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This Is a More Affordable Business Class, but Is It Worth the Price?

This budget airline’s business class is a worthy contender.

When it comes to flying, it’s funny how the things we consider as “basic needs” here on the ground are suddenly rebranded as luxuries when we’re 35,000 feet up in the air. A lie-flat bed and room to stretch your legs are things we don’t think twice about on Earth, but up in the sky? Those “indulgences” will cost you thousands. Down here, most of our meals are served on actual plates and accompanied by real silverware, but to be given a real plate in the air feels as though we’re being treated like royalty.

Flying business class is a luxury that can make the difference between arriving at your destination refreshed and bright-eyed versus achy and exhausted. In an ideal world, business class would be the standard of flying for all passengers: spacious, comfortable, and accommodating. Of course, this isn’t an ideal world, and the difference in experience and price between airline cabins can be drastic.

While it may seem like all business class cabins are trying to outdo one another in offerings, from a passenger’s perspective, flying business often comes down to one big thing: cost. It goes without saying that business class tickets are expensive, on average ranging between $3,000 and $5,000 in the United States for long-haul flights, even exceeding a $10,000 price tag on some airlines.

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Thankfully, there are more cost-effective options that allow passengers to enjoy the luxuries of business class travel without emptying their bank accounts. Enter Condor Airlines, a budget airline based in Germany that offers transatlantic business class tickets starting at under $2,000. Recently, I had the chance to fly Condor’s business class from JFK to Frankfurt on their new Airbus A330-900neo jet. From the airport to the airplane, the onboard amenities to the menu, is Condor’s business class cabin truly worth the price tag?

Check-In and the Business Class Lounge

One of the joys of traveling as a business class passenger is skipping past the lengthy security line. Typically, business class passengers are able to fly through security thanks to priority access. As I approached the security line at JFK, I was ushered to a “priority lane,” which allowed me to skip past the long queue of passengers as though I’d somehow cheated the system. However, this victory was short-lived when TSA agents combined both lanes into one absolutely massive line.

Of course, as well-intentioned as the airline might be in stamping “priority” across their business class passenger tickets, they can’t control the inner workings of the airport. And if you’re brave enough to complain to a TSA agent at JFK that you’re traveling business and shouldn’t have to stand in line, then kudos. I’ve seen TSA throw glares that could melt the flesh off bone.

Once through security, business class passengers have access to the Lounge @T7 in JFK. The lounge has all the basic amenities one would expect: clean bathrooms, a spacious and quiet lounge area, complimentary snacks, and a full buffet. After the chaos of security, the lounge is a welcome perk to unwind and decompress prior to boarding your long-haul flight.

Courtesy of Condor

The Business Class Cabin

Condor’s new A330-900neo has 30 business class seats, which are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. This means that aisle seats are standalone, while the middle rows will have two business class seats side-by-side. There are no “middle seats” in Condor’s business class, so every passenger has direct aisle access—a luxury in itself for anyone who has ever had the demoralizing experience of crawling over a sleeping stranger’s lap for a bathroom break.

At first glance, the cabin is very elegant, featuring spacious seat pods, and is branded with Condor’s emblematic stripes. The front row of business class—known as “Prime Seats” and sold at an additional $350 cost—are the best seats on the plane due to more legroom, bigger screens, luggage storage, and an ottoman to rest your weary soles. Apparently, these prime seats also come with pajamas, but I can’t say I noticed any passengers dressed in head-to-toe Condor stripes prancing about the cabin during my flight.

I flew on a regular business class seat, a standalone seat on the aisle, and found the experience to be fantastic, even without it being the best seat onboard. My business class seat featured a lie-flat bed flanked by an inner console with ample storage for personal items, a remote control for the 24-inch, 4K television monitor, and another control for the seat itself to recline at various angles based on my comfort.

Business Class Amenities

As I said, the basic amenities of everyday life become extravagancies while flying. Give me a pair of striped socks on the ground, and I won’t think much of it. Give me a pair of striped socks on a plane, and I’ll look at you as though you’ve handed me a Tiffany’s blue box. It’s the little details that matter when traveling, and on Condor, these details went a long way in shaping my business class experience. Especially the striped slippers.

At your business class seat, you’ll find striped slippers, a cozy blanket, a fluffy pillow, complimentary water, and a Condor-branded travel bag filled with necessities for your upcoming journey, including Condor striped socks, lotion, an eye mask, lip balm, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. As I lovingly admired my free lip balm as though it were a rare gem, flight attendants made their way around the business class cabin, offering a welcome beverage (champagne or orange juice).

As one would expect, there is an in-seat monitor loaded with heaps of entertainment options, from movies to television shows. But, beyond the amenities, there is another detail that blew my mind, and that was a rolled-up mattress topper. Having flown business class on other carriers, this is a detail that’s typically not offered, and which I found incredibly thoughtful.

Courtesy of Condor

The Gourmet Menu

Outside of the lie-flat beds, the food is where the business class experience truly sets itself apart from other cabins and justifies the cost of the ticket. The quality of the food (not to mention the service) is lightyears beyond the shrink-wrapped meals served atop plastic trays back in economy. Dining in business class is like going to a restaurant; you’re handed a real menu, you’re served food on real plates alongside real silverware, and you’re even handed a bread basket. I know, the mind reels.

On Condor, the menu, which was developed in partnership between Condor’s culinary team and Gate Gourmet, did not disappoint. Divided into an “After Take Off” and “Before Landing” menu, my meal kicked off with an antipasti-inspired starter that included a bell pepper dip, mixed green salad, marinated tuna with tarragon dressing, and a layered tomato and mozzarella dish with bresaola. For the choice of entrée, I went with the Italian ravioli stuffed with mascarpone and artichoke served in a mushroom sauce.

The other two options were a shrimp scampi dish, and a veal cheeks entrée served with a side of broccoli and polenta. After dinner came a dedicated cheese course of Havarti with dill, cheddar, and goat cheese, followed by a lemon tartlet for dessert. After catching a few hours of sleep on my mattress-topped, lay-flat bed while donning my new striped socks and eye mask—I woke up to the “Before Landing” breakfast of fresh fruit, a blueberry muffin, and a croissant sandwich of pastrami and Swiss cheese, served alongside fresh orange juice and coffee. As far as airplane food goes, Condor knocks it out of the park.

Courtesy of Condor

The Verdict

Is Condor Airlines the best business class cabin experience on the market? No, it’s not. That title might go to Qatar Airways, who have seemingly converted half their jetliners into 5-star hotels (in searching for round-trip, transatlantic, business class flight on Qatar out of JFK, my results yielded a whopping price tag of over $14,000). But is Condor Airlines a worthy contender when it comes to long-haul business class flights? Absolutely, and here’s why.

Condor offers just about everything that other major carriers offer in their standard business class cabins: lie-flat beds, spacious business class pods, ample luggage storage, a multi-course gourmet menu, and thoughtful amenities. The difference is that Condor does it at a lower price.

I thought about this as I watched one of my seatmates carefully photograph every element of his business class seat—from the free toothbrush to the slippers to the pillow—as though each item was on loan from a museum. Having more than a few photos of my own slipper-clad feet showing off my seat’s legroom, I realized that the real win for Condor isn’t the mattress topper or the gourmet menu, or even the free striped socks; it’s how the airline is democratizing business class and offering the experience at a price tag lower than many of its competitors. So long as you don’t mind kicking off your Europe trip in one of the airline’s Germany, Amsterdam, or Florence hubs—Condor business class is well worth the price.


Condor Airlines offers flights out of Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and more. Visit Condor’s website for more information on its routes and cabins.