What’s the Worst International First Class in the World?

After sharing more than one story of appalling service in American Airlines first class I got to thinking, what’s the worst international first class product in the world?

The field has narrowed quite a bit in recent years.

  • Air India is expected to eliminate international first class
  • United Airlines no longer offers international first class

american airlines international first class
American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER First Class, Credit: American

While food and service are mixed on Air China, they have a good seat even if it isn’t always well-maintained. I’d absolutely take Air China first class over American Airlines first class.

I’ve never flown TAAG Angola First Class. Last summer Lucky from One Mile at a Time speculated that they might stop offering first class, but they currently sell it on their Johannesburg, Capetown, Lisbon, Porto, São Paulo, and Rio routes. Lucky flew them Lisbon to Luanda and Luanda to São Paulo and while the first segment seemed on par with what American might offer the second sounded dreadful.

With fewer airlines offering international first class, and with the caveat that I haven’t experienced TAAG Angola myself, I’d certainly have to try them out before declaring any airline to have ‘the worst first class in the world.’

Now that BA has finally gotten their act together on internet – fuel surcharges on award tickets aside – I’d fly them over American, though I do think Qatar Airways QSuites is better than British Airways first class (and the new ANA business class seems like it may be as well).

british airways first class
British Airways First Class

Since I rank both Air China (as well as China Eastern) over American, and British Airways as well, is there any airline besides TAAG Angola at the bottom of the list if we were to put together an argument for absolute worst international first class in the world?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

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  1. That’s easy. American by a mile. Even First Dining and LPGS can’t salvage a dreadful hard and soft product. And who wants to have to play FA lottery and risk getting stuck with miserable union slugs who yap in the galley the entire flight and have no clue about or desire in providing premium service?

  2. While I haven’t flown it, I’ve heard that China Southern first class is really bad. That could be a contender.

  3. China Eastern and Southern are still better than American.
    Air China has the same seat as LX

    Even Kuwait has stepped it up.

    So unless somewhere there is an obscure career, American wins by a mile.

  4. Having flown China Southern and American first class, CZ easily beats AA on seat and service on the A380 and at least on service on the 777-300ER. The desk arrangement with the AA first-class seat is a nice feature.

  5. @robbo – Qatar’s first class is only offered on their limited number of A380s. I agree that it pales in comparison to Gulf competitors. But having flown it I consider it light years ahead of American’s first class. Compare the lavatories! The food and beverage program and service!

  6. Gary , are you talking about Americans 77W seat? Or is it the service?

    It’s been a while but I found AAs 77W F to be roomier and more private than BAs F (I think it was in the nose of a 747).

  7. Personal experience, which is limited, AA wins by a landslide. Flew the old 777-200’s with Captain Kirk seats. The seats were fun, but everything else was mediocre at absolute best. Someone printed xerox copies of a menu that we were told to order from quickly so business class didn’t get our meal. The food was up to that standard, and everything else followed suit. My wife made me swear never again.

  8. American Airlines (dreadful hard product, food which is more mediocre business class than first, service variable but often a miss, too many delayed flights or planes without F showing up for me) and Air China (bad soft product) are on the bottom of my list. My other experiences are on ANA (don’t like the layout of the seat), Asiana (no more), BA (not F, but really good business class) and SQ (good product but I don’t like the folding backrest of the seat) are in the middle group and CX, AF, LH and LX are on the top.

  9. Based on reviews TAAG would have to be at the bottom of the list on a straight forward comparison. That being said I might actually argue American is worse if you judge them on the basis of what you expect vs what you get. With TAAG I think virtually no one is expecting something amazing. But on the other hand you would expect American to be capable of executing a proper international first class. They have all the elements required in place. But as your stories have been showing the quality of service on board is so poor it offsets everything else. So on the basis of what you expect vs what you get on board right now I’d vote American last.

  10. My only first class experience was on American, on their old 777-200ER config which no longer exists. More like a very good business seat, with essentially the same service as business. Swivel feature is cool. AA F is a nice upgrade over the former angled business seat, but only an incremental improvement over the new lie flat J seat.

  11. ANY airplane in every cabin that is being served by an AA employee is receiving the worst service in the airline industry.

  12. Answer to Bri: OIl, yes, but also it is one of the only services connecting the two continents. Otherwise, you have to fly up and over/via North America.

    Worst International First Class was the 14 Hour Air India service from JFK to Delhi in January. Only 4 old seats (dating from Circa 2005) and unthinkably poor service considering the number of people “serving” the four First Class seats.

  13. Don’t understand the preference for the high density BA F hardproduct vs AA. For me AA is much better.

  14. We flew Korean Air and Asiana air first class on a380 this year. American first class was better in service and food. I was suprised

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