Tips on plane travel: Where the best seats in business class are

The business class section of an Emirates Airbus A380.
Getty Images

The business class section of an Emirates Airbus A380.

It's all sweetness and light when your boarding pass says "business class", right? At least on a long-haul international flight.

But not all business classes are created equal. If you want to make your business class flight as good as it can possibly be, choosing a top-flight airline is a no-brainer. However, aircraft type and seat choice also feed into the mix.

For example, aboard the triple-class A380 that Emirates operates, 7A could be the sweet spot – or not.

Singapore Airlines business class cabin on an A350 aircraft.

Singapore Airlines business class cabin on an A350 aircraft.

At the front of the main business class cabin on the upper deck, this seat has even more footwell space than most in business class, since there's no seat in front. This seat also has a wider aisle beside it and the only traffic will come from the galley in front.

Read more:
Flying business class is cheaper than ever
What it's like to fly business class for the first time
World's smallest business class cabin?

 
Glossy wood decorates a bathroom in the business class section of an Emirates Airbus A380.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Glossy wood decorates a bathroom in the business class section of an Emirates Airbus A380.

Seat 7K opposite is a possible hot contender but there's a toilet in front of it, and thus more commotion. However, both seats in row seven involve a gamble.

The bulkhead seats in the row in front, 6D and 6G, come with a bassinet fitting. Score an unruly infant and you could wish you were elsewhere, and for that reason alone I'd be looking further back in the cabin.

Behind the main business cabin on the upper deck of this Emirates A380 is a smaller business-class cabin with just five rows, numbered 22 to 26. Seats 22D and 22G at the front have more leg room and this is a low traffic zone.

The A380 is prized for its quiet, smooth ride, roomy cabin and separate business-class deck.
Etihad

The A380 is prized for its quiet, smooth ride, roomy cabin and separate business-class deck.

There are bassinet fittings on the bulkhead in front but for a couple, this would be a premier position. This mini cabin could also be a good choice if you're looking to socialise since the bar is right behind, but seats in row 26 might be a little too close to the drinks for comfort if you're looking for a quiet flight.

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Aircraft type matters, and the A380 is the aircraft of choice for long-distance business flyers, prized for its quiet, smooth ride, roomy cabin and separate business-class deck. Upper deck window seats on the A380 come with extra storage thanks to the big side bins. New aircraft are more likely to have the latest seats and inflight entertainment systems, which puts the Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the winner's circle.

Although different airlines might operate the same aircraft type, there is no guarantee their seat arrangement is going to be the same.

If you're flying trans-Tasman in business with Air NZ, the 777-300 is the aircraft of choice.

If you're flying trans-Tasman in business with Air NZ, the 777-300 is the aircraft of choice.

Business-class seats aboard Emirates 777-300ER aircraft have a 2-3-2 configuration which frankly feels squishy, and climbing over the next passenger from the middle seat is less than stellar. The same aircraft operated by Cathay Pacific is a roomy 1-2-1 herringbone set-up, as is Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300. If you're flying trans-Tasman in business with Air NZ, this is the aircraft of choice.

Most frequent flyers agree that the herringbone seating configuration is the ace in the pack since it gives every seat direct aisle access without having to clamber over feet, and the away-facing seats offer greater privacy to those seated side by side. On a long haul, anything less than a lie-flat business seat doesn't make the cut.

Angled-flat seats, which have a slight tilt in full recline, tend to slide the sleeping occupant toward the footrest. Seats close to toilets or galleys can be bothersome, and on some aircraft there are two business seats at the back of the cabin without a window. Rear-facing business-class seating, featured on some American Airlines retrofitted 777-200s and even on AA's new 787-8 Dreamliners and also on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that British Airways operates to Australia, have few fans.

Which airline delivers the best business class?

These are the winners in the competition for best business-class seats at the Skytrax 2016 World Airline Award.

1. Singapore Airlines  

2. Qatar Airways

3. Etihad Airways

4. Japan Airlines

5. EVA Air

6. ANA All Nippon Airways

7. Cathay Pacific  

8. Oman Air

9. Air France

10. Swiss

Traveller.com.au

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