I always enjoy talking to real pro travellers who have tried it all. One guy who seems to spend his entire life in the air said Asiana's J class is a "sleeper hit" - I think in the movie business sense, that it's an underground sensation, rather than it's ability to help you sleep (although in this context they are actually the same thing). Also those in the know rave about Oman Air.
I have sampled a fair few J class products and for me BA
is the winner - it's a properly lie-flat bed, you can enjoy the company of your neighbour if you want, or enjoy total privacy if you don't. The fleet includes 57 747s, which gives you the private jet feeling absent on the main deck of a 777 or A330, and they fly to six continents. Best of all - it's a consistent product with the same seat across the entire fleet so you know exactly what you're getting, which is not true of all airlines.
Unlike Emirates, where every aircraft has a different product - some 777s have the A380 product, others have an ancient laz-e-boy. I think all the A330s and A340s have the old recliner, but you'll pay top dollar. Prepare to be majorly disappointed, especially on the A340 which flies some long haul routes eg Casablanca, Osaka. Also the minibar on the A380 / 777 is useless, it's actually a little shelf of soft drinks etc, but who wants to drink at room (cabin) temperature? So you still need to ring a call bell for ice. It's an irritating waste of weight and space that wasn't thought through at all.
Some products are bizarrely bad - herringbone is terrible cos you can't see your travel partner - for instance my niece, 8 years old, got freaked out in her Virgin Atlantic* seat cos she couldn't see mummy (or anyone). And the window is behind you. And the angled lie-flat is an abomination, flew it on Qantas and won't ever fly QF
J class ever again, lying there trying not to slide off this awful thing is not what I paid for.
Was very disappointed by Egyptair recently - they had a nice looking flatbed which I spied on a recent CAI
in Y so I booked LHR
in J last month cos it was cheap. LHR
was as I remembered, although the cabin service was very hit-or-miss. I looked forward to the CAI
sector to sleep, but imagine my disappointment to find an 80s style recliner. So Egyptair are putting flatbeds on midhaul and crappy recliners on long haul. Even worse, as soon as the door closed, they upgraded all their friends so every seat was taken, which makes you wonder why the hell you paid for it, plus when the guy next to you coughs like a SARS victim the whole time, you can't move. Singapore Airlines never ever upgrades passengers except if they're overbooked, and I think this is an excellent policy.
Finally - sometimes it's the soft product that does it. American Airlines J class isn't much of a match for BA
but their food is better, which makes them an equal in my eyes. I don't think Thai have the best hard product, even the new seats. But such nice crew, who couldn't be charmed off their feet? Some airlines soldier on with an outdated product but will win your heart with kind and professional service (Iran Air). And some have both - JAL and Nippon have a fantastic hard product and really nice and polite cabin crew. Singapore Airlines goes without saying.
Who have I missed out?
* my niece, bless her, thought the name of the airline was Version Atlantic.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz