Published on January 28th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
Class Conscious: Are All Airlines Equal in Business Class?
BY MARK CHESNUT
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM LATIN BUSINESS TRAVELER
Perhaps the only consistent thing about front-of-cabin service (first and business class) in Latin America is that there is no consistency. First class and business class offerings vary widely not only from airline to airline but also within each carrier, based on aircraft and flight. To help you as you search for the comfiest seats and best amenities, below are some basic guidelines for the largest carriers in the region. Remember, though, the best advice to determine if it’s worth an upgrade: Check the airline and aircraft type at the time of booking, and verify what amenities are available and included on that specific aircraft and flight. (And if budget travel is more your thing, check out my report about how to get the most from Latin America’s low-cost airlines!)
For frequent flyers heading to or from Mexico, Aeromexico’s top-of-the-line product, Clase Premier, is available on flights to and from Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Sao Paulo, Brazil, aboard Boeing 767 and 777 aircraft. The service includes priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling, as well as access to the carrier’s Salon Premier facilities and personal video screens on board. A lesser version of the service is available on other aircraft and routes, but may not include amenities like personal video screens.
Main Cabin Extra – a premium economy service that offers four to six inches more legroom than standard economy class, as well as priority boarding – is available on American’s Boeing 767-300 and 757 fleets, and will be introduced on some 777-200 aircraft beginning in 2014.
Business class on the carrier’s Boeing 757 fleet includes “angled lie-flat” seats, along with audio and video on-demand (at left). Business class passengers traveling on the American 767-300 can watch video on portable media players, and also receive Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones. On the airline’s Boeing 777-200 fleet, plans for a retrofit will bring lie-flat seats, in-seat entertainment devices with a 10.6-inch tilting screen, Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones and amenity kits.
The first class cabin aboard American’s 777 is outfitted with 16 Flagship Suites in a 1-2-1 configuration. The seat unfolds into a flat, 6 ½-foot-long bed with privacy dividers, power ports and an in-seat entertainment system with an 8.4-inch monitor. But enjoy this service while you can; a planned retrofit program to begin in 2014 will result in only two classes of service in Latin America, “which will align American with its competitors, many of whom offer a two-class configuration today,” according to a company statement.
This Colombia-based carrier’s business class, which is available in all its aircraft except turboprops, includes priority check in and boarding, as well as VIP lounge access in some destinations. On board single-aisle planes, the seats have 7-inch recline and 40 inches of space between rows; on wide-bodies, the seats recline 170 degrees and have 65 inches of space between rows. Newer aircraft also have a footrest. In-seat monitors measure between 9 inches and 15.6 inches, depending on aircraft. Amenity kits and noise-canceling headphones are provided at no charge.
Business class on this Panama-based airline, which is available on the company’s Embraer 190 and Boeing 737 aircraft, includes priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling, as well as access to all Copa Club (at right), United Clubs and other VIP lounges. Flights lasting at least five and a half hours also include amenity kits.
Delta Air Lines
In on flights between the U.S. and Brazil and all flights on Delta’s Boeing 767-400ER and 777 aircraft, BusinessElite flyers will find themselves in full 180-degree flat-bed seats, complete with a full-size pillow and duvet, as well as direct aisle access. Each seat is also equipped with a personal entertainment system, electrical outlet and USB port, and flyers receive noise-cancelling headphones for the trip.
On Delta’s other Boeing 767 aircraft (at left), BusinessElite seats recline 160 degrees, and on Airbus A330-200 and A330-300 planes, they recline 176 degrees. All BusinessElite fliers get Delta Sky Priority status and access to the Delta Sky Club before check-in.
Premium Economy is available only on LAN’s Airbus A318, A319 and A320 aircraft operating on certain mid-range flights to and from Santiago de Chile, Lima, Peru, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Seats are equipped with universal connectors and a center seat designed to fold into a laptop table. LAN’s business class features 15.4-inch individual video screens and seats that are set 74 inches between rows; the seats lower to a horizontal position, measuring a bit longer than six feet in length.
Business class seats on Brazil-based TAM recline up to 170 degrees, and seats have individual entertainment screens. Rituals products are featured in amenity kits for international flights. More importantly, passengers flying business class may be eligible for free private-car airport transfers in Europe and North America. And business class passengers flying to or from North America (including Mexico and the United States) are allowed 20 extra kilos of luggage at no extra charge.
TAM’s first class passengers always get free private-car airport transfers in Europe and North America. The airline recently introduced a new first class cabin on its Boeing 777 aircraft, with sleeper seats that recline to 180 degrees, private closets and a new entertainment system.