TALKING POINT | It’s late 2018, and you’re about to set off on a Qantas Boeing 787 flying from non-stop Melbourne to Dallas, or Perth to London.
That’s a journey of around 17 non-stop hours on what will be the world’s longest Dreamliner routes.
Thankfully you’re booked into one of the advanced jet’s 42 Business Suites – spacious seats with direct aisle access which convert into a lie-flat bed.
But is that enough? Should Qantas have plumped for something better than business class on its new globe-striding flagship fleet?
Who’s on first?
Most airlines flying the Boeing 787-9 made the same decision as Qantas and top out at business class. Only some – among them British Airways (below) and Etihad Airways – set aside space at the pointy end for first class suites.
Yet at this stage, neither airline flies its Dreamliners over the ultra-long distances planned by Qantas.
There’s no doubt that the Qantas Business Suite is a superb seat: we rate it as ‘best of breed' in business class.
“It’s about trying to bring business class up a level towards what first class was offering previously so that you're giving a first class experience” explains Gary Montgomery, CEO of Thompson Aero Seating, which developed the business suite for Qantas from its Vantage XL design.
A role for super business class?
But is even the best business class good enough for the longest of long hauls, or is there appetite for something more – for even a compact first class cabin which takes things up another notch or two?
Thompson Aero Seating already cooked up ‘something more’: the Vantage First suite.
This adapted the Vantage XL module with "more personal space for relaxation, fine dining or sleeping", more space for stowing your personal kit and a greater focus on privacy, with a movable screen between the middle seats plus an option for suite doors.
Thompson suggests the Vantage First can be either a conventional first class suite or a "super business product" from as little as one row, for airlines "looking for additional revenue /upsell opportunities."
It's an intriguing notion: a way to offer something better than business class without fitting a dedicated and markedly different first class cabin.
Montgomery tells Australian Business Traveller that the Vantage First design “wasn't something we discussed with any length at Qantas. They have a fantastic first class product on the A380 but (first class) wasn’t something we were asked to do on the Boeing 787.”
Was this a missed opportunity for the Flying Kangaroo: should Qantas have first class on its Boeing 787s? Would you pay more for first class on that 17 hour ultra-long rage flight, or would you see first class suites more likely to be a points-based upgrade from business class?