Whether you are traveling with colleagues or going it alone, when it comes to booking a flight for your next business trip, you should know the best options available to help you prep for success. We all know that economy class typically has smaller seats and less legroom than the other classes. But what's the difference between first class and business class?

While choosing between first class and business class may be largely dependent on the cost, there are other factors to take into consideration. To save you time and help you make the best decision for your business trip goals, I've compiled a list of the differences between business and first-class seats (note that these will vary by airline and aircraft).

Domestic and international

A key distinction that I need to make is that most domestic business and first class seats pale in comparison to their international counterparts. Also, airlines typically sell business class seats as first class ones, unless an airplane has a three-class configuration.

On short-haul domestic flights, business class seats generally mean that you'll have more comfortable seats and legroom compared to economy class. Unfortunately, that's all it means. On long-haul flights such as from Los Angeles, California (LAX) to Queens, New York (JFK), business class on Delta means you'll be seated in a 180° flat-bed seat that you can adjust to either sleep, relax, or work. It also comes with amenities such as earplugs, eyeshades, and lip balm.

Cost

Now that we've established that domestic flights don't have much to offer for first class fares and seating, we can discuss international flights. On a long-haul international flight, a first class ticket costs at least twice as much as a business class one.

However, the price tag associated with first class seats comes with added benefits and perks included access to airport lounges, more luggage options, better seats, and better food. 

Lounges

Airport terminals are loud, fast-moving areas where sleep is nearly impossible, the chairs are uncomfortable, and charging your phone is a less than enjoyable experience. Airport lounges provide a different experience for frequent flyers, premium members, and business and first class flyers alike. They're not only private, they're also designed to provide solitude and amenities to business travelers before departure.

These lounges typically offer a buffet or carefully curated menu options, coffee, teas, and a bar along with comfortable seats and WiFi access. Some even have showers and spa services! However, first class lounges are more exclusive with better dining options that provide a personalized experience that business class doesn't always have.

Depending on who and where you're flying, you might even arrive at your plane in style, via a private car.

Both business and first class tickets should get you access to lounges associated with your airline ticket. However, restrictions do apply so be sure to review in advance. Alternatively, select credit cards, including some small business credit cards, also come with lounge access options.  

Seats

Both business and first class aims to let you get more rest while also having more privacy. Most business-class seats partially recline to give you a better night's sleep. They also typically come with your own TV, bedding, and a decent sized width and pitch.

The majority of first-class seats turn into 180° flat-beds. Bedding on first-class seats involves luxury sheets and pillows in addition to a bigger TV. Depending on who you're flying with, you might even have your own suite which typically comes with pajamas, slippers, noise-canceling headphones, and the opportunity to shower.

Food and beverages

Business class dining has an array of champagnes and wines and delicious restaurant quality food. You'll also receive your food on real silverware. Emirates A380 planes have an entire bar where passengers can drink and relax.

While business class does provide high-quality dining, first-class provides the same in addition to a renowned chef who'll cook mouthwatering food for you. 

Each airline has unique aircraft and therefore unique experiences. Know that just because first-class is more on the luxury end of the spectrum, that doesn't mean that business class doesn't have merit. My advice is to use points and miles from credit cards to upgrade on long-haul flights. You'll be better rested and able to maximize your business trip.

Published on: Oct 23, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.