Review: Business Class experiences by top-flight airlines

Are the in-flight amenities and lounge services worth the price tag?

Enjoy utmost comfort when you travel in Singapore Airlines' Business Class (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

Ever since the pandemic hit, the phrase ‘flying the friendly skies’ has not been the same. Regardless, whether you are hitting the road soon for work or play, here’s a quick glance at the Business Class experiences offered by three popular airlines.

 

TURKISH AIRLINES

Lounge


One of the best-connected airlines for the Malaysian traveller, Turkish Airlines is a veritable godsend, enabling one to bypass nightmarish airports and arrive effortlessly. For the wine lover, did you know you can fly directly into Bordeaux’s Merignac Airport or Bologna with just one transit in Istanbul?  Travel — especially to Europe — is smooth and easy, with ex-KUL flights departing at a decent 2305 hours: long enough to sleep en route to Istanbul and short enough on the second leg to make your first day in Europe a breeze. There is only one grouse: It is not easy to snag a shower slot at the lounge. Unless you have a very long layover, it’s frankly not worth the effort. Find a sofa by the nearest samovar instead and tank up on delicious, just-brewed black tea from Rize accompanied by fresh pide or sesame simit served with rich, country butter. 


Cabin


For newcomers to Turkish Airlines, be warned! Most of its aircraft still use the dreaded 2-3-2 configuration and a recent failure to do pre-flight due diligence got me wedged between someone who snored like a bear and another who hacked and coughed for most of the 11-hour flight. Revenge travelling also means it is virtually impossible to find, let alone swap, an empty seat. Nevertheless, once you have scored the seat of your choice, it’s easy to settle in. Cabin slippers are thoughtfully provided, while the toiletry kit is by Hackett. Another grouse would be the forced surrender of headphones a good hour before landing but, if you aren’t fussy, just ask for the basic ones used in coach which you are allowed to keep (ideal to have on standby the next time you want to catch the ending of a movie). The service and amenities can be hit and miss, but Turkish Airlines more than makes up with its great pricing for Business Class seats (a friend scored a return European ticket for RM8,000) and unrivalled connections.


Inflight food + service


The jury’s still out on this one but, based on personal experience, I can find no fault with Turkish’s catering. The food is fresh and flavourful and the airline is known for its charming touch of providing a chef on board with every flight (complete with toque) and a candlelight meal. The candles aren’t real, of course, given that safety regulations still apply. But whether you love or loathe the attempt at romance using faux, battery-powered candles, it still brings a smile to the faces of those who remain enamoured of the mile-high meal experience. The in-flight bubbles are by Taittinger and if you have a curious palate, do try the selection of Turkish wines. I sampled an interesting 2018 wine by Sevilen, a blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Okuzgozu grapes from Denizli province in the country’s ancient Aegean region. If you left your Stilnox at home, knock yourself out with a few shots of raki, Turkey’s national drink made of twice-distilled grapes and aniseed. —DK

 

SINGAPORE AIRLINES

Lounge


The recent brouhaha over overcrowding in SQ lounges at Changi Airport is now a thing of the past. Its two outposts at Terminal 3 have just reopened following a S$50 million (RM159 million) upgrading project that began in 2019 and KrisFlyer members can rest assured the carrier’s stellar reputation and pole position in international premium travel are up to par. 

Regardless of what time you arrive, hot showers await, as does the island republic’s line-up of local specialities. An early morning transit means a breakfast of chwee kueh (steamed rice cake) and quail egg-studded laksa await — sheer heaven after a week of bread, butter and cold cuts, if you ask us. 


Cabin


There’s no better way to test the SQ experience than on its famous daily non-stop flights to New York City — the world’s longest passenger flight. Cathay Pacific did intend to scupper that by rerouting its New York to Hong Kong service over the Atlantic to avoid flying over Russian airspace, but there have been no further news on that development. So, depending on which airport you fly into, JFK or Newark, expect to cover 15,348km and 15,343km respectively, a journey that will take almost 19 hours. Comfort, therefore, is of utmost importance and SQ’s Airbus A350-900ULRs make long-haul luxe. Pick from 60-odd business class pods. 

Amenities (by Penhaligon’s of London) are upon request only and, sadly, no pyjamas (unlike Qatar, which offers cosy, covetable pure cotton ones by The White Company) were offered. We can’t think of a better route on which to change and snuggle up to a movie marathon though.


Inflight food + service


One of the great things about flying SQ has to be its first-class F&B. Flying ex-Changi means you can tuck into Boon Tong Kee’s chicken rice or a bowl of soupy bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) by simply pre-ordering the dish. And, depending on your route, there are regional specialities to be savoured as well. 

A recent trip to New York left me with no time to grab a customary pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli but, happily enough, SQ23 came loaded with the iconic sandwich for a mid-flight snack. Weight watchers could also opt for wellness cuisine catered by The Golder Door Spa in San Marcos, California, part of the airline’s “farm-to-plane” initiative, complete with a range of hydration, exercise and sleep tips. The 19 hours will fly by before you know it! —DK
 

EMIRATES

Lounge 


Emirates has several branded lounges in major cities, but its Dubai hub is superlative by far. Spanning almost an entire floor, the lounge is equipped with a business centre, spa, children’s playroom, shoe-shining station and our personal favourite, a Moët & Chandon champagne bar. Passengers on transit can freshen up at the showers while large spreads of Middle Eastern and Western cuisine are available to satiate the peckish. If you are travelling in summer, look out for the ice cream cart for a cool treat. Plenty of loungers and sofas make jet lag more bearable. And when it is time to leave, boarding is possible directly from the lounge.


Cabin


Having travelled on both Emirates aircraft to London, I think the cabin 1-2-1 configuration in the Airbus A380 may please solo business travellers more than the 2-3-2 layout in the Boeing 777 fleet. That aside, both offer comfortable flat-beds that allow one to drift into restful sleep as well as vanity kits, packed with Bulgari toiletries and Timeless Spa products for freshening up when you wake. 

A decent selection of the latest blockbusters, TV shows and more is there to keep you entertained, along with noise-cancelling headphones to tune out unwanted sound. Workaholics will find the WiFi and charging ports convenient and the onboard lounge is great for some down time after a long day. Ask the bartender to fix you a drink or two while you get acquainted with fellow passengers.


Inflight food + service


“A glass of champagne, fresh apple-ginger or orange juice for you, ma’am?” the lovely stewardess asked before take-off. I accepted a flute of Veuve Clicquot to toast travelling again. The Emirates crew was nothing but kind and friendly throughout our flight, offering mattress service for those seeking some shut-eye and assistance to parents with infants and young children. 

Come mealtime, gourmet options including vegetarian and vegan choices, served on Royal Doulton fine bone china, make the dining experience a pleasure. Regional dishes give passengers a taste of their destinations before landing, but as a rule of thumb, best to avoid shrimp, raw and fried food. The curated selection of fine wines and spirits did not disappoint either, and the flight attendants are more than happy to offer recommendations or mix you a cocktail. —EY


This article first appeared on Jul 4, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.

 

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