When 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
- How Iberia is transforming its product with subtle statements
- Aegean’s new business class: well above Eurobusiness average
- EAN inflight connectivity astounds on Aegean A321neo
- TAP A321neo shorthaul business: a new standard for Eurobiz?
- Surprise-and-delight: a new model for Champagne and other beverages?
- When a BA Euro Traveller with add-ons outshines Club Europe
- Geven Essenza sparkles on Austrian A320 Eurobusiness
All images credited to the author, Fintan Horan-Stear