They’re two of the most magical words in the English language: ‘Business Class’.
Because if there’s one thing that can make that the long-haul flight from New Zealand to Europe, the US or the Middle East easier to bear, it’s travelling in the pointy end of the plane.
Admittedly, our pockets might not be deep enough for business class tickets but should the occasion arise – you know, if you ever win Lotto or are lucky enough to be upgraded - here’s what you can expect from some of the best business class services in the world (handily, they also all fly from NZ).
This new kid on the block only started flying from Auckland in March.
The direct flight to Doha is currently the world’s longest, clocking in at a whopping 17.5 hours. I was one of several media trying out the new route and by the time we arrived in Doha, I didn’t want to get off.
The business class cabin on the 777-200LR is laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration, but with oodles of room your privacy never feels compromised. Plus, the lie-flat seat is super comfortable and comes with a massage feature.
I almost squealed with delight when they handed out the stylish grey pyjamas (don’t laugh, you need to be comfortable when hurtling through the air for that many hours) and the amenity kit is the best I’ve ever had, with Giorgio Armani moisturisers and perfumes as well as a makeup remover (why does no-one else offer this?)
Despite the comfy seat/bed, I’m not a great sleeper on planes, so thankfully the entertainment system is stocked with 3,000 movies, documentaries and TV shows.
Best of all though is the dine on demand feature – you eat what you want, when you want, including breakfast at 4.00pm if that’s what your stomach demands. The words have barely left my mouth and the attentive flight attendants are bringing me seared red snapper with saffron cream sauce and, later, the yummiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever had.
It’s probably why Qatar, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, was voted the World's Best Business Class last year.
Singapore’s business class product is almost legendary in the airline industry. I got to find out why when I joined a media trip flying from Auckland to Amsterdam, via Singapore.
For starters, their new business class seat is one of the widest in the world, which could be why it was voted the world’s best last year. It can accommodate any sleeping position and, thanks to the 1-2-1 forward-facing cabin layout, every passenger has direct access to the aisle.
Both Singapore and Amsterdam are ‘Book the Cook’ destinations, which means passengers can go online to order before they board. I’m thrilled with my selections: grilled Chilean seabass and, later, a delicious mushroom ravioli I wonder if I can recreate at home. Oh, and you get to eat off Givenchy tableware!
The KrisWorld entertainment system features thousands of movies and TV shows, should you not wish to avail yourself of the turn-down service and real linens.
As with most business class services, business fliers get a 40kg luggage allowance (it's 50kg for those lucky souls in first class).
There’s a reason this Dubai-based airline consistently goes home from awards ceremonies with a swag of trophies (including Best Airline in the World 2016).
I got to road-test Emirates’ business class offering last year on the second longest flight in the world (17 hours, 20 minutes) from Auckland to Dubai.
The 14,192km direct route shaves three hours off the former Emirates route from Auckland via Australia, which has to be a good thing.
The star of the Emirates show is the fantastic bar at the back of the A380, as well as the completely private lie-flat sleeping pods which are equipped with personal mini-bars.
The ‘ice’ entertainment system offers more than 2,500 televisual offerings, which helps to fill in some of the 17 hours and 20 minutes of ‘me’ time, while a bit of work, a snooze and scoffing my face deals to the rest. I eat so much my stomach feels like it does after Christmas lunch, but when the food is so good it seems rude not to.
A welcome bonus is the amenity kit filled with gorgeous Bulgari toiletries which left me smelling gorgeous (necessary after so many hours in the same clothes).
Business class seats designed by Porsche? Don’t mind if I do. Flying from Auckland to Hong Kong on one of Cathay’s new A350 aircraft is pure joy.
Along with the privacy partitions and the super-comfortable lie-flat seat, there’s also a ‘Do Not Disturb and ‘Wake UP Call’ function for each seat. The 1-2-1 configuration also means every seat has direct aisle access, so there’s no clambering over your neighbour in the middle of the night.
The food, as you’d expect, is delicious, as is the white table-cloth service. Lunch was a seafood laksa and, later, I found room for wok-fried prawns with black truffle and asparagus.
The amenities kits feature beautiful Jurlique moisturisers, hand creams and lip balms and the flight attendant was so sweet, she gave me two.
Our national carrier has long referred to business class as Business Premier. But call it what you like, this service (available on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and Boeing 777 fleets) is like all your birthdays, Christmases and New Years rolled into one.
I was lucky enough to fly from Auckland to LA last year and can report that the Business Premier cabins have some of the most luxurious leather armchairs in the skies.
Naturally, they convert into life-flat beds, each with a memory foam mattress and an ottoman that doubles as a guest seat. Every seat has aisle access and there’s also a large table for dual dining, handy if you’re travelling with your loved one.
With chefs Peter Gordon and Michael Meredith on the payroll, the food should be good. And it is. I gobble perfectly roasted salmon with sumac and quinoa salad before settling down with one of the many film options. I’m also grateful for the sleep-in breakfast option, which allows me to sleep as long as possible and then grab some fruit and muesli just before we arrive at LAX.
Did I also mention I almost did a happy dance when I opened my amenity kit to find gorgeous home-grown Antipodes toiletries (my favourite). I’d almost sell a body part to be able to fly Air NZ’s Business Premier on this route again.
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