Americans Are ‘Shocked And Appalled’ When They Fly Business Class In Europe [Roundup]

News and notes from around the interweb:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I’ve looked for it but haven’t been able to find it. Years ago, I saw a commercial – and it was old then, like from the 1990s or earlier – for a European airline that was trying to sell a better business class experience. I’m pretty sure the commercial was in French.

    A man is sitting near the front of the coach cabin, looking around with a confused expression on his face but mostly at the curtain right in front of him that separates him from business class. As a flight attendant walks by, he gets her attention and shows her his ticket, which says “business class” on it. She apologizes, looks up, unhooks the curtain, and puts it back up behind him. She smiles politely at him and walks away, as he is now is business class.

    Anyone seen this or know where I can find it?

  2. Intra-Europe Biz Class has been this way on all airlines I have flown numerous times since I traveling within Europe extensively and for the last 30 years. Similar to First Class in the US except the curtain does not adjust forward or backward.

  3. My first experience with Eurobusiness class (ironically on BA LHR-BRU) was quite the letdown: a no legroom seat with a newspaper and blocked middle. It SUCKED. And, it still sucks. Anytime one of these smug Europeans decides to deride UA, DL or AA for the food or the service, my go-to answer is that at least they offer actual business class on all mainline flights and not some fake ripoff where you pay F class prices for a crap seat that is hardly suitable for Frontier.

  4. To be fair, I would think that most people would be surprised, considering that the majority of services and products are generally of a higher quality in Europe. Adding to the confusion is the fact that on some of the very long regional routes, you do occasionally run into larger aircraft with real J seats, and that competitors (e.g. TK in this instance) do put a true premium product on the same routes.

  5. Yeah, that’s what BA “Business Class” is like. It’s pretty much the same on KLM too.
    The only upside I can see is that on shorter flights most folk won’t pay for the dubious pleasure of an empty seat so the cabins are pretty empty.

  6. “Domestic business/first on U.S. airlines is not significantly better than it is in Europe”

    Based on what? Are you 3’7″ tall so seat comfort means nothing to you? Because for the rest of us, it’s a huge difference between a knee crushing 28″ crap pitch on BA and others or 38″ pitch in an extra wide seat on your average UA flight from ORD-BOS.

    Come on man!

  7. @Ray There is a song called Beautiful Texas. It says we look at all the countries in a book and we have to go take a look. Then when we get there we find that there is none to compare to beautiful Texas. I believe a traveler should have good manners and be respectful. I imagine different people have different ideas on what that is. I have read up on different places and the things they expect when you are in public visiting different sites. Some behavior I feel is common sense. I have committed some airplane newcomer “sins”. Hopefully I’ve learned something since then. One thing is for sure we are spending our American dollars. People are quick enough to accept those.

  8. ““Domestic business/first on U.S. airlines is not significantly better than it is in Europe”

    Based on what? Are you 3’7″ tall so seat comfort means nothing to you? Because for the rest of us, it’s a huge difference between a knee crushing 28″ crap pitch on BA and others or 38″ pitch in an extra wide seat on your average UA flight from ORD-BOS.

    Come on man!”

    Why (US/American) people just complain about anything that is different from home / not what they expect.

    I could complain the other way round on the US (domestic) first class (seat) which is anything but not a first class seat, even not a business class/lie flat seat.

    So, come on man!

  9. Wait till James Camp checks the average size of European real estate city living! LOL.

    Theres so many Americans that don’t fully appreciate how blessed they are, and that doesn’t know what Gary as an Economist frequently explains.. Europe is poor, and also super heavily taxed. There’s no free lunch.

  10. @Resented Ray.. Be careful what you wish for! Most of your poor countries could barely survive come another ruthless brutal lockdown. And the precedent is set (many times) that you cannot fight for your own Freedom.

    Socialists can’t do basic math, let alone economics , the last one requires common sense. Have you check the GDP contribution of tourism in Spain? they basically live thanks to the prosperity of American tourists.

  11. @Carol Lewis , great tidbit of history, thank you! Wasn’t aware of that song and I couldn’t ‘agree more.

    My mom is European and I was born in Venezuela, and I always remember clearly that while being a kid, the first time we visited the US she was impressed with the average size of hotel rooms. And everything so neat, large and spaced out (totally opposite of post war European economy).

    Sadly In current state America it seems that ppl like me, coming from destroyed, poor, communist devastated countries. Have way more Patriotism and Gratitude than many Americans.

  12. @BBK says

    I love to watch these arguments unfold. As an American who has traveled extensively on business and leisure for more than 40 years, I retired to Malta five years ago. Never looked back.

    As a lifetime UA 1K, I travel four or five times a year within Europe. Always on LH. I have access to LH Senator lounge. Unlike issues in U.S. Airline Clubs, I have never had to wait in line to get into their Lounges. Or denied access because I had UA Gold instead of LH.
    I am 6ft tall and fit comfortably into their “business” seats. Our flights are typically 2-2 1/2 hours. When we get on board, no matter how crowded the plane is, the FA’s ALWAYS ask what they can get us to drink. We don’t have to ask them, being in fear they will throw us off the flight because an AA FA is on a trip. Always treated with respect. All our flights include three course meals, food appropriate to time of day. When was last time you had a poached egg for breakfast on your big seat(broken seat) flight? We are treated as guests, not as an interruption.

    So, whine if it makes you feel better. I will sit back and enjoy some great German wine and German cuisine. It seems to me that too many Americans bitch and moan on this blog every day about seats that don’t work, crap for food, if even offered, and go totally ballistic on miserable FA’s,

  13. @BKK says:
    “Wait till James Camp checks the average size of European real estate city living! LOL.

    Theres so many Americans that don’t fully appreciate how blessed they are, and that doesn’t know what Gary as an Economist frequently explains.. Europe is poor, and also super heavily taxed. There’s no free lunch.”

    My life education includes extensive business and leisure travel in Western Europe. So, I have managed to learn many facts about Europeans over the years. And since I married a Finnish citizen, I have learned even more.

    1. Yes, more Europeans live in apartments than single family houses. Most European countries are smaller, and don’t have the space for single family dwellings. But, unlike in the States, many Europeans, especially in the Nordic countries, have Sumner homes by Ocean, lakes, or in the mountains. Just like middle class Americans, right?

    2. Americans claim to have the best Healthcare in the world. Right? If you are white, male, under 40, and work for a tech company. So, you have a good Healthcare plan. The rest struggle to find health insurance, even if they could afford it. Everyone in most Western European countries have health care. Even if you can’t afford it. Hey, even I have free healthcare. Because my wife worked enough years in Sweden, the Swedish government pays for her healthcare in Malta. And because I am her husband, they pay for mine, too. And me, an Anerican. FREE HEALTHCARE, JUST LIKE IN THE STATES?

    3. In many Western European your college education is FREE. Just like in America. Right?

    4. Tell me again how great the American education system is.

    5. Everyone gets retirement benefits, even if they can’t afford it. Like the U.S., right?

    6. In America, you have angst over whether to tip it not. More often than not, you stiff the server. In Europe servers are paid a wage, plus all benefits, including vacation mandated by law. The only time I have tipped in Europe was if service was exceptional.

    7. Oh, and about your paid vacations. What percentage of Americans have fully paid vacations, or even paid holidays. My wife, when working in Europe got six weeks paid vacation every year, in addition to 20 days of paid holidays. (Those summer homes come in handy.)

    8. Europeans poor? I doubt it. OK, maybe your salary is higher. You will need all of it to pay for all the bennies you don’t get.

  14. Ugh, that Twitter thread is so annoying – everybody keeps telling this guy that that’s pretty standard “business” class in Europe, and he keeps saying , “But, but, not Turkish Airlines!”

    (I wonder if he’s ever been stuck in a middle seat in Turkish 777 business class?)

  15. @Alan I’m so glad you LEFT this country and finally can be happy.. .
    Exactly like us that moved here to America escaping from communism .

    ‘government pays for her healthcare’

    Nothing to debate with those that think ‘government’ should have any obligation to support you, you ‘only’ have to give back you Freedom, you should try Australia, you will love it! and hope there isn’t another Pandemic and you’ll have to learn lo live locked in those tiny shoeboxes, but if you don’t value freedom at all then no problem.

    ‘Europeans poor?’ versus Americans is a data backed absolute fact, you know, numbers not rethoric or feelings.

  16. @Alan

    I knew some of your type while living in Panamá, so sure you amassed a good fortune due to the blessings and privilege of being American and you show your gratitude bashing your country.

    I bet you don’t put your money where your mouth is and surrender all the US credit cards and benefits that me, when I was a foreigner couldn’t afford to enjoy and could only drool about.

    How are those mileage earning and SUBs going up there with the regulated interchange?.

    The US is so generous even for non citizens that I surfed/survived the Venezuelan crisis thanks for having a pro American vision and investing since 2001 in the best and most generous stock market in the world (which i’m sure you are also doing).

    Trying doing your math of YOUR version of European dream w/o the money you made in the US.

  17. We recently flew from Istanbul to LHR on British Air. After take off we were given
    a 4 oz bottle of water and small bag of munchies.
    It was announced that further service would be with charge. It was $4.25 for a
    cup of coffee. OUTRAGEOUS.

  18. Flew LH FRA-PRG. Silly me, I paid for business class. 3×3 seating with middle seat blocked. Won’t make that mistake again.

  19. There’s no doubt that a European carrier narrowbody business class seat would be a shock to a person not expecting one.

    But, the experience is more than the seat. While, on average, a domestic first class seat on a US carrier is wider, with more legroom, business class in Europe typically does come with:
    1. Lounge access. (The only US airline that included lounge access on paid first class fairs was Alaska, and it relatively recently eliminated the benefit.)
    2. Food, almost always, regardless of length of segment and time of day. (The full meals I’ve been served on 40 minute segments certainly compare positively to, say, my UA flight from ORD-CVG this week, when the first class FAs couldn’t even will themselves to serve first class passengers a beverage in the 47 minute segment “because there wasn’t time.”)

    Not to mention differences in ‘soft’ service/service culture.

  20. Just flew Singapore Air on a 70 minute flight Singapore to Jakarta in business class. Big, reclining seat, offered drinks immediately. Addressed by name. Hot meal on real China and glasses. For a 70 minute flight.

    Picked up Garuda in Jakarta for a 3 hour flight to Manado. Big seats, addressed by name, hot meal of your choice. Plenty of cabin service.

    Sorry, no comparison to similar time flights in US.

  21. @BBK: How much have you traveled outside the US?

    No place is perfect. Yes, our homes in the US are larger. But we also have more maintenance, property taxes, and insurance. Agreed, we have more “Freedom”, but we also have more violent crime. Okay, we can invest in our stock market – but so, too, can most European citizens. The US ranks 37th in the developed world for student achievement, despite the fact that we have some of the best universities; explain that. And although we have world-class health care, our average lifespan is about 3 years shorter than the average European.

    Yes, we know communism sucks, and Venezuela is a complete mess. I lived in Nicaragua for 4 months and I was not impressed with communism. But that doesn’t mean a culture that encourages capitalism AND social well-being can’t exist – just look at Norway, voted #1 in the world for capitalistic enterprise.

  22. @BBK
    Might sound as generalization but mentioning “Eurooeans are poor” have ever been to Europe? Have you walked any of this poor cities like Paris,Rome, Prague? Then walk in downtown of Lax,Atl, Sea. And beside that not everything is measured in $$$. Also psychycal wellbeing is important. Why you think so many Americans need to visot a psychologist or psychiatrist? You cant buy happines with $$$ and people in Europe more enjoy the life.

  23. Do european airlines really not see the value in putting domestic F type seats on their narrow bodies? It seems like such a waste of space, and weight, to stick a bunch of middle seats that are unused. Wouldn’t they be able to charge a premium over competitors? I really don’t get why they do this. Seems so short sighted.

  24. This comment thread is hilarious. People getting so butt hurt. US Domestic first is what is called business for European continental flights, so they are fair to compare. Air France continental business class had a far better meal than any US First class meal I’ve had and lounge access was very much appreciated, though other European carriers have disappointed with service. US Domestic first has far nicer and roomier seats which I very much enjoy, though sometimes a meal would be appreciated.

    But you’re all missing the real point: BA is traaaaaaaaaaaaash. Trash trash trash.

  25. I’ll take BA over United, Delta or American. Any Day. Because their cabin service is superior to any American carrier. And that my dear is the real, Trash, Trash, Trash.

  26. It is simple. US F has a better seat. EU business has a plain economy seat, but much better food and service, even on very short flights, and automatic lounge access (though people who care usually arrange to have lounge access already).

    By the way, I’ve noticed the EU lounges getting much more crowded , too, and I suspect that is due to more travelers in general, but also more leisure travelers flying domestic business. Last week I was in LHR T5 and there were lines at both BA Galleries lounges and both PP lounges.

  27. US Domestic F seating is far superior to Intra Europe J (although I do appreciate the shoulder room available from blocking the center seat.) As for service and meals, US carriers offer a superior product . . . FOR THE PRICE on the routes that I have flown. US Carriers offering lounge access, where available, with the full fare F tickets would be a valuable product enhancement.
    I agree with Billy Ray about BA and AA should have courted LH.

  28. I’m more shocked at Polaris and what a cut rate experience it is compared to international business class on any other airline I’ve flown – people from other cabins milling about putting their suitcases in the overhead bins and then accessing them when people are trying to sleep. Not a first class experience at all.

  29. LH manages to serve a light meal to biz class on the 1-hour flights to/from FRA and Prague. It’s the only thing about LH that’s impressive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *