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Flying Business Class Around The World

Imagine a long-haul flight in an environment more comfortable than your living room.

“After flying a few transcontinental legs in Emirates business class, I understand why many flyers are opting for the luxury route.”

What used to be unapproachable for the majority of flyers is becoming a little more accessible: you can fly business class around the world much easier than you think!

I just got back from a work trip flying all the way around the world: 18 flights in 40 days.

Thanks to David, airfare routing guru at AirTreks, I was able to spring for a few amazing business class stretches on Emirates. I’d flown business and even first class a few times before, usually using frequent flyer upgrades, but this experience was beyond them all.

I was on a strict budget for my RTW, so there wasn’t really room for lavish accommodations and needless luxuries. But I stayed at a few really decent places, especially in Cambodia and Bali where prices are low. I took a business class overnight from Barcelona to Dubai, and an overnight from Dubai to Singapore. These flights were literally more luxurious than 95% of the hotels I stayed at for the entire six weeks. There are a few airlines, like Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, and Qantas, which are especially renowned for their service.

My flight from Barcelona to Dubai in business class


In some airline routes, business class has actually replaced first class. But that doesn’t mean it’s less nice: on the contrary, business class gets nicer and nicer with each new model of airliner being built.

The business class seat on my first Emirates flight (on a brand new Airbus A380) was a plush recliner surrounded by things like walnut trim, my personal minibar stocked with juice and water, an iPad, and a huge flat screen monitor.

Seconds after I boarded, my flight attendant came up and said: “Mr. Gildner, I’m Cynthia. Would you like some champagne?” Of course I did, so she offered me a flute of dry champagne on a silver platter. I’ve seen this stuff in movies, but it’s quite nice when the flight attendant literally already knows your surname and offers you champagne. She came back with a selection of drinks (I chose a Johnny Walker Blue, straight up) before we even pushed back from the gate.

Dinner was served immediately after we lifted off, but it wasn’t the microwaved tinfoil box with a dry chicken breast inside (a thing about long-haul air cuisine that I’ve come to love). This was a five-course experiment in hedonism, accompanied by silverware and fine china. I had potato leek soup, a lamb steak, grilled vegetables, a chocolate truffle dish for dessert, and maybe a glass of pinot noir. Or two. Who’s counting?

It was getting a little late, and at this point Cynthia gave me my personal hygiene bag. Not the tiny ones that hotels give you with a half-toothbrush and an ounce of shampoo: this was a full-sized zip-up hygiene bag with a hairbrush, skin lotion, eyeshade, socks, slippers, earplugs, toothpaste, toothbrush, a tiny thing of cologne, and face wipes. I literally don’t have most of that stuff at home.

Before bed, the flight attendant came up to me and said “Mr. Gildner, would you like a mattress?” Of course I said yes, and she proceeded to stretch a padded duvet over my reclined seat and gave me a real pillow (I put the plastic bag the pillow was packaged in on the floor…more on this later). I proceeded to sink into a deep sleep and was more comfortable than I’d been in any beds the previous 3 weeks on the road.

I woke up some hours later to find the flight attendant serving me breakfast… a full breakfast. And then: disaster strikes.

See, in my previous destination I’d eaten some bad food, and the symptoms were following me. I thought my bout of traveller’s sickness was over, but it decided to come back with a vengeance about three hours before we landed in Dubai. On one hand, I’m sad that I was so violently ill during the most luxurious flight of my life: on the other hand, can you imagine breaking out in sweat, cramping, and feeling nauseous back in economy, stuck in between two strangers? I’m so glad I was able to suffer in luxury. Everything stayed under control until it was time to disembark. But as soon as I stood up, my body decided it was time. I rushed back to my seat, squeezing past a few Saudi oil millionaires, and grabbed the pillowcase bag just in time.

I spent the next fifteen minutes surrounded by flight attendants offering me everything from medicine, water, and hot towels.

emirates business class
Food just keeps coming on a business class flight.

How much does business class cost?

Business class is a premium experience, but it doesn’t always have to cost as much as you think. All of the negative associations of long flights are essentially removed: there’s plenty of room in all directions, good food, and nice bathrooms. Although each flight’s cost will depend upon other factors like seasonality, length, and day of the week, a general rule of thumb is that business class tickets will cost three to four times the cost of an economy seat.

Many flight experts suggest saving your airline miles for seat upgrades. I’ve used American Airlines 500-mile upgrades several times for this express purpose. In my opinion it’s almost a waste to either pay more or use miles for short regional flights (an hour is an hour, and I don’t really mind where I sit) but for overnight red-eye flights it’s definitely worth it.

It’s also worth exploring ways to maximize your trip: like using stopovers in airline hub cities, or adding extra cities for a multi-city trip.

How do I book business class flights?

You can book a business class flight using any of the traditional methods for regular flights: online, directly with the airlines, or by calling your Travel Planner.

Before you book, check your route on TripPlanner to get a quick estimate of what a flight would cost. On average, a business class flight will be 3-4x what a seat back in economy would cost. It’s also worth talking to an airfare agent for an inside track on extending your business class upgrade across your entire round-the-world trip. In some cases, I’ve heard of routes in which business class can actually be cheaper than premium economy seats. This is rare, but it’s worth a call to a travel consultant to check out your options for flying in business class around the world during your next trip.

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