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Everyone loves an upgrade, don’t they? Your flight isn’t just a flight, after all – it’s the start of your trip. And it’s nice to treat yourself now and then, particularly if you’re flying long haul or celebrating something special. But when it comes to choosing your upgrade, the details can get a little confusing. Is business class just for business travellers? What’s the difference between business class and first class? And, most importantly, is an upgrade worth it?

Luckily, we’ve got all the answers. While each airline offers their own unique experience, there are several similarities between them – so it’s easy to see business class vs first class at a glance. Check out our handy guide on what you can expect – both at the airport and in the air – and decide which option would be best for you.

Business class vs First class: in the airport

When you book an upgrade, you get to skip all the queues. If you fly business class, you’ll be treated like a VIP as soon as you arrive at the airport. You can head straight to your airline’s priority check-in desks and zoom through security, thanks to your fast-track access. Once you’ve gone through, there’s no need to try and hunt down an uncomfortable airport seat. Simply settle in to a comfy chair in your airline’s business lounge, sample the complimentary food and drink, and make the most of the Wi-Fi. If you’re travelling for work, the meeting rooms and desk areas come in handy too.

If you fly first class, you’ll get all this and more. Some airlines – like Emirates and Virgin Atlantic – offer chauffeur services for their first class passengers, so you can pull up to the airport in style. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to whiz through check-in and security, and head straight to your airline’s luxurious first class lounge. You can make the most of the gourmet dining and well-stocked bar in your plush surroundings – all free of charge. Some lounges even have a spa area, where you can unwind before your flight. Needless to say, you’re allowed to board the plane before everyone else.

Business class vs First class: the cabins

One major advantage of upgrading to business class is the extra space. You’ll have a larger seat and more leg room, so you can stretch out and get comfortable. And, if you’re flying long haul, your seat will convert into a bed. Obviously, the cabin has been designed for business travellers, with privacy partitions, charging points and Wi-Fi – but that doesn’t mean it’s just a work space. If you’re on holiday, get ready to make the most of the in-flight entertainment, tuck into the delicious food, and enjoy the complimentary bar service. Look out for the little extras too. If you fly long haul in British Airways’ business class, for example, you’ll be given White Company bedding.

First class cabins, meanwhile, are next level. As well as five-star food and drinks, you’ll have a fully-flat bed and – on some airlines – your own private suite. So once you close the doors, you can turn your space into your own private cinema, dining room or bedroom. And, of course, each airline has its own signature feature. If you fly first class with Cathay Pacific, you’ll be given a cotton sleep suit. Emirates’ first class passengers have access to an onboard bar area. And Etihad’s first class cabin boasts a lobby area, a meeting room and a shower – because why not?

Business class vs First class: food and drink

It goes without saying that the food and drink in these cabins is a far cry from your usual plane food. First class dining is the same standard as an à la carte restaurant, and business class isn’t far behind. Whichever class you opt for, you’ll receive a welcome drink when you board, and all your meals will be served with proper crockery, cutlery and glasses. Some airlines allow you to pre-order your main course 24 hours before you fly, so you’re guaranteed to get the meal you want. But, in a nutshell, there isn’t a great deal of difference between business class and first class when it comes to food. The main advantage of first class is the extra luxuries, such as a cognac service, a fine wine list, or a cheese and wine service.

Business class vs First class: the little things

Business class is all about those complimentary touches. As well as having plenty of space and delicious meals, you’ll be given a bigger baggage allowance and priority boarding, so you can find your extra-large seat and settle in. Some airlines also offer complimentary comfort kits, containing everything from headphones to moisturiser.

As usual, first class goes one step further. You can expect to be given a pamper kit of luxury cosmetics, and several airlines offer pyjamas or dressing gowns. Plus, your bed really is an actual bed, complete with a mattress, duvet and pillows.

Business class vs First class: who wins?

When deciding which cabin is better, it really comes down to what you value most. If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime flight, then first class wins hands down. When else would you be chauffeur-driven to the airport, served Champagne as you board, and given your own private suite in the sky? This, combined with the onboard gourmet dining, showers and bar areas, means that first class really is the ultimate way to fly.

That said, if you want a special treat without an eye-watering price tag, business class is a fantastic option. It may not be as lavish as first class, but it’s still streaks ahead of economy – particularly if you’re flying long haul. Your business class ticket includes priority check-in, airport lounge access and a very comfortable cabin, along with complimentary food and drink. What’s not to like?

Ready for some VIP treatment? Fly in style for less when you compare flight prices with Netflights.

Find flights to our popular business destinations, including New York, Dubai and Singapore.