The best business-class perks that airlines offer today

From Michelin stars to carry-on falcons

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Man sitting with falcon in business class airplane seat

Etihad Airways Diamond Class passengers can bring up to two falcons into the cabin with them (Photoillustration depicts Cathay Pacific cabin/falcon via iStock)

What would it take to convince you to upgrade your next flight to business class? That’s exactly what international carriers are asking themselves as they race to fill up the pointy ends of their planes faster than their competitors. Even as many businesses look to shrink their travel budgets, the top 20% of an airline’s customers can still account for as much as 70% of its revenue. “Business travellers are a key target for loyalty,” says Toby Smith, Cathay Pacific’s general manager of product. “And it’s for the very obvious reason that the yields in the business cabin are much higher than in economy.” Which of the following first class upgrades would entice you?

Noodle bars and tapas

Cathay Pacific is frequently lauded as one of the most thoughtful products in the sky, known for its ubiquitous orchids and generous seat-beds. But what about the experience on the ground? In Hong Kong, Cathay’s chic lounge includes a juice bar, a noodle bar, a “long bar” serving cocktails, and tapas, and freshly baked pizzas.

Virgin brings the party

Most airlines shoot for better ways to help you snooze. Virgin wants to keep you awake. From the snooker table in Heathrow’s “Clubhouse” lounge to the Swarovski-studded inflight bar (black truffle martini, anyone?), flying Virgin’s “Upper Class” doesn’t scream, “I have an early meeting tomorrow.” Not when the inflight entertainment commences with a button that says “Touch me.”

Segregated seating

If your goal is to avoid the riff-raff at the back of the plane, then Qatar is your airline. In Doha, an entirely segregated terminal allows premium passengers unload their luggage, have a pastrami sandwich from the deli, or simply simmer in the Jacuzzi. All while kids are quietly cordoned off in a seemingly soundproof area.

Bring your scariest pet

While dining on Etihad Airways, you can expect all kinds of signature Emirati touches: tiny plate of Arabic mezze, spiced lamb ouzi and rosewater rice pudding. The menu was developed in partnership with one of Abu Dhabi’s many palaces. The fusion of regional preferences and global audience does have some surprising results: not only does Etihad admit guide dogs in the cabin, customers of the airline’s Diamond class are permitted to fly with up to two falcons. (Want more? Buy another seat.)

Ham, ham and more ham

Finally, Spain’s Iberia Airlines touts an “eight-star Michelin menu,” designed by four double-Michelin-star chefs (Paco Roncero, Toño Pérez, Dani García and Ramón Freixa). Dishes include duck with Porto wine sauce, pork cheeks with croutons and broiled sea bass with eggplant. They also honour Spain’s “all ham, all the time” attitude with on-demand cured jamón ibérico. Sold.


Business class’s best loot bags

United BusinessFirst collectible tin

United

They won’t last long, but customers of United BusinessFirst and GlobalFirst get a pretty nifty collectible tin filled with toiletries that remind us of the Golden Age of air travel.


Turkish Airlines

Yes it’s shameless name-dropping, but we’ll still keep the Porsche Design hard-shelled case filled with Acca Kappa products.

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business-class-perks-qantas

Qantas

The Aussie airline’s sleep service comes with a down duvet and Skybed—and a Kate Spade tote filled with Malin + Goetz toiletries.

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