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Many travelers often wonder what the difference is between First Class and Business Class on long-haul, international routes. First Class can sometimes cost way more than Business and some wonder whether buying or redeeming for a ticket is worth it in the highest cabin. The biggest difference you will find is that First Class features a more private cabin with a larger suite and elevated dining and service – however many airlines have introduced phenomenal Business cabins with First Class service, and therefore it is always important to do your research before you book your flight.

First Class vs. Business Class Check-in Benefits

  • First Class and Business Class have different, dedicated check-in desks
    • there is often more Business desks
    • First Class check-in is often shared with the airline’s top-tier elites
    • Business check-in is often shared with the airline’s mid-tier elites
  • First Class allows you to check in more bags for free
    • usually 3 free bags + any elite bonus bags
    • Business usually allows 2 free bags + elite bags
  • First Class passengers may receive an additional, special Priority luggage tag, which is different from the standard Priority tag for Business passengers and elite members
  • Passengers in First Class may be walked personally by an agent all the way from the check-in desk to the lounge, without any queues
  • Both First and Business guests receive priority security and in some places, priority immigration

First Class vs. Business Class Lounge Access

  • Business guests receive lounge access to Business lounges
  • Elite members are usually sent to Business lounges
  • First Class guests receive access to First Class Lounges, which can often feature way more amenities like…
    • a more extensive dining section, with restaurant-style dining as well as a buffet
    • sleeping rooms
    • spa services
    • dedicated attendant
    • special services

Priority Boarding

  • First Class guests are invited to board first alongside of top-tier elites
    • some airlines will drive you to the aircraft from the lounge in a fancy car (outside) or in a club car (inside)
  • Business guests are invited to board after First Class alongside of mid-tier elites
  • sometimes First Class guests are the first to board, ahead of everyone, including children, elders, etc.

First vs. Business In-Flight Experience

  • the biggest difference between First and Business is in the air
  • the First Class cabin often has between 4 and 12 suites, depending on the airline
    • most suites are fully enclosed and offer maximum privacy
    • a First Class suite/seat is more spacious than a Business seat
    • the cabin features less passengers and therefore a more elevated and private experience
    • First Class may often not be full, whereas Business is more popular and accessible
  • the Business cabin often has between 30 – 50 seats
    • some Business cabins are similar to First Class, on top airlines
    • the best airlines feature both First and Business in a 1-2-1 configuration
  • the First Class cabin features dedicated flight attendants
  • the menu for both food and drinks is more extensive in First Class
    • high quality food items like caviar are often available in First Class
    • there is usually more food choices in First Class
    • elevated beverages in First Class often include expensive champagne and premium wine
  • First Class passengers often receive many other amenities that Business guests do not, like…
    • pyjamas
    • slippers
    • turn-down service
    • a higher quality amenity kit
    • special items
  • Business Class usually features 2 meals – after departure and pre-arrival, with packaged snacks available in between meals
    • First Class features the same amount of meals on most flights, however the snacks between meals are more substantial and perhaps include hot food items which are miles better than in Business

Arrival Process

  • First Class guests often deplane first
  • some airlines have their agents guide First Class guests all the way from the aircraft to the car, upon arrival
  • First Class baggage is usually the first on the belt and in some cases, already removed and waiting in a dedicated area
  • expedited immigration facilities may be available to both Business and First Class guests

All in All

The biggest difference you will find between First Class and Business will be in the air – a more spacious and private suite awaits you in First Class, with elevated dining options and dedicated service. First Class often costs way more than Business, while Business prices have come down significantly in recent years – making the cabin more affordable to many, which is why it books up fully on some flights. Both cabins usually feature a lie-flat seat and priority airport services along with lounge access and premium service.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.