Business class, redefined

By Chris Chamberlin, July 16 2014

As the battle for the lucrative business travel market grows more intense – with the spoils of success, and the cost of failure, greater than ever before – airlines have decided that a lie-flat bed is no longer enough.

From domestic business class cabins which wouldn't be out of place on an international flight, to seats which are more like suites, a handful of airlines are busy redefining business class as we know it.

Etihad Business Studio

What's so special about it? The new wave of business class for Etihad's Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 jets, the Etihad Business Studio brings suite-style design to business class travel.

In addition to an 80.5 inch bed (2.04 metre) bed, there's a side table and ottoman to maximise your space.

A top-loading cupboard and space below the ottoman provide plenty of storage – something of a trend among many new business class seats.

On the A380, Business Studio guests also have access to The Lobby, a serviced lounge and bar located between the first and business class cabins.

When you can fly it: From December you’ll be able to book into Business Suites on Airbus A380 flights between Abu Dhabi and London. The superjumbo will also fly between Sydney and Abu Dhabi from June 2015, with the Boeing 787 slated for Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services.

Read more: Inside Etihad Airways' new Business Studio

Singapore Airlines Business Class

What's so special about it? Revealed last year, this update to Singapore Airlines' already-impressive business class could easily be mistaken for first class.

Between sitting upright and lying flat-out, the seats offer new ‘Lazy Z’ and Sundeck modes – perfect for watching TV, reading a book or casually tapping away on your laptop.

There’s a new amenity storage area in the side console, a separate laptop stowage area and a personal vanity mirror, while the meal table is height-adjustable to suit all travellers.

The entertainment screen is boosted to 18 inches from the previous 15.4" size, while an ‘all-in-one business panel’ takes care of your power and connectivity needs.

When you can fly it: It’s sometimes available on SQ217/218 from Melbourne to Singapore and then onwards to London, while upgrades of the airline’s current Boeing 777-300ER fleet will begin next year, with all refits completed by 2016.

Read more: Singapore Airlines' new Boeing 777 business class

Qantas Business Suite

What's so special about it? The next generation of Qantas business class, designed by Marc Newson, gives each passenger direct access to the aisle and has plenty of space for working during the flight.

You'll also be able to recline the seat for take-off and landing – perfect for maximising your sleep on red-eye flights.

The new inflight entertainment includes backup storage behind the 16 inch screen so that even if the airplane-wide system goes down you'll still be able to watch a selection of the most popular movies and TV shows.

When you can fly it: Qantas expects to launch the Business Suite by the end of this year on at least one domestic (east-west) and international (Asian) service on its Airbus A330 aircraft.

Although the full re-fit program won’t be finished until 2016, Business Suites will eventually become a staple on all A330 flights to and from Perth, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok.

Read more: Up close with the Qantas Business Suite

JetBlue Mint

What's so special about it? US airline JetBlue raises domestic business class to a whole new level with semi-private suites on flights between Los Angeles and New York.

With echoes of the transcontinental turf war that's played out between Qantas and Virgin Australia on east-west flights, JetBlue is going up against United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta.

Complete with closing doors, there are four semi-private suites on each aircraft plus 12 standard Mint seats.

The Mint premium cabin offers with the longest (80 inches, or 2.03 metres) widest (22.3 inches, or 56 cm) flatbeds in the US domestic market.

Creature comforts include multiple AC outlets and USB ports for each seat, a massage function and satellite TV.

When you can fly it: JetBlue Mint services are currently flying between New York’s JFK airport and Los Angeles, with a New York-San Francisco service coming later this year.

Read: Review – JetBlue's new Mint business class seats and suites

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1136

Spot the odd one out.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

What? Only QF doesn't already exist? Only B6 puts it in a narrowbody? Only SQ is narrower than its older product? What?

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 514

You sure that SQ217/218 has the new business class seats? My understand is at present only 3 SQ 777-300ER's (PV-SWU, SWV, SWW) have the new seats and these are dedicated to SQ318/319 to/from London and some Tokyo rotations which I presume are used just to fill the schedule.

I looked at the flight history for SQ217/218 and none of these 3 have shown up on these flights, they appear to be operated by the 'older' 300ER fleet, which as you point out in the article below will be refitted starting next year.

https://www.executivetraveller.com/singapore-airlines-new-first-business-class-for-boeing-777s

 

18 Dec 2012

Total posts 9

I think you are right. I often fly SQ218 & it's always the older 300ER, in the 1-2-1 layout. I'm flying SQ218 tomorrow night, will let you know.  

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 514

The rego's of the new a/c should of course should read 9V-SWU/V/W not PV!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1136

Yep, beyond the occasional sub the B77WN isn't on scheduled service to Australia.

RR
RR

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 64

well whoop-de-do, but if you fly Brisbane - SIN or one of the 4 Syd-Sin flights, SQ use old A330’s with 2x2x2 angled wedgie seats. For the overnight from SIN-BNE they are dreadful, lumpy and you slide down,  but SQ insist that an 8 hour+ overnight flight is “regional”, and BNE won’t get their 180degree flat seats of any sort.

 Thai also use cruddy angled seats to BNE and Syd, and on the BNE-BKK flight it is a 2x3x2 arrangement, despite advertising on their website that their international business is all in pairs. Another case of Oz being ‘regional’. With the demise of Virgin A, we only book on the refurbed QF 747 to SIN or Cathay to HKG for a guaranteed flat bed.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 514

SQ's A330's are not old. The oldest is a whopping 5 years old and the average fleet age is 3.5. 8 of them, which is just over 1/4 of the fleet of 27 are under 18 months old, and a further 11 were delivered in 2010 and 8 in 2009. How much newer do you want?

Fair enough complain that SQ considers 8 hours to be regional, just like Qantas, Cathay and Thai, though 8 hours is hardly long haul is it? But to complain about old, you just loose any cred.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1136

AJW, agreed.

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

Lets face it, most of this business class, is really the new first class and premium economy is turning into the equivalent of old business class.

How much longer will actual first class survive? I hope it does but I cant see how they are going to up the ante enough for it to be worth it over a much lower priced business class product.

RR
RR

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 64

All I can say is that if they were new planes on the last two SQ SIN BNE flights it didn't show! Or they have (like me) aged quickly!   The brown leather was scuffed, cracked and lumpy; the beige plastics scuffed, generally the plane looked very  tired and 'used'. However that was not my main point  - it was regardless how fabulous the latest SQ seats will be, and they do look fabulous, on the 3 dailys from BNE and at least 1 SYD flight we won't see them.  The angled things in their 330's I find extremely uncomfortable and not conducive to sleep on the overnight. It really is a second rate offering compared to QF on the same route, and I have stopped using SQ for that reason. if they put the latest seat, or even it's predecessor on these flights I would go back to SQ in a moment.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 514

So your saying that Qantas with it's fleet of older (note I said older, not old, because 8-11 years is mid age) A330-300's, with an angled bed, not too dissimilar to SQ's is better? New product coming sure looks better, but current A330 product really?

All to their own I guess.

PS if your point wasn't about the age of the SQ fleet why put it in. As I said the moment you said that you lost me and came across as nothing more than an il-iformed whinger.

pwl
pwl

11 Jun 2013

Total posts 12

i'm wondering which industries are still flying business class as a matter of policy (and so making the product "hotly contested")...?

sadly my own has been in the cut-price economy blues for the past 10 years or more. :(

 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 14

I have travelled on two SQ flights in the last month with the updated 777-300 business class seats which are mostly great but with two really horrible problems. The safety belt is too short when in sleep mode. I am not overweight but it felt constricting. I think it was designed for a standard Asian weight. Some people will find it too tight. In fact on last nights flight to Narita, I just got rid of it and let the crew wake me during turbulence to refasten, it was the only way to sleep.

But easily the biggest problem is the new hand controller for the entertainment system. It is based on a games controller with a screen used to control most of the functions. but it is ridiculously fiddly to use, very easy to press the wrong control (e.g. exit instead of FF during a video) and missing some tactile controls that people like such as volume control and an ENTER button. I do not have fat fingers and I have good dexterity but kept making mistakes. Even worse, trying to work out the interface was doing my head in. The old KrisFlyer entertainment system (the current one on most flights) is amongst the best in the world, if not the best, but this new version was clearly designed by a young gamer and only tested on them. NO way can serious adults have been involved in the testing phase. When I complained to one chief purser he quietly admitted the crew was spending too much time trying to help people use it. The second purser on another flght was more diplomatic saying they had had a few complaints. When I wrote to SQ about this, and I realize I am only a simple SQ Gold level FF and not some celebrity who might get more attention, I got a standard response back showing no real interest in the problem or an indication that it would be checked out. Big shame. Singapore should have tested these new business class facilities more widely.


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