There’s Never Been a Better Time to Fly Business Class Between London and New York

Aug 16, 2019

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The business-class competition across the Atlantic is heating up with a number of airlines rostering their best or newest products on routes between Europe and the US. Most notably of which is the widely popular — and profitable — route between London and NYC.

The New York to London route became the first $1 billion revenue route between 2017 and 2018, when British Airways generated a whopping $1.27 billion on it alone. Last year, despite a 10% decline in year-over-year revenues, the route still generated $1.15 billion for British Airways, which it serves together with its joint venture partner American Airlines. Between the two, they operate up to 15 times a day on the London to New York route.

It is therefore no surprise that the London to New York market is fiercely competitive with airlines trying to win market share in the lucrative business class segment by improving their offering for passengers and ensuring their best products fly on the route. Here’s a look at the most popular business-class products flying — or soon to be flying — between London and New York.

United Airlines’ Polaris Business Class on the Boeing 767

United announced that it will offer its new Polaris business-class seats on all flights between LHR and Newark (EWR). United will start that offering beginning 15 September. United launched Polaris in 2016, promising an improved ground experience, soft product and hard product, and it has been criticised for the time is has taken to deliver on said promises. To date, 68% of the long-haul fleet has been upgraded to the new Polaris seat with a goal of completing the upgrade across the fleet by 2020.

United recently reconfigured some of its 767 to a premium-heavy layout, with 46 Polaris business class seats, 22 premium economy seats and 99 economy seats. The carrier is set to only use this newly configured aircraft on LHR-EWR flights from September.

United is a member of Star Alliance and you can book seats on United via any Star Alliance frequent flyer programme, such as Avianca LifeMiles or Aeroplan.

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class on the A350

Virgin Atlantic took delivery of its first new A350 in August. The airline has upgraded its Upper Class product on the new aircraft and hopes it will put it ahead of British Airways, which has also launched a new long-haul business class product in the Club Suite. So far, Virgin has only shown mock-ups of the cabin, but it looks like it’s a very comfortable update to its existing — and outdated — Upper Class product. Included on the A350 is a lounge area for passengers to relax and mingle.

Virgin announced that it’s scheduling four daily flights on its new A350s on the LHR-JFK route. If you are keen to try out the new product, here’s how to book yourself on a flight using miles.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

British Airways’ Club Suite on Select 777s

British Airways has started retrofitting some of its Boeing 777s with its new Club Suite product — at least one of which will fly on the JFK route. The retrofitted aircraft will have first class, albeit a smaller cabin and likely the seat that’s currently used on the Boeing 787-9.

British Airways is taking delivery of its new A350s this year, which was the first aircraft to receive the new Club Suite product. Given that the A350 doesn’t have first class and that the New York route is a flagship first class route for BA, the airline has decided not to use any of its A350s to NYC. Instead, the LHR-JFK route will get the retrofitted 777 product.

British Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance, and booking Avios seats on the NYC route is relatively easy given the frequency of flights and number of seats available. Check out our ultimate guide to Avios to find out how.

Image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

Other Notable Mentions

There are, of course, other options that make for a comfortable flight between London and New York. In fact, the new BA Club Suite is the same seat American Airlines uses on its Boeing 777-300 — though the BA suite has a door. American also uses three different long-haul business class seats on the London to New York route.

Delta flies lie-flat seats between London and JFK, though some fall into the ‘just about good enough’ category. The carrier hasn’t rostered any aircraft with its relatively new Delta One Suites product on this route.

Flying indirect, there are even more options, including the new Aer Lingus narrow-body A321LRs and TAP’s wide-body A330neos, which feature new or improved business-class seats.

AA's 777-300ER business-class cabin.
AA’s 777-300ER business-class cabin.

Bottom Line

When the A380 launched, aircraft manufacturers were talking about the advent of a new type of flying — bowling alleys and swimming pools on board aircraft and new levels of luxury never seen before. Whilst the A380 might have brought about showers with a small number of airlines and onboard bars with others, many passengers didn’t feel like the comfort on board was substantially different from before.

Though BA and Virgin are using their new A350s to introduce new products, recent improvements in business class offerings have been less driven by one particular aircraft type and more by a general increase in competition for that most-lucrative business-class market. Given revenue numbers that can be generated on a single route can exceed $500 million and even top $1 billion, it’s no wonder airlines are putting their best products on the most profitable routes — and the London to New York route tops that list. For passengers, that means better seats and more comfort — and plenty of opportunities to use miles to bag those top business-class seats.

Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.

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