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Business Class Gets Better: Seat Upgrades for Airlines Worldwide

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Airlines across the world are focused on attracting premium-class travelers to boost their bottom line. So how do you to lure in the $10,000 travelers? It’s all about premium seats and services. Phil Baker reviews their offerings to see which services are worth the price tag.

One of the highlights at the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) show just held in San Diego was the focus on the new business class seats. Why business? Because as the economy is recovering, companies and individuals will spend over $1 trillion on business trips this year, the most ever and rising in the years ahead, according to the GBTA.

I tried out the new business-class seats from Delta, ANA, JAL, and Turkish Air. Each has their own design approach, but all provided a flat bed and comfortable blanket for those long transoceanic trips, along with power outlets, a reading light, a folding food tray, and an entertainment system.

All of the different seat designs share many of the same goals of providing a long bed that moves from an upright to an incline to a bed with the push of a button, but there’s lots of flexibility in execution and design.

Overall, I’d jump into any of these beds in a moment’s notice. They put the traditional business class and even first-class seats that we’ve seen on many domestic carriers to shame. For years domestic airlines have stuck with more foot room for its oversized seats that barely recline at all and called it First Class. That won’t work any more.

Turkish Airlines

A couple of the offerings stood out. Turkish Airlines that flies from LAX and SFO to Istanbul had one of the nicest, most accommodating business class seats on their brand new B777-300 and A330-300 aircrafts. Its striking red and dark blue décor seat opened up to 6 foot 2 inches long bed, one of the longest I saw–with none of the bed tucked under the back of the seat in front of you, that some airlines do to save space, but make the seat more confining. The seats are open unlike some airlines pod-like cocoons. That makes it more suitable if two are traveling together, although there’s still a privacy screen that you can slide up. I also liked the meal table that can rotate to let you out of the seat, even when the table is in use. All the seats face forward and everyone has aisle access.


JAL, the carrier with service now between San Diego and Tokyo, had a seat more reminiscent of its Japanese heritage. It had a soft, subdued design in shades of beige. It offered the full-size bed, but had the largest display of all, a 27-inch HDTV at every seat. Its image quality was superb, although I told the representative that I needed to try it from the air to accurately judge. (No reply to that request).


I also tried ANA, the other Japanese airline that now flies daily between Silicon Valley and Tokyo, but it seemed more compact. In fact, it reminded me of a very clever version of a Japanese businessman’s hotel with no wasted space, but also a little more utilitarian.


In addition to an upgraded lie-flat seat with bedding from Westin, Delta offered a phone-like device that you can use to select and order your second meal to be served at your choice of time. No need for a set service or menu. Just like ordering from room service. Delta also told me they’re beginning to outfit their planes with Wi-Fi that works over the ocean, using a satellite-based system.

So if you have to fly coach, close your eyes when you board through the business cabin and say to yourself I’m saving $400 an hour by enduring a coach seat

For more business class perks, check out:

By Phil Baker for Phil Baker has more than three decades of experience in consumer and computer technology product development and program management. Check out his blog at