flying business class

Flying business class – what it is really like

On my most recent trip overseas I was lucky enough to be upgraded to Business Class on Turkish Airlines. This was mainly to do with finally reaching Elite status on their Miles&Smiles frequent flyer programme (I explain how that works in this blog post, if you’re curious). It isn’t the first time I’ve flown business class. A few years back I attended the Mobile World Congress and on my trip back was bumped to business class on KLM. The experience was much the same. However, this tweet popped into my timeline recently:

I suppose there is a morbid curiosity that we all have regarding business class – because for most of us we just don’t have the major cash to drop on the exorbitant ticket price.

So what is business class really like?

I was bumped to business class for a 3 hour flight from Istanbul, Turkey to Kiev, Ukraine. Not very long but enough to get a feel for the business class offering. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve also done long distance with KLM in business – but as that was more than 3 years ago I’m focusing this post around my most recent trip.

Lounge access

turkish airlines business class lounge

Before you get on the flight there are certain business class perks. Similar perks that you get when you hit higher status on frequent flyer programmes. Basically you get faster check in and access to the business class lounge. Lounge access, if you fly long haul, is like a gift from the Gods. For starters there are far comfier chairs than the plastic monstrosities you’re usually subjected to. You have a selection of couches and comfortable seating areas. The food is also free. In the case of the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul airport you’re basically walking into a buffet of whatever your heart desires. There are sushi chefs, breakfast treats, snacks and plates of yummy Turkish delight everywhere. You’re also able to help yourself to drinks – alcoholic, fizzy, fruit, hot or water. Whatever you want you’ll find it there. I’ve also used the SAA lounge at OR Tambo and it is equally awesome.

There are work stations, plug points and most importantly, gloriously clean and spacious bathrooms. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, worse than airport toilets. Lounge toilets are saviours wrapped in fake flowers, complementary hand cream and showers. They’re clean, roomy and don’t smell like day old sewerage. There are also little tables and spaces to put your amenities down and freshen up properly. Honestly, lounge toilets are the one thing that I think has spoilt me for “economy” flying.

Getting on the plane

turkish airlines

Yes, you get to board first, nice enough. But when you turn left versus right you’re immediately greeted with the joys of business class: less passengers and MORE SPACE. There is no jostle for overhead luggage storage or having someone’s hand graze your bottom as you squeeze past to your seat. The aisle is wider and the seats more spacious. Once you’ve settled in you’re enveloped in a little pod that has two, yes TWO, arm rests and enough space that you won’t bug your fellow passengers. You’re also almost immediately greeted by a flight attendant offering you a warm towel and a drink of your choice before take off. So while economy class pushes and shoves in, you sit sipping champagne or orange juice or… whatever you want, while you wait for take off. The flight attendants will also offer to take your coat and hang it up for you during the flight.

Leg room

leg room

I’ve spoken about arm rests and comfy seats – but the perks of business class space don’t stop there. You have miles of leg room and space to store the stuff you want for the flight (in my case that is a Kindle, phone, charging cable and earphones). They also supply you with a headset that isn’t the cheap plastic uncomfortable one you usually get in Economy. The seats also allow you to have an adjustable leg rest and turn them into a mini bed if needed. Yes, you can transform your seat into a bed. You’ll also get a duvet as opposed to those flimsy blankets.


flying business class

I remember KLM being similar with regards to food so I figure it is worthwhile bringing it up. I was on a 3 hour morning flight. The picture above was just the FIRST COURSE for breakfast. It was followed up with a cooked meal. Twice, during breakfast, I was offered fresh baked goods which included bagels, croissants and muffins. There was so much food. From a taste perspective, I’ve always found Turkish Airlines food pretty decent when compared to other airlines. The business class offering was good and interestingly not too different from what would usually be available in economy. Proper crockery and cutlery versus plastic pots (you get metal knives and forks in economy on Turkish as well) is nice, as is having something as silly as a salt and pepper shaker. There is just so much. It’s like the airlines try ensure you get your ticket price in food. While I get that you’re paying a lot for it, there was a huge amount of wastage when it was time to clear up trays. We were given Macadamia nuts at take off and offered cognac before landing. Little perks.

Better bathrooms

bathroom selfie

Let’s define better. Airplane bathrooms are horrible. Worse than airport bathrooms. Are business class toilets better? Well no. It’s kind of the same gross experience only now less people have been in there so you’re not wading through liquid on the floor (which I constantly tell myself is NOT urine, to try make myself feel better). Less passengers using the toilets and flight attendants double checking them (because the pilots use the business class bathrooms) means they stay cleaner. So they’re somewhat nicer. But not by much. And yes, I took a bathroom selfie for you. Let’s all LOL together.

The problem with business class…

panoramic view

Here’s the biggest problem with business class: It is really hard to justify the cost of those tickets for the perks. BUT, once you’ve flown business class and experienced them it is very hard to go back to economy. The flight attendants are nicer to you. There’s less people to deal with. You feel way more comfortable. But you also pay a premium for it. So unless you’re being gifted a free upgrade or travel regularly and need to land fresh and rested – it does seem like far too much to pay.

The problem with flying business class as an exception and not a rule does mean your next economy flight seems much more of a struggle. Suck it up. Or at least… that is what I told myself to do.

Have any questions about something above or business class? Drop them in the comments and I’ll try answer them 🙂

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