Business class 40,000 feet up has never been better as airlines upgrade their premium cabins as new aircraft types join their fleet.
Think of a desirable Business class cabin and the Middle Eastern carriers spring to mind. They have forged ahead with ground-breaking services and levels of comfort and today, they represent the gold standard in the air.
Qatar Airlines’ Suite Quad epitomises the trend. It comprises pairs of rearfacing and forward-facing seats in the centre to create a four-seat layout when passengers slide back the IFE display panels. There are doors to offer the ultimate in privacy. There are six quads in Qatar’s A350-1000 aircraft, for example, ideal for business meetings aloft or families who want to travel together.
The Quad also comes with what has become standard in Business class: lie-flat beds, storage space, ambient mood lighting, power ports, amenity kit, a turndown service with pillows, mattress and duvet, and even PJs and slippers if you want them.
Then add in all the extras on the ground, including dedicated check-in, fast track security, reliable wifi, departure lounge with restaurant-quality food, and so on, and Business class is a high quality product, helping to minimise jet lag on a Red Eye and keeping the traveller in good shape for the meetings ahead.
It’s a huge leap in cost, of course, but the services on the ground, for example the free chauffeur drive offered by some airlines, make the numbers on total trip cost more persuasive. Offering Business class to top execs also helps boost staff retention.
Emirates offers a free chauffeur drive service. It also boasts gourmet cuisine, an onboard lounge and up to 3,500 channels of entertainment in its super jumbo A380 Business class. The service begins with chauffeur-drive available in over 70 cities, and in Dubai, the world’s only Moet & Chandon airport bar. Once onboard, there is a lie-flat bed, privacy and an individual minibar.
Etihad also has lie-flat beds, all with direct aisle access, in its Business Studios on the A380s and 787 Dreamliners, plus a hotel-inspired bar area called The Lobby on the Upper Deck and an a la carte Dine Anytime menu offering both western and Middle Eastern cuisine. Seats are both aft and forward facing and come with full-size duvets and pillows when passengers wish to sleep.
Not to be outdone by the Middle Eastern carriers pushing the boundaries, other carriers have launched similar cabins. Singapore Airlines, for example, has gone with a shell rather than a privacy screen – for the same effect says the airline – a larger bi-fold table, ambient lighting, fine dining, duvets, connectivity, amenity kits, IFE and the airline’s legendary service.
Delta’s One Suite is more akin to the Middle Eastern carriers’ concept of Business class, with an individual suite with sliding door, extra storage and larger TV screens.
American Airlines has prioritised lie-flatbeds, aisle access and faster wifi while United’s Polaris includes enhanced dining via partnerships with prominent chefs and upgraded bedding, courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue.
British Airways has unveiled a new Club World product this summer (2019) which promises each passenger direct aisle access, and a new dining and sleep service.