Having previously looked at long haul business classes, I decided to look at something a little closer to home. European business class is widely regarded as nothing overly special.
Seating wise, the standard is economy seating with the middle seat left free for comfort. Unless you can grab a flight on one of the few routes operated by long haul aircraft.
Where European business class generally has the edge over premium cabins in North America is the onboard catering. Even on the shorter sectors, you will get some form of meal. In my experience, you’ll just have a snack basket and drinks selection on anything under 2 hours in North America. Another added perk in Europe is that you’ll get lounge access. On the whole, you don’t get that in the USA. There are a few exceptions, but in general you have to be on an international itinerary.
Asia is a different matter completely. You get lounge access, decent food and decent seats there. However, flights are generally longer in that region. The standard is around 3 hours. In Europe, 3 hours is about the limit for a short haul flight.
It should be noted that every flight below was taken in a pre Covid world. Therefore things are likely to be very different now.
Turkish Airlines Business Class
Last Flown: February 2019
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 series, Boeing 737 series, Airbus A330, Boeing 777-300ER.
My Thoughts: One of just a few airlines that offer a bespoke business class seat on their European flights. This isn’t dedicated to their wide body flights either. Even their Airbus A320 series aircraft feature seats which resemble the sort of thing you would find in the USA. In my experience, the catering on flights from Istanbul is a little better than what you’ll find inbound. Whilst we’re on the subject of catering, on the few occasions I’ve flown them, the options don’t appear to have changed an awful lot. In fact, even from looking on their website, it only lists around a dozen different options that are rotated on a monthly basis.
Aegean Business Class
Last Flown: March 2020
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 series.
My Thoughts: All three times I’ve flown with Aegean, it’s been at the front of the plane. The most recent occasion was one of the last flights I took in fact. This was on their new Airbus A320neo aircraft. Whilst the seats themselves on their new aircraft look great, from what I could see, the legroom was a little reduced from their older aircraft. Having said that, it was still more generous than what is found on many other airlines. Catering wise, you definitely won’t go hungry on Aegean. After every flight I walked off the plane not being able to eat another bite, which is a rarity! The starter was almost as big as the main on most other airlines.
Finnair Business Class
Last Flown: May 2018
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 series, Embraer E190, Airbus A350, Airbus A330
My Thoughts: I’ve only experienced Finnair Business Class the once. That was on the A350 between London Heathrow and Helsinki. Whilst the seat was a long haul set up on that occasion, I’ve been on plenty of short haul flights operated by the airline to try out the short haul seat. As mentioned above, like many European airlines, Finnair offer the standard economy seating up front on their short haul fleet. Service wise, it won’t make any difference which aircraft you’re on however. And what I did have on that flight was very tasty. And well presented. I was tempted to take advantage of an upgrade offer when I flew between Stockholm and Helsinki in late 2019, but on a 45 minute flight, I figured it probably wouldn’t be worth it. Especially as I wouldn’t have been awarded any extra miles.
British Airways Club Europe
Last Flown: February 2020
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 series, Boeing 777 series, Airbus A350.
My most flown European Business Class. Whilst it has had its fair share of criticism over the years, my own personal opinion is that its been somewhat unfair. The economy seating with the middle blocked? That’s standard across Europe. Poor catering choices? At least you do get a choice. Whilst there are better options out there, there are also worse. Admittedly if I can’t nab a seat in row 1, I feel a little hard down by – seats in row 2 backwards are a little on the tight side when it comes to legroom.
Lufthansa Business Class
Last Flown: March 2020
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 series
My Thoughts: I’ve flown Lufthansa Business Class a few times, and on every occasion I’ve come away feeling a little disappointed. For a 5 star airline, the service has always been a little average. Not bad as such… just not quite 5 star that they are so keen to shout about. Catering wise you generally have two choices – take it or leave it. More often than not, you don’t really know what it actually is you’re eating either. When using the lounges at the airport, you’ll find a mostly consistent experience. I could show you a picture of the lounge in London, tell you it was the one in Frankfurt and you’d likely believe me. Which can be seen as a good thing, as you’ll know exactly what you’re getting no matter where in the world you are.
Swiss Business Class
Last Flown: August 2017
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 series, Airbus A220 series
My Thoughts: Owned by the Lufthansa group, the seats on board Swiss are identical to what’s found onboard their parents aircraft. Intended as Lufthansa’s boutique airline, things are a little different onboard Swiss. But you’ll still only be given the one choice of meal on board. And much like on Lufthansa, you don’t always know what you’re getting either. Where Swiss does score highly however is their lounges. All of their lounges in both Geneva and Zurich have been refurbished in the past couple of years. In Zurich, you’ll get fresh cooked hot food in both the main terminal and the satellite. In Geneva there is a buffet with some tasty options too. The choices are rotated regularly too. Whilst not a frequent visitor to them, I’m yet to see the same meal twice.
KLM Business Class
Last Flown: March 2016
Aircraft Types: Boeing 737 series
My Thoughts: Having only flown KLM European Business Class the once, it’s a little hard to provide a comprehensive review. What I do remember from that flight however is that I wasn’t overly impressed. On a reasonably long sector between Amsterdam and Rome, there was just the one meal option, which was a small salad. This was back in 2016, so things may have changed by now. Maybe I’ll give them another shot at some point…
Austrian Business Class
Last Flown: March 2020
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 Series
My Thoughts: Having not flown Austrian European Business Class, I managed three flights on one trip in March 2020. What I found was a very good set up. Again, being part of the Lufthansa group the seating was identical to what’s found on board Lufthansa and Swiss. Out of the three though, the catering was far superior on Austrian. Much like the rest of the group, there was only the one choice. However it was of very high quality. Although of the three flights I took, I had the exact same meal on two of the flights. Whether this was sheer coincidence or there is a genuine lack of options though, I couldn’t say. I suspect its the former.
Last Flown: January 2020
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 series, Airbus A340-600, Airbus A350
My Thoughts: I’ve flown Iberia European Business Class many times. More often than not, it’s been between London and Madrid on their daily wide body flight. Although I have taken a number of flights with them on other routes out of Madrid too. I think the best way to describe the experience is British Airways Club Europe Lite. It’s a very similar experience with the catering, but maybe not quite as refined. On the longer sectors, you’ll get a choice of meal, along with menus. Although I’ve often found the presentation lacking a little, especially compared to their IAG partner. It’s not a bad experience however. Especially if you can get a flight on the Airbus A340 or A350. If you fly on the Airbus A320, the seating is identical to what’s found on British Airways short haul fleet.
Last Flown: June 2017
Aircraft Types: Airbus A320 series, Boeing 737 series
My Thoughts: Should SAS Plus be included here? Technically, it’s not a Business Class product. It’s premium economy. However, you get many of the benefits of a European Business Class. Lounge access and free onboard catering are the notable two perks. However, unlike every other European Business Class, you don’t get a free middle seat. Having taken a few flights in SAS Plus, mostly around Scandinavia, it’s been an ok experience. On the more regional flights, you don’t get a dedicated meal – just a choice from the buy on board menu for free. Which has been fine on the shorter sectors.