Should you dress up for business class?

Should you dress up for business class?

TALKING POINT | If you want to start an engaging discussion among frequent flyers, ask them about dress codes for airport lounges – especially first class lounges – as well as in business and first class sections on the plane.

Some people feel that business travellers should be dressed to suit, although wearing an actual suit may be taking this to extremes.

Others argue that comfort trumps style, and suggest that having paid top dollar for a business class ticket means you can wear pretty much whatever you please.

Most airlines avoid hard and fast rules on what to wear, and suggest that neat, casual attire is sufficient. There tends to be more focus on what not to wear, such as T-shirts and singlets containing "offensive" language or images.

In short, almost any clothing within reason and the bounds of decency is fit for flying.

That's bad news for later-day Beau Brummells who would rather see people put a bit more effort into their choice of travel threads.

My own approach to in-flight wardrobe is basic and fuss-free, but designed not to look out of place in a first class lounge or cabin.

Comfortable smart casual is 'the new norm'

My standard travel gear starts with a pair of cotton 'dress chinos' that are light, breathe well and still look good even with some in-flight creasing.

I usually pair that with a casual Oxford cotton shirt (I've picked up some excellent non-iron crease-resistant dress shirts) or for a more casual look, a plain cotton non-branded polo top.

Add a pair of slip-on shoes – ideal for breezing through airport security checkpoints and quickly slipping off once the flight begins – and I'm good to go.

Should airlines adopt tighter dress standards for lounges and business class travel? And what's your own choice of in-flight clothing?

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • Victor Teng


    14 Jul, 2017 08:15 am

    For me one rule i stick to when flying in J class is smart casual clothing that you can layer on or off like a nice jacket/sweater/cardigan plus a nice plain tee underneath which will allow you to dress up (lounge) or down (when flying). Agree with you, chinos or non-holed jeans, and you'll definitely need decent shoes which you can slip on/off easily for both practicality (security) or comfort (when flying).

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  • reeves35


    14 Jul, 2017 08:29 am

    Neat casual is fine.  You do not need to dress up but common sense also means you don't wear your gardening clothes.  

    What you wear probably depends on where you are going and how long the flight is.  For a shorter flight to North Qld for example, neat shorts and a polo shirt are fine.  Longer flights means layers are required because planes are always too hot or too cold.

    Unless you are going straight to a business meeting off the plane, it is unlikely that a suit or dress shoes are necessary, particularly as dress shoes often need removal to get through security.

    Before getting too hung up on dress standards for Business Class, I'd prefer airlines to start policing their own existing rules for carry-on luggage first.  

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  • Volkov Breg


    14 Jul, 2017 08:49 am

    Hawaiian Shorts, Hawaiian Shirts, Hawaiian sandals.

    It's Clean, Light, Relaxing and suits the environment.
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  • wdeguara


    14 Jul, 2017 02:18 pm

    Sounds like Jetstar Business ....
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  • Volkov Breg


    15 Jul, 2017 10:37 am

    Or Qantas Business if people are being less Judgemental. I only judge you if you are stinking the entire cabin or exposing something gruesome. That's it.
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  • elchriss0


    14 Jul, 2017 08:56 am

    Even in First I think what you listed above is perfectly fine.  However in J i'm going to wear decent shorts and t-shirt with plain looking runners if i'm travelling in summer and just swap the shorts for a pair of decent chinos in the winter.  I find wearing runners much more comfortable in flight considering that my feet get a bit swollen and I can just loosen the laces and luckily I've never had to take them off in security.
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  • Cameron Hocking


    14 Jul, 2017 09:08 am

    Tracksuit pants runners and a tshirt. Shorts or gym shorts when it's hot at one end of the journey. I don't like thongs but I'll wear sandles when it's hot or I have multiple flights and my feet get swollen. 

    I wouldn't ever wear ripped or dirty clothes, but I do think I normally look out of place in the attire I wear. 

    I don't have a "I've paid for this so I'll do as I please" attitude, I just think comfort is important, flying isn't a special thing, and the class you travel doesn't mean your a better class of person.

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  • PVM


    14 Jul, 2017 09:26 am

    I was in Abu Dhabi the other week at the business class check-in & an Aussie guy was next to me in shorts & a t-shirt & the staff kindly asked if he had pants & collared shirt he could put on, as they have standards in the lounge & for respect of fellow passengers on-board. That was a first to see but I was very impressed with how the EY staff approached it!
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  • Tim Robson


    14 Jul, 2017 02:28 pm

    Which airline, PVM? Had a bloke in Etihad biz this morning from Abu Dhabi to Sydney dressed in footy-type shorts and a nylon footy type polo shirt. Doesn't fuss me any, but it did strike me as being one rung down from what's normal. PS decent jeans, nice slip on boots and a plain but dressy v-neck tee is my standard attire.  
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  • flubberghusted


    14 Jul, 2017 03:39 pm

    I wore a tank stop with a crumpler backpack flying in J with EY from SYD to AUH. All was fine until we were exiting for our shuttle bus from tarmac to the terminal. 
    I was the last of J class exiting and the attendant on top of the stairs stopped me thinking all of J class had gotten on the first bus. Had to correct him and let me through. 
    Moral of story. How you dress will reflect on how you get treated... 
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  • quick_dry


    17 Jul, 2017 07:14 am

    With EY? I fly for sport, so my de-facto uniform is cargo shorts, T-shirt and possibly some long 'Skins' sorts compression tights. I've never had EY be anything but very gracious hosts in the F lounge, F class suites or apartments, or J class. Similarly with EK and Dubai.
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  • sgb


    14 Jul, 2017 09:45 am

    I'm a conservative smart dresser, quality casual clothes and business suits make the man. Virtually all my wardrobe is Henry Bucks Collins Street. (That's Conservative). There is a lady at Emirates Lounge Melbourne that I often check in with and she tells me she see's some shocking attire in the lounge, this person tells me what brand shoes I am wearing, she must do the shoe fetish thing and realize quality by brand. Looking around the Emirates lounge Melbourne does show that standards are falling across the board. To me it seems that peoples shapes these days don't suit what they actually put on their backs, and as for accessories etc, a lot are in bad taste.
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  • elchriss0


    14 Jul, 2017 11:06 am

    I have to disagree with your comment "quality casual clothes and business suits make the man".  Many people (including those who have access to lounges or points to redeem J tickets) have only 1 suit and only ever wear it to job interviews and formal events, that doesn't make them any less of a man by doing so.  Not everyone in the lounge or J class is so well endowed that they can afford to wear expensive clothes as their daily attire, and even if they are, they may simply prefer comfort over style/fashion.
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  • sgb


    14 Jul, 2017 11:39 am

    I can't imagine only having one suit, I have somewhere in the double digits, that's not including the evening range of tuxedos etc, but I am expected to wear them when at work every weekday and I never wear the same one consecutively. Dressing down at work for me is a suit without a tie, nothing less casual. I think suits on long distance flights are just silly, that calls for style yet comfort. In fact, a good way to ruin a suit is wear on an over sea's flight, and hope they can resurrect it at an arrivals lounge ironing service.
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  • Nick Keith


    17 Jul, 2017 09:45 am

    Is this tongue in cheek sgb?

    Whilst I also enjoy presenting well when travelling, particularly internationally, I would not expect others to have access to multiple suits or designer wear simply due to flying in J.

    You'd be surprised who you may find flying Y class in a modest manner across airlines.

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  • Chris Chamberlin


    17 Jul, 2017 09:55 am

    NQPsych2U: Please be reminded of AusBT's comment policy, which asks users to discuss the topic of the article and avoid making personal remarks about others involved in the discussion.

    Your comment has been shortened in line with this policy.
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  • Tom Paseka


    14 Jul, 2017 10:17 am

    you don't need to dress up. Wear whatever you'd wear in public already. Most business class cabins offer very private seats - you're not in display, it does not matter.  If you can wear it into the qantas club, you can wear it in business or first. 
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  • Yvan J Drake


    14 Jul, 2017 10:49 am

    I'm definitely a Chinos and Shirt kind of guy, but I'll wear a tshirt under the Shirt. 

    Depending on how warm the cabin is, the collared shirt can come off and I'll relax in just the tshirt. 

    The shoes are normally chuck taylors or sneakers, purely because I have size 15 clodhoppers, and my daily shoes are Leather Boots because they actually give me ankle support, but have proven to be too much hassle, should security ask me to have them scanned. 

    I always tell my partner to wear whatever's comfiest, which usually ends up being a jacket, tshirt and some "nice" trackies, if such a thing exists. 

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  • Mark


    14 Jul, 2017 11:34 am

    First rule, make sure you are showered and don't have body odor. Other than that, comfortable clothing that is smart casual is sufficient. 
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  • Nalin Wickramasinghe


    14 Jul, 2017 04:47 pm

    absolutely, nothing worse than bo and halitosis in a place cabin
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  • Damien  Greene


    14 Jul, 2017 11:38 am

    Given I'm in my pjs within 10 mins of take off normally , I don't think dress codes onboard are that relevant 😂
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  • ajstubbs


    14 Jul, 2017 11:43 am

    It's perfectly possible to be neat and tidy as well as comfortable. I tend to opt for loafers, a skirt and layered tops to cater for varying cabin and airport temperatures. Ease of putting shoes on in the night and changing into pyjamas always factors in! My one no-no is thongs. Honestly, nobody needs or wants to see your feet. A closed shoe is not that hard.
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  • Tancho


    14 Jul, 2017 12:01 pm

    I don't do thongs purely to avoid any chances of a wheelie bag rolling over my toes. But I agree they aren't proper footwear for most places.
    Neat casual is fine. So long as you look clean, neat and presentable and not like you just crawled out of bed or just had a really taxing gym session. I travel J more for leisure than business. I am not about to dress up to go on holiday. 
    My standard are stretchy chinos or jeans and a long sleeved t. Sometimes sneakers, sometimes closed toed flats.
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  • asw


    14 Jul, 2017 01:18 pm

    Smart casual works for me. 
    I've also found asking for an upgrade works best when you're dressed appropriately for the cabin you want. 
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  • Stephen Jasper


    14 Jul, 2017 02:23 pm

    My own dress code is similar to the author's: chinos, collared shirt and slip-on shoes. Add a jumper and maybe a coat (depending on season and destination) and I'm good to go. If I'm going straight to a meeting, I'll suit up, but cuff links are a pain at security (the voice of bitter experience). 
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  • wanderer_au


    14 Jul, 2017 03:05 pm

    If I fly long-haul in J to either North America or Europe, I will wear (depending on the weather at the destination) a beige linen/cotton jacket, or a wool navy blazer onto the plane (with chinos, or maybe cotton jeans)  Most of my long-haul travel is with QF so I'll have PJs to wear on board, so the coat, trousers and shirt get hung up during the flight.  
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  • VV


    14 Jul, 2017 03:05 pm

    Neat dark jeans, a polo or smart t-shirt, a v-neck sweater for warmth and a pair of tracksuit pants in the carry-on for airlines that don't provide pyjamas.

    SGP - don't know your industry but so happy I don't work in finance or legal where suits are a requirement (I work in digital media) - I have a couple of suits but chinos, shirts, a cool blazer and killer shoes is a great in between.

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  • Mike Sutcliffe


    14 Jul, 2017 03:10 pm

    My view is smart casual ( especially the lengthy trip ) comefort is very important as long as the clothing is not tacky eg ripped jeans ect
    But it's a changing world 
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  • Georgina MONAGHAN


    14 Jul, 2017 03:52 pm

    If one is traveling short distance smart casual is fine. Flying long haul one needs to be comfortable & have a routine for removal of clothes & shoes security. Whatever one wears should not be offensive to anyone for any reason. One should use common sense unfortunately common sense is as scarce as hens teeth!!  
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  • rambler


    14 Jul, 2017 03:54 pm

    Who cares? Comfort is the main thing. I feel sorry for the poor old stuffed shirts in suits when I'm sharing the business class cabin dressed in a polo shirt and shorts. 
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  • Nick  Sydney 348

    Nick Sydney 2

    14 Jul, 2017 04:05 pm

    In a word, yes. Dressed in shorts and a T plus thongs might be fine if heading to Bali, Fiji or the Gold Coast but a good look if in the Emirates Dubai lounges or say LAX or any US airport lounge that I have been to. 
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  • EdS


    14 Jul, 2017 04:26 pm

    All good ideas, but personally I don't like to see occasional glimpses of hairy knee during flight. Hi-vis overalls are perfectly acceptable.  Perth standard lounge is full of hi-vis. When I asked if that was compulsory dress code, I was told that when the new business lounge was opened there would be none--- no such luck. Always hi-vis in the Perth business longe now, even the new Brisbane business lounge.

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  • EdS


    14 Jul, 2017 04:28 pm

    On a personal note, wool slacks, chinos, but no jeans--too heavy for flying.

    Business or sports shirt. Tie on the way out but never back.

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  • timster


    14 Jul, 2017 04:43 pm

    Australian J flights seem to have way more "middle-aged grunge" pax than I see elsewhere. You know, the 30- and 40-something guys who think they're still in shape and still teenagers ... in dark tshirts and worn jeans (that probably cost them several hundred dollars !). Tragics.
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  • John Odlum

    John Odlum

    14 Jul, 2017 04:47 pm

    Smart casual for holidays or weekends, business casual for business trips. That's all you need to know. Big fan of lightweight chinos. I'll make an exception when flying into a very hot climate on holidays such as Singapore, for which I'll wear clean 3/4 length dress shorts and slip-on shoes, which is still stylish.
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  • Sula


    14 Jul, 2017 05:26 pm

    For me it's less about setting up clear rules for which types of clothing are (un)acceptable. The guiding principle should be respect for fellow travellers. All too often I unfortunately find that the type of passenger travelling in shabby sports gear, dirty shoes, sandals (with bad foot hygiene) are also the often the first ones to behave unacceptably. They are typically the first ones with their naked feet up on the seat, against the front seat/bulkhead, on the lounge coffee table. Really sad sometimes but just shows you how knowing how to dress and behave in close proximity to strangers often goes hand in hand. 

    And since we are talking about it. The Ines who really need a sartorial update are the poor souls of the Air NZ crew. Those uniforms are just atrocious. 

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  • crosscourt


    14 Jul, 2017 05:35 pm

    Ahhh my hobbyhorse and soapbox topic. I don't think a collar and tie is essential or a necessity but show respect to other passengers and look presentable. It drives me nuts seeing people with bare feet, looking a mess etc. They may have paid a reasonable amount for an air ticket but so have I and if I can have respect for other passengers then feel the same should be in reverse. Don't fly up front on a full service airline dressed as if you have the cheapest ticket on Tiger, Ryanair or Easyjet. Also, standards in lounges have dropped heavily. It is not your home, get your feet off tables and couches. There needs to be better policing with dress codes into lounges - too many using the QF Singapore and Hong Kong look slovenly. I'll probably get slammed but I don't care you wont change my mind. QF please bring in dress guidelines for international lounges and continue to enforce the ones you have for domestics.
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  • cloud-9


    14 Jul, 2017 06:01 pm

    In the KL MH F lounge last week there was a couple who were both dressed in cheap thongs, beach shorts and t shirts. 

    Even if flying to a hot destination, there is no excuse to not get changed afterusing the hotel pool

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  • crosscourt


    14 Jul, 2017 06:04 pm

    Couldn't agree more. There is no excuse. In my view its just people being smartar**s. It is just poor manners and attention seekers.
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  • Blair Coull

    Notso Swift

    14 Jul, 2017 06:13 pm

    I was having a discussion with a new staff member yesterday about our "Casual Friday" (which I think is suitable travel attire) and I rolled out my old mantra - Friday is not Saturday :)
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  • Ric OSHEA


    14 Jul, 2017 06:38 pm

    Flying within OZ, the destination and time of year determines my apparel. I always wear boat shoes as they are slip-ons and always a collared shirt. A smart set of jeans or similar shorts (sometimes they are sports shorts but don't look like footy gear) covers the lower half. All the clothing is comfortable which is the major priority.
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  • smit0847


    14 Jul, 2017 07:26 pm

    Neat dark jeans, a neat plain black t-shirt and clean, plain sneakers are my normal attire for business class. They need to be comfortable enough to sleep in and dark enough to hide any spills. I do not understand how anyone sleeps in a suit.

    For (proper) F class I’ll go chinos, a shirt and a neat blazer.

    I think the key is clean, neat, well-fitting clothes.

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  • BevanMcBevan


    14 Jul, 2017 07:37 pm

    It's a great subject isn't it. I'm with David. You can look smart, men and women, without going over the top. Of course, shower before you get on that plane! (yee gads people).

    Australian dress sense is not a global dress sense. Too many times I've found myself in dicey situations (Lagos, Luanda, there's just two extravagant locales).

    When dressed smart you'll get attention, be treated well and, in my experience, be given the leg up first and with a smile.
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  • Antoinette Allison


    14 Jul, 2017 08:26 pm

    Yes always a good idea to look smart, fresh and clean in any class - at least at the beginning of any flight !
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  • Brad Takacs-Thorne


    14 Jul, 2017 09:13 pm

    Dead set I pay for first and business class I'll wear what ever I'm comfortable in. Are we that concerned about what other wear.  
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  • John Corbett

    John C

    14 Jul, 2017 09:34 pm

    Yes, you should always dress up in Business and First. Show some respect and have some class. You are a grown-up, not a large child. And besides, what would your mother say?
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  • Robbie McDonald


    14 Jul, 2017 11:53 pm

    What I wear when I get on board depends on where I coming from and what I wear when I leave depends on where I am going to. PJ's are the norm in-between. Cargo Pants, Polo Shirt and Colorados for the cold and Shorts, Polo Shirt and Sandals for the hot. Always ensure socks are on as soon as you change into PJ's. Nothing worse than smelly bare feet in a small cabin. I haven't owned a suit in 15 years and only wear ties for weddings and funerals. :)
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  • traveller90


    16 Jul, 2017 04:15 am

    Definitely dress up and retain the standards! On saying that though, there is nothing wrong with changing into comfortable and presentable pj's during the quiet periods of the flight.
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  • Andrew


    16 Jul, 2017 03:01 pm

    I fly EK first and business frequently and I love wearing shorts as they don't constrict movement and u don't get hot in them. I pair them with a collared short sleeved shirt, socks and sneakers. It is very comfortable for long flights. The only drawback is if you arrive somewhere very cold. In 2001, I walked out of Hamburg International into the snow, looking like a total dork in shorts and tee shirt. After that, I always take an appropriate change of clothes and change in the bathroom before landing. Very easy in EK A380 F bathroom!
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  • Andrew


    16 Jul, 2017 03:03 pm

    And I have never been given a second glance in the many times I have entered the Dubai first class lounge in shorts and tee shirt
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  • Lindsay Wilson

    QF WP

    17 Jul, 2017 02:58 pm

    David, I dress like you if I'm flying the day before but if I'm flying Domestic and stepping off to go straight into meetings, then it's either suit and tie (likely for SYD and MEL) or open neck long sleeve business shirt (for CBR, ADL and PER). 
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  • Joe


    18 Jul, 2017 01:22 pm

    I think us Aussies are the worst dressed in QF premium cabins. I always note this when transiting in LHR and DXB. You can spot the Aussie a mile away. Considering pyjamas are offered in J as well as F why go travelling looking like you've just scored big time at a k-mart target or kathmandu sale? No need for a tux but gee some travellers take casual and drab to a whole new level.
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22 Jul, 2019 06:25 pm


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