Comfier seats, Michelin-star food and bigger in-flight entertainment screens, there’s a host of improvements in long-haul business class. By Jenny Southan.
Passengers flying business class may only make up around 12 per cent of an airline’s ticketholders but the cabin can often generate up to 55 per cent of its turnover, according to trade body International Air Transport Association (IATA). For this reason, constant investment in the premium experience is essential if carriers are going to keep hold of high-paying customers and stay ahead of the competition. Here’s a look at new long-haul business class seats that have been announced in recent months…
There has been much talk about when BA would unveil its new business class seat and now it has finally been revealed. The 56 “Club Suites” will be installed on the airline’s new A350 aircraft that will begin flying long-haul in October. Unlike its existing Club World product, seats will be arranged 1-2-1 allowing all passengers unrestricted aisle access and a view towards the front of the plane (some Club World seats face backwards). There will also be a door to the suite for privacy, 40 per cent more storage space, wifi and 18.5-inch in-flight entertainment screens. As with all good airlines today, the seat converts to a fully flat bed – in this case upholstered in smart navy fabric.
Not to be left behind, Virgin Atlantic revealed a new version of its Upper Class product in April, which will be fitted on its forthcoming A350-1000 aircraft that will begin flying in late summer. The most obvious difference will be the lack of a bar – instead, there will be a social space called The Loft where cocktails and an afternoon tea by master pâtissier Eric Lanlard are served. The new seats (arranged 1-2-1) have been designed according to feedback from frequent flyers. All face the windows and convert into 82-inch flat beds. Screens are 18.5 inches and can be controlled by passengers’ smartphones.
Air France released images of its forthcoming business class product in February, which is part of a global investment totalling €140 million. The wider seat (measuring 22.4 inches) will be retrofitted to all 15 of the airline’s existing A330s by 2020. Unlike BA, they will remain in a 2-2-2 layout. When fully extended, the bed will measure two metres in length. Designed by Stelia Aerospace, the 36 Equinox 2D seats have larger entertainment screens (18.5 inches) and also provide access to a self-service bar.
Coming this summer will be Turkish Airlines’ new B787-9 and A350-900 planes, which will feature a smart new business class concept called Aurora, also designed by Stelia Aerospace. Arranged 1-2-1, the seats will have full-length privacy screens between the centre pairs, 18-inch touchscreens and Alcantara padding, a material used in the interiors of sports cars. When upright, passengers will have 44 inches of legroom, but the seats also turn into horizontal beds.
Thompson Aero Seating is responsible for Swiss’s new-look business cabin, which arrived in March on the first of five refreshed A340s. Similar to the offering on its B777s, each of the 47 seats (1-2-1/2-2-1) have wooden tables and surrounds (solo seats have the most surface space), as well as an upgraded entertainment system. The product first appeared on the Zurich-Tokyo route, and will be followed by Shanghai, Johannesburg, Boston and Tel Aviv by the summer.
LATAM Airlines Group has opted for the Thompson Vantage XL seat, which has been customised by London-based design firm PriestmanGoode and is being installed on 200 of LATAM’s existing planes, as well as new B787s and A350s. Highlights include a granite-effect cocktail table, red leather headrests, neat storage areas for personal items such as headphones, and “Do not disturb” indicators for passengers who don’t want to be woken up for meals.
Described by the airline as a “boutique hotel in the air”, this carrier makes a point of serving eight Belgian beers and five-course meals by Michelin-star Belgian chefs in its new A330 business class cabins. Conceived by London’s JPA Design, the seats began flying in April 2019. Innovative features include settings for the bed so you can adjust it to firm or soft and ambient lighting to help with jet lag. Solo “throne” seats stand out for the generous work surfaces on either side, where passengers can spread out laptops, drinks and documents.
Spanish airline Air Europa is launching a new business class seat in a 1-2-1 arrangement that will be found on three B787-9s being delivered in the last few months of 2019, as well as other new planes in the years to come. The 32 grey, leather-upholstered seats will have 17-inch touchscreens and more privacy than the previous version. There will also be free wifi, new amenity kits and menus by Spanish chef Martín Berasategui.
The Canadian carrier has upped the ante with its new fully flat Super Diamond business class product by Rockwell Collins. It can be found on the new B787-9 Dreamliner that began flying internationally from London to Calgary in April 2019. Seats are in a 1-2-1 layout with completely extendable privacy screens between middle pairs.