your Seat - These days, business class seats can come in various forms, sizes and configurations. From fully lie-flat seats, angled lie-flat, cradle (older-style business class) seats right down to normal "economy" seats with extra legroom.
Fully lie-flat seats are offered from the likes of British Airways (Club World), Virgin Atlantic (Upper Class) and Etihad (Pearl Business) throughout their long-haul fleets. Be aware that many other airlines have different business class seating which depends on routes and aircraft - so always do your homework. Air France, for instance, has angled flat seats in its business class cabin and only offers full lie-flat in first class.
For example, say you happen to be flying business class with Singapore Airlines from London to Sydney via Singapore. On the London to Singapore leg you will experience SQ's full flat bed product (1-2-1 config, 76" pitch, 35" width - one of the widest seats of any airline, pictured here) on its Airbus A380 or Boeing 777-300ER. All well and good.
However when you get on the Singapore-Sydney sector (3,900 miles) you could find yourself on a Boeing 777-200 with the older cradle style seating in business class (2-3-2 regional config with 51" pitch, 20" width) which could be a disappointment to some. (Tip: On that sector be sure to choose the A380 or 777-300ER option to maintain the flat bed).
Other airlines which utilise different business class seat products across their fleets are Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Emirates and Qatar Airways.
In addition, some travellers may like / dislike certain types of business class seating - such as backward facing seats (half of BA's Club World) or "herringbone" arrangements (Virgin, Air New Zealand, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways).
2. Seat Assignment - Once you choose which aircraft you are flying on then check the seating configuration map in detail to decide which are your preferred best seats. Some airlines allow you to assign your seat at time of booking - Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand can offer this free of charge, whilst British Airways charges £60 for an advanced Club World seat assignment (free for BA Gold members).
Alternatively wait for online check-in - where you can choose a seat for free - but do so as early as possible to get the widest possible seat availability.
3. Limousine Transfers - A small number of airlines offer business class ticket holders a free limousine transfer at both ends - you will need to book the cars in advance.
Etihad - Pearl business class travellers get a door-to-door complimentary chauffeur service. Ranges include 100 miles from London Heathrow and Manchester, 60 miles from New York JFK, 50km from Sydney airport and anywhere in UAE from Abu Dhabi. Emirates - Chauffeur drive service available for business class passengers at selected airports. London LHR / New York JFK (60 miles), Sydney (40km), Dubai (all of UAE).
Virgin Atlantic - offers a free chauffeur driven car service for Upper Class fares in booking classes J, D or R at many airports. From London and New York airports the cars will go up to 75 miles, from LA or San Francisco to anywhere in California and 60km from Sydney airport. Arik Air - Offers a chauffeur driven car for ex-UK business class passengers flying from London to Lagos with a 50 mile (80km) radius around Heathrow.
4. Arriving at the Airport - Business class passengers can use dedicated business check-in desks which should keep waiting time to a minimum. Many airports also have a fast-track security lane for premium passengers.
5. Lounges and Spas - An airline's best lounges tend to be at it home airport(s) and at its major hubs. The following airlines offer free spa treatments to business class passengers:
British Airways lounges at London Heathrow (T3 & T5) and JFK T7 have Elemis Travel Spas - which offer Club World passengers complimentary 15 minute treatments - bookable on arrival at the lounge, subject to availability. Virgin Atlantic's Clubhouses at both London Gatwick and Heathrow offer free spa and hair treatments for Upper Class passengers.
Etihad's Pearl Business Class lounge at Abu Dhabi offers 15 minute treatments at its Six Senses Spa.
Note, some airlines (eg - Air France, Thai, Qantas) offer complimentary spas only to first class passengers; other first class lounges can include day rooms/cabanas.
If using an airline lounge spa facility do arrive early to allow enough time. Keep an eye on the flight screen so that you don't miss your boarding call!
6. Boarding - Most airlines have priority boarding for premium passengers - so board at your leisure.
7. The Flight - Once on board, familiarise yourself with the seat adjustment controls and entertainment screen.
If flying with a major airline you can expect a pretty decent level of service - though try not to overindulge in rich foods, caffeine and alcohol!
8. Arrival - Many top airlines offer arrival lounges (particularly at their home airports) where you can freshen up, take a shower and / or eat a light snack before leaving the airport. For example, London Heathrow has the following arrivals lounges: British Airways Galleries, American Airlines, Air Canada Maple Leaf, Virgin Atlantic.