A passenger in Eurobiz raises his glass of champagne to the window, as the world passes below him.

How to elevate the Eurobiz concept beyond the cocktail table

Cartoon of passengers, flight attendant and pilots onboard an aircraftWhen taking an hour-long flight in Europe, there is a very valid question to ask: what is the point of Eurobusiness? Sure, getting a glass of wine in the lounge is nice, and having an empty seat next to you is reassuring. But paying a hefty surcharge for the privilege can sometimes feel like poor value for money. 

Yet, whilst you’re unlikely to see lie-flat seats up front on short-haul European flights anytime soon, one can find some genuinely worthwhile Eurobiz products operating within the parameters of this model.

Some airlines start from the principle that Eurobusiness means “no middle seat”, which applies to 3-3 configured narrowbodies. Others work on the basis that it means “a spare seat next to you”, which would also be pertinent to 2-2 configured regional jets.

When passengers like myself think Eurobiz, the blocked middle seat in a seat triple generally comes to mind (though we’re certainly grateful for blocked adjacent seats on RJs).

Iberia set of three seats in grey with soft purple lighting cascading down on them. This is a Eurobiz product. Some carriers provide a cocktail table in the middle; but this is not seen on Iberia.

The lack of antimacassars on middle seats represents the blocked middle on Iberia. The soft leather interior with mood lighting feels modern and luxurious. Image: Fintan Horan-Stear

The overall concept of Eurobiz is understandably pleasing to airlines as it provides maximum flexibility: just move the curtain backwards or forwards to expand the cabin up front. Moreover, when you adopt a single seating platform for an entire aircraft, it streamlines maintenance, parts and logistics.

Airlines have, however, executed on this model in different ways. For example, on British Airways (BA), the seats in Club Europe business class and in economy class are pitched roughly the same, depending on what variant of the carrier’s Airbus A320 family you’re flying. So, if you are as tall as me (6’4) and contemplating a range-topping flight from London to the Canaries, the exit row in economy might be far more appealing than Club Europe, at least for physical comfort. If you’re not tall or curvy, your priorities may differ.

KLM, meanwhile, takes a different approach. Its Boeing 737s feature extra-legroom seats in both business class and a single Economy Comfort row, but not in economy. This enables KLM to sell Economy Comfort as business depending on passenger load and vice versa. So, if only two rows of business are sold then more Economy Comfort tickets or upgrades can be offered. Distinguishing up front on KLM from down back with seat pitch — whilst maintaining cabin flexibility — is smart.

A man's knees are see in close proximity to the seat in front of him in Eurobiz

Having a row of extra legroom seats at the front of economy that can then be sold as business class or Economy Comfort keeps the flexibility of Eurobusiness whilst also retaining the premium. Image: Fintan Horan-Stear

Once on board, the service needs to fit your flight and your cabin. Greek flag carrier Aegean, for instance, managed to serve each passenger individually and cater to their needs on a recent flight from Paris to Athens, but when I experienced a similar approach on a 1h20 BA flight to Lyon — sat in row 5 — I only received my meal as we were preparing to land.  

An Aegean meal in Eurobiz is being displayed on the aircraft table. The meal consists of a chicken dish, potato dish, soup and a dinner roll.

The quality of the catering on Aegean was exceptional. Image: John Walton

Spanish carrier Iberia’s approach is to serve each row at a time, but in stages, with drinks and meals orders taken first and then meals served as soon as they are ready. This ensures a level of personal interaction but remains time-efficient, thereby heightening the chance that every passenger will be served in good time. KLM takes this concept even farther by taking meals and drinks orders upon boarding. Your drink of choice is in your hand before the seat belt sign is off!

For the meal, KLM offers a boxed affair that seems cheap at first, but is actually really genius. Delft pottery-inspired packaging opens up to reveal filling and well-flavoured cold meals. This was a joy to uncover and savor.

KLM's meal box in Eurobiz consists of sandwiches,

The attention to detail of the packaging, which is made from cardboard and plastic, is incredible, right down to textured Delft covers. Image: Fintan Horan-Stear

British Airways’ Do&Co offerings are also of note here, especially its afternoon tea service that is perfect for a shorter flight, but I reckon that the bold flavours of Aegean’s menus are probably the closest one can get to a long-haul meal over the skies of Europe. 

A British Airways tea service in-flight consists of cheese, a stuffed dinner roll and a long sandwich.

The BA afternoon tea service brings a British classic to the skies. Image: Fintan Horan-Stear

Good quality beverages are also a must, and some airlines do deliver. BA retains a champagne service, which is a premium extra, but is often spoiled by not being cold enough. Iberia doesn’t offer on short-haul flights the sort of quality wines found on its long-haul flights. It serves Faustino VII, for instance — a wine you’re most likely to find as part of chain restaurant house special. 

A passenger is holding up a glass of champagne in front of the aircraft window

Whilst many airlines have switched to Cava, British Airways has kept true to the jet age. Image: Fintan Horan-Stear

The dining experience is always a great time to showcase one’s national heritage. Both Aegean and Iberia do so with brandies and liquors that immediately take you to your destination (assuming you’re not renting a car on arrival). 

A cabin crew member show off a selection of liquors

Iberia is clever to use a digestif service as an opportunity to showcase Spanish delicacies. Image: Fintan Horan-Stear

Last but certainly not least, staying connected in the sky is a critical part of any trip for business travellers, and whilst the majority of airlines do offer Wi-Fi, only certain carriers like Aegean offer complimentary streaming-level services.

Who knows, perhaps airlines — that have, like Aegean, adopted hybrid air-go-ground/S-band satellite connectivity via the European Aviation Network — will choose to unleash the EAN’s full potential on board. Others are embracing high-throughput satcom solutions, equally capable of supporting a free model.

Regardless, the Eurobusiness Wi-Fi paradigm is surely set to change. And it seems out of step not to offer free Wi-Fi as part of any premium Eurobusiness fare.

A good Eurobusiness experience will leave you feeling relaxed and special. A good quality seat with additional legroom, a quick and efficient service of chilled wine and an elevated meal that leaves you ample time to work, rest, or binge-watch a show, all provided by a crew that is attentive and friendly is something that can truly elevate any flight — even if it is a 50-minute shuttle over the North Sea. 

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All images credited to the author, Fintan Horan-Stear