Difference between Coach and Business Class

For those of us who have never had the chance to travel business class and have always felt “stuck” in coach (even though we enjoy the ride just as well), it can sound incredible and amazing. But what actually happens in business class, and how are these two travel opportunities different from one another? Don’t both of them get you to your destination?


Coach vs Business Class
Coach seats on a Boeing 747 of the United Airlines

Coach or economy class is the cheapest type of seating in an airplane, on a train or even on a ferry. Traditionally, this is the equivalent of third and fourth class transportation, which was also known as steerage on ships in the 18th and 19th centuries. People used to bunk together in open spaces with very few commodities and facilities. These were the travel conditions of the waves of immigrants coming from poor countries to more developed ones. As their numbers decreased considerably after 1920, cabin areas were redecorated and adapted for budget travelers who became the main clients of this type of travel option and who, in time, considerably outnumbered the first class passengers. Today, budget travel is widespread, mainly because it is a solution adapted to most people’s means, and an opportunity to undertake all necessary journeys, be they for business or pleasure.

Generally, travelling on a plane in coach class may mean long boarding queues, regular width seats and little leg room, shared facilities and, depending on the length of the journey and the services provided by the carrier, limited snacks and drinks or even no refreshments at all.

business class
Business Class seats on Air India’s Boeing 777-300 ER

Business class is the equivalent of first class travel and it implies services designed to make the traveler feel good in all conditions. This may mean comfortable, wide seats with adjustable positions; plenty of leg room; entertainment and steward assistance during the trip; quality food and drinks; amenity kits and complimentary gifts from the carrier. Business class tickets are considerably more expensive than economy class, and the conditions offered are usually proportional to the price paid.

Although initially business class was supposed to be an intermediate level between coach and first class, as people in second class would sometimes pay a bit more just to sit closer to the first class curtains, some airlines have given up on the first class concept altogether, their business class becoming their highest level of travel.

For other means of transportation, first class still means more room, better travel conditions and restricted areas for the people without a first class ticket. In the past, it was a way of separating the rich from the poor when they traveled together.

Coach vs Business Class

So what is the difference between coach and business class?

Coach is cheaper and more accessible to a larger number of people. Rates paid to get from one place to another are reasonable, even if the travel experience may have to be something those taking part in  can only hope will be nice. By contrast, business class means style and luxury, comfort and a whole lot of money. Depending on the distance and on the conditions offered, some prices can even be ten times higher than those in coach.

Recent critics claim that the difference in travel conditions between coach and business class is widening because airline companies are interested in investing where they know the real money is. Since there is nowhere else left to expand, they choose to make travel conditions in business class worth envying, while the conditions in coach are not getting this much attention and are becoming restricted to basic needs and commodities. People are complaining about an over-filling of seats with less and less leg room. The business class experience keeps growing and growing, getting better and better, making the point that it is not the transportation that clients pay for, but the experience, which can either be amazing or not.

Comparison Chart

Coach Business class
Accessible prices Very expensive
Cramped area with a lot of seats Fewer, wider seats
Simple food and drinks or no refreshments at all Sophisticated meals and beverages
Normal attention from the stewards Extra attention from the stewards
Normal boarding conditions First to board, first to get off
Little or no entertainment Higher standard entertainment