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Business Class vs. First Class: Worth the Upgrade?

Business Class vs. First Class: Worth the Upgrade?

Economy seating just not cutting it anymore? Compare the perks and costs of business class vs. first class seats to see which premium experience is best for your trip. 

You’ll see the included features, perks, and general upgrade costs for each premium class below. Check out our full comparison of business class vs. first class to figure out the flight you’ll fancy!

What’s the Difference in Business Class vs. First Class?

  • Semi-luxurious business class costs less than first class
  • First class includes tons of luxury extras and space
  • Both are premium classes with more perks than economy

If you’re ready to take a step out of economy seating and step up into business or first class, you have a lot of things to consider. Which class is the best choice for your trip and how are they different? 

Let’s start with the basics of business class vs. first class, then we’ll dive into the details. 

Premium seats on an airplane may be labeled business class or first class depending on the features and perks included. 

Business class seats are “semi-luxurious,” offering a few extra amenities that you won’t find in economy seating. They are less opulent than first class seats without quite as many perks and included extras. 

Business class seats are designed for people traveling on business, but lots of non-business travelers enjoy choosing these seats, too. They’re generally priced at about twice the cost of economy seats. 

First class seats land you in the lap of luxury on flights. They offer a full range of cushy amenities, from full-course gourmet on-flight meals and cocktails to private, lie-back seats with comfortable bedding. 

The first class seating experience begins the moment you arrive at the airport, with included valet parking, bar service, dedicated flight attendants, and expedited security. 

As you can see in this initial comparison of business class vs. first class, the first class experience includes a lot more and that’s always reflected in the higher cost. 

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between business class and first class. 

Business Class vs. First Class Comparison

Woman in navy dress looks out the window seated on a plane with dinner table setting for a piece on business class vs. first class

Mikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock

Business class and first class are both premium seating options for flights, but they have more differences than things in common. 

If you’re torn between splurging on first class or getting a little upgrade with a business class seat, take a look at the main differences between the two. 

You’ll get an idea of the perks and extras that come with each class, the general cost, and what you can expect when you choose each type of premium seat. 

1. Cost

The most obvious difference between business class vs. first class is the overall cost. Business class seats usually cost about twice as much as economy. First class seats ring up around 6 times the cost of economy. 

Here’s a quick look at average cost range for business class tickets:

  • Domestic business class: $430-$3,500
  • International business class: $3,000-$5,000

With first class seats costing around 6 times more than economy, we took the average round trip flight price of $330 and the average international round trip flight price of $1,368 to find the overall price expectation. 

  • Domestic first class: $1,900+
  • International business class: $8,000+

While these costs represent averages, it’s not hard to find international first class airfare that costs over $15,000.

The cost may be the make-or-break factor for you here, so consider: Are you willing to pay 2X or 6X the price of economy seats to fly with more perks and comfort? 

2. Comfort

Speaking of comfort, business class and first class both have something to bring to the table here.

Business class sprinkles in a little extra comfort to make long trips more bearable, but first class offers the most comfort and luxury for travelers. 

Business class seats generally offer the following extras to make flying a little more comfortable:

  • Wider seats, more legroom, and room to recline than economy
  • Partial partitions for additional privacy over economy seating
  • Lie-flat seats for some international flights
  • Amenity kits for travelers

First class seats offer even more extras for comfort, including:

  • Wider, angled, separated seats not arranged in traditional rows
  • Lie-flat seats with luxury bedding and room to recline 
  • Fewer seats per cabin for a more private experience
  • Amenity kits with pajamas, slippers, etc.

The length of your flight is something to consider here, since a longer flight will make comfort extras much more valuable to you than a shorter, domestic flight.

If you’re spending 8+ hours on the plane, you might find that the lie-flat seats with extra privacy and fewer seats per cabin are worth the additional cost of first class.

For shorter trips or if you want to keep your budget for activities and accommodations instead of transportation, business class comforts may offer all the extras you need.  

Businessman sits in a large private seat using his laptop on a plane for a comparison between business class vs. first class


3. Privacy

The privacy level is another category where business class and first class seats differ. While both business and first class seats offer more privacy than economy, the gap is wide between them. 

Business class seats are usually arranged somewhat tightly in traditional rows, similar to economy seats. The seats are a bit wider with more legroom and room to recline, but you’ll still be surrounded by others on the flight. 

First class seats are much more private, offering angled seats with wide separation and sometimes partitions to create the feeling of being tucked away.

Fewer seats are in first class cabins, which only adds to the overall private feel. 

Overall, privacy is lacking a bit in business class seats, but ample in first class. If privacy and seclusion on your flight is a main priority, you’ll definitely want to splurge on first class. 

4. Lounge Access

Business and first class seats on international flights will grant you “free” access to the airport lounge with different amenities. 

If you’re traveling business class internationally, you can expect the following access at an airline lounge:

  • Bar service
  • Light dining/snacks; full meal service possible
  • Free WiFi, desks, and office equipment
  • Shared lounge with comfortable seating
  • Meeting room access
  • No guests/pets allowed

If you’re traveling first class internationally, you can expect VIP lounge access:

  • Full bar service with top-shelf options
  • Fine dining with full meal service
  • Spa services, showers, and private rooms
  • VIP customer service with concierge check-in
  • Valet parking
  • Personal assistant
  • Free WiFi, desk, and office equipment
  • Guests and some pets welcome

While the airline lounge won’t be the main event of your trip, it still offers great amenities for travelers who want to hide out from the hubbub of the airport with a little more luxury. 

First class lounge access is much better, but business class (at a cheaper price) may offer all the extras you need before you leave for your trip. 

Woman sits in airport lounge before flying business class vs. first class with a book and phone sitting next to her

Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

5. Additional Perks

Both business class and first class seats come with some additional perks that aren’t offered for economy or coach seats. 

You might be surprised at the quality and number of perks you can get in business class, but there’s no denying that first class takes the cake. 

Business class perks include the following:

  • Gourmet meal selections 
  • Fine china and crystal for dining
  • Basic selection of wines and cocktails
  • Dedicated check-in for travelers

It’s a big step up from economy class, but not totally luxurious. For international flights, it’s nice to have gourmet meal options with a touch of class. Dedicated check-in certainly makes the airport experience less of a hassle. 

First class perks are much richer, including: 

  • Full gourmet meals, snacks, and appetizers
  • A la carte dining options 
  • Fine china and crystal for dining
  • Full menu of wines, champagnes, cocktails, and liquors
  • Valet parking and curbside bag service 
  • Concierge check-in for travelers
  • Expedited security
  • Personal assistant
  • Dedicated flight attendant

You’re truly in the lap of luxury when you’re flying first class internationally.

From your choice of select, gourmet foods and snacks to top-shelf drinks and valet parking, you’ll feel like your every need is taken care of when flying first class. 

Business Class vs. First Class: Which Is Better?

Business class seat on an airplane with wine glass and dinner on the table in front of a window for a piece on business class vs. first class seating


So, which one is better – business class or first class? First class is definitely “better” than business class in terms of comfort, privacy, lounge access, and perks. But how important are those factors to you?

Business class still offers a number of amenities and a much lower overall cost than first class that might make it the better choice for your trip. 

It all depends on your overall trip budget, your destination, and the amenities you’re not willing to go without. 

If you’re used to flying in economy class, business class will feel like a mega-upgrade and make your airport experience a little less hectic.

With dedicated check-in, more room and comfort during your flight, the option for gourmet in-flight meals, and access to the airport lounge, there’s a lot to write home about with business class seating. 

Business class seating is also a great choice for budget-conscious travelers who don’t mind spending a little more for extra comfort when flying internationally.

At about twice the cost of economy flights, it’s not cheap to fly business class, but it’s nowhere near the cost of first class. 

But if you’re looking for a lot more luxury and have the budget to splurge for your trip, flying first class will be the best option. First class offers a top-tier flight experience from the moment you arrive at the airport. 

A valet will park your car, someone brings your bags in, and you’ll pass through an expedited security process. First class really makes you feel like a VIP!

Onboard the flight, you’ll have plenty of privacy and room to enjoy fine dining, top-shelf drinks, and tons of comfort. 

Keep your destination in mind as you choose between business class vs. first class. Short, domestic flights may not make the cost of upgrading to business or first class worth it, but longer international flights may. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Businessmen on a flight get help from a flight attendant while sitting in business class vs. first class


Still wondering about the differences between business class vs. first class and what each one offers? Take a look at the most frequently asked questions on the subject to learn more about each one. 

What is the difference between 1st class and business class?

First class offers a luxurious experience with perks that begin as soon as you arrive at the airport.

Business class offers a comfortable experience with fewer perks, but both offer premium seating with more perks than economy.

Is business class more expensive than first class?

Business class is less expensive than first class, usually costing about twice as much as an economy class ticket.

First class seats cost around 6 times as much as economy seats, making it the most expensive class to fly.

Are business class seats worth it?

Business class seats aren’t generally worth it for shorter, domestic flights unless there’s a specific perk you want (like dedicated check-in).

For longer, international flights, it’s usually worth it to fly business class or first class if your budget allows.

Is business or first class nicer?

First class is nicer than business class, offering more privacy, the most legroom, lie-flat seats for overnight flights and naps, and in-flight fine dining with an extensive drink selection.

While first class is luxurious, business class still offers some comforts and amenities you won’t find in economy class like more legroom, in-flight dining, and (depending on the flight) lie-flat seats.

Why is first class so much more expensive than business class?

First class costs a lot more than business class because it comes with the most amenities and perks. From VIP lounge access and gourmet dining to valet and bag service upon arrival, first class will never leave you wanting.

Business class doesn’t offer as many perks as first class, so it’s about a third of the cost.

Business Class vs. First Class: Worth Upgrading?

Cost, comfort, privacy, lounge access, and additional perks should all be on your mind as you’re deciding between business class vs. first class.

Which seat class is best for your trip – and is it ever truly worth upgrading?

Business class seating is ideal for cost-conscious travelers who want an easier, more private, and slightly-more-luxurious airport and flight experience. 

It costs about twice as much as economy, but you’ll find that the extra legroom, privacy, lounge access, and perks are well worth the cost. 

First class seating is best for international travelers ready to splurge to make their trip over-the-top special. The extras and perks start with valet parking and bag service and don’t stop until you land at your destination. 

These seats cost about 6 times more than economy, but they truly make a long flight more comfortable and turn it into a VIP experience. 

Consider your budget, your flight length, and what extra comforts or perks you really want to decide between business class vs. first class. 

And if you just can’t quite settle on which seat class is better, use our tips on How to Find Cheap Flights to save as much as 50% on a business class or first class flight!