REVIEW: The one really important thing you should check before paying for a business class flight

The A380 Photo: Singapore Airlines via Getty Images.

Business Insider recently flew business class from Sydney to Asia on Singapore Airlines, which is consistently rated one of the best in the world.

The airline is known for its comfortable interior with seat pitch and width that’s more generous than many of its international rivals, plus excellent service from the crew in a distinctive uniform that’s has become synonymous with the brand.

But even on a premium airline, there was a vastly different experience on the trip to Singapore compared to the return trip.

The journey out of Sydney was on a Airbus A380, which made its commercial debut on Singapore Airlines a decade ago in 2007, while the trip back to Sydney was on the much smaller A330. The contrast in the two flights definitely made us think that for future trips, checking the aircraft model might be prudent before handing over the large amount of extra cash for a business class ticket.

Sydney to Singapore on Airbus A380

Business class on the Singapore A380 is exactly as the brochure says: large individual booths for privacy, lay-flat bed with pillow and doona, large screen for entertainment, individual in-seat storage space and plenty of shelving and cup holders for drinks and food.

On the A380, business class passengers can sit – and lay down – in individual booths

. (Source: Tony Yoo)

Gravalax (cured salmon) was served as the appetiser

. Photo: Tony Yoo

The A380’s console with shelving, entertainment screen and electrical outlet

s. Photo: Tony Yoo

Pre-ordering gives you meal options you can’t request during the flight. This is a pre-ordered lamb shank curry.

Photo: Tony Yoo

The A380’s business class flat bed

Photo: Tony Yoo

There’s cheesecake for dessert

Photo: Tony Yoo

And plenty of room to fully stretch legs.

Photo: Tony Yoo

Singapore to Sydney on Airbus A330

The journey back from Singapore on the older and smaller A330 plane was a stark contrast to the previous flight.

The seating was far smaller – in fact, legroom and width seemed similar to Qantas’ A380 premium economy. Food and menu options were more constrained and privacy was nowhere near the same as the A380. There was no lay-flat option and there was very little in-seat storage space for personal effects.

The A330’s lack of personal space and lay-flat capability especially posed a problem for weary corporate travellers. Business Insider was fortunate enough to be assigned a bulkhead seat where legroom was plentiful, but for other business class passengers the amount of space was not much better than premium economy on newer aircraft.

Another passenger sitting in a standard business class seat said after the flight that he was so uncomfortable he hardly slept and would consider selecting flights according to aircraft type.

The A330’s business class seat is not much larger than modern premium economy

Photo: Tony Yoo

The pre-ordered lobster thermidor. Unlike the A380’s two meals, only one was served on the A330

Photo: Tony Yoo

The business class seat does not recline flat for a good rest during the flight, nor is it wide enough to use a laptop comfortably

Photo: Tony Yoo

The entertainment screens for bulkhead seats. Standard business class seats have monitors on the seat back

Photo: Tony Yoo

Verdict

Business class fares, whether borne by the passenger or their employer, are expensive in today’s climate of carefully managed corporate costs. With such a contrast between the A380 and A330 on the same airline, checking the aircraft model before booking is essential if you want the best experience and value for money.

While business class has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years to offer a very comfortable journey on newer planes, for the same price you could be going back to the future if you’re stuck on an older or smaller aircraft.

* Business Insider travelled to Singapore courtesy of Samsung.

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