Boeing 777X business class: here's what five top airlines are planning

The Boeing 777X will deliver a new wave of business class seats, and some new first class suites too.

By David Flynn, June 9 2020
Boeing 777X business class: here's what five top airlines are planning

Boeing's 777X is a next-generation jet that will fly into here-and-now challenges.

Combining the best attributes of the familiar and long-running Boeing 777-200 and -300 family with the high-tech advantages of the 787 Dreamliner's clean-sheet design, the big twin-engine plane might prove too big for airlines to fill in the immediate wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, many airlines that have signed on the dotted line for the 777X are now in discussions with Boeing to delay delivery of the jets and in some cases to reduce the size of their order.

All the same, when Boeing begins handing over the first member of the 777X series to airlines in 2021 – dubbed the 777-9 – it'll usher in a new wave of business class from some of the world's leading airlines. Here's what we can look forward to.

Boeing's 777X concept business class

Let's kick off with one thing that many business travellers hope they won't see: a Boeing-created concept which brings back the middle seat.

Boeing's own 777X business class concept brings back the middle seat.
Boeing's own 777X business class concept brings back the middle seat.

This mock-up takes full advantage of the cabin space inside the 777X – marginally wider than the original 777 family, in which airlines like Emirates were already squeezing an extra seat into the centre of the business class cabin.

However, this middle seat still has direct access to the aisle: passengers just need to weave around in front of an adjacent seat, but without stepping over their neighbour.

Boeing's sales pitch is that this highlights how the 777X can "offer a 7-abreast business class cabin while still meeting modern day expectations of privacy and a full lie-flat seat."

And it's not unheard of: Collins Aerospace already offers its Apex Suite in a 2-3-2 version, as seen on Japan Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER jets (shown below).

JAL shows how you can do a middle seat in a Boeing 777.
JAL shows how you can do a middle seat in a Boeing 777.

Emirates Boeing 777-9 business class

What we'll see: "There will be a new business class seat, which is basically the same as we have on the A380," Emirates President Sir Tim Clark has previously said, designed in a 1-2-1 layout and with the airline's signature at-seat minibar.

Emirates' Boeing 777X business class seat will be based on that the Airbus A380.
Emirates' Boeing 777X business class seat will be based on that the Airbus A380.

Clark has previously confirmed that the upgraded Boeing 777X business class seat would “resemble what we have on the Airbus A380s upstairs."

Emirates' Boeing 777X business class seat will be based on that the Airbus A380.
Emirates' Boeing 777X business class seat will be based on that the Airbus A380.

However, the look will be closer to that of the latest business class seats of the Boeing 777, with Clark previously telling Executive Traveller that those seats will serve as a “test for the new interior design of Emirates”, and that “the same colour scheme will be on the 777X."

Look to Emirates' latest Boeing 777 business class for cues on the styling of its 777X counterpart.
Look to Emirates' latest Boeing 777 business class for cues on the styling of its 777X counterpart.

There'll also be a small but upscale social area, which Clark told Executive Traveller would become a standard feature across Emirates' Boeing 777X, Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 fleets.

Clark described the new social zone as being “fairly glamorous and attractive for people to stand and have a chat."

“It won't be as big as the A380 of course, but there will be sort of convivial areas where people can go and gather, and pick up whatever they want to eat or drink,” he added, saying that the success of the Airbus A380's cocktail bar meant "social areas have now become a bit of a signature for us."

It will also be an evolution of the social space on the airline’s refitted Boeing 777-200LR fleet, which places self-serve snack and drink counters in the centre of the cabin.

The social area on Emirates' current Boeing 777-200ERs.
The social area on Emirates' current Boeing 777-200ERs.

Clark says the space will be an “embellishment” of the Boeing 777-200LR treatment, and be "slightly better located" – hinting that it could be positioned at the very end of the business class cabin rather somewhere in the middle of the cabin, which proves disruptive for passengers seated nearby.

What else we'll see: An Emirates spokeswoman has confirmed to Executive Traveller that the pointy end of the 777X will see a small first class cabin using the same fully-enclosed design as the latest Boeing 777-300ERs. This will include suites in the middle which boast 'virtual windows' with signals fed by video cameras showing an external view from the aircraft.

Emirates will also add first class suites to its Boeing 777X fleet.
Emirates will also add first class suites to its Boeing 777X fleet.

Photo tour: Up close with Emirates' all-new luxury first class suite

Further back, behind business class and sitting in its own cabin, will be Emirates' all-new premium economy 'sleeperette' seat, the launch of which has been pushed back from late 2020.

Clark has previously told Executive Traveller that the seat chosen by the airline will fully cradle the legs and feet, coupled with a 10-inch recline and around 38 inches of pitch (up to 6 inches more than economy), with a seat count "more likely around the high 20s, 26-28 seats."

Read more: Here's everything you need to know about Emirates premium economy

Lufthansa Boeing 777-9 business class

What we'll see: Lufthansa's Boeing 777-9 business class will finally provide direct aisle access for every passenger – something that's long been lacking while competitors leap-frogged the German flag-carrier.

There'll be no more awkwardly stepping over your sleeping seatmate – or having them clamber across you, if you're next to the aisle.

Lufthansa's unique Boeing 777-9 business class layout puts an emphasis on privacy and personal space.
Lufthansa's unique Boeing 777-9 business class layout puts an emphasis on privacy and personal space.

Lufthansa has also opted for a unique seating layout which alternates between rows of 1-2-1 and 1-1-1, so that every second row provides a centre 'throne' seat – the ultimate for solo flyers seeking more space and more privacy.

But you can expect to pay more for that privilege, as Lufthansa moves towards a 'tailored' model where passengers will pay a base fare for the core business class experience – lounge access, seat and meals – with an extra charge levied on the throne, or those seats which convert into the longest bed (up to 2.2m at some prized locations).

“It's not just one business class anymore," Lufthansa exec Harry Hohmeister tells Executive Traveller. "Within the (Boeing 777X) business class cabin, you can upgrade yourself to an even better product than just standard business class… it’s a real jump forward in terms of convenience, and in terms of product selection... it's not unbundling, it's upgrading.”

Read more: How Lufthansa wants to change the way you buy, and fly, business class

Most of Lufthansa's Boeing 777X seats will also be staggered rather than all forward-facing. The window seats alternate between being located at the aisle – with a bench between the passenger and the window – and having passengers directly next to the window, with a bench between their seat and the aisle. You can see both treatments in the mockup below.

Angled and staggered seating on Lufthansa's Boeing 777X.
Angled and staggered seating on Lufthansa's Boeing 777X.

What's not immediately clear from this image is that the window-adjacent seats are angled towards the window so you can enjoy the view while enjoying more privacy; the aisle-adjacent seats are a little bit more more open, and face into the cabin.

While the paired middle seats are angled away from one another, a privacy screen between the seats can be lowered for some travelling tête-à-tête, although you'll still need to swivel towards your companion.

Each passenger should see at least 10% more space than in Lufthansa's current business class seat, along with "significantly more storage compartments and shelves".

The console next to each seat will include an inbuilt wireless charging pad for the latest smartphones, smartwatches and other accessories, while a removable tablet docked into the wall of each seat will provide control over everything from the inflight entertainment and seating position to lighting and ventilation.

The high-tech tablet controller of Lufthansa's Boeing 777X business class.
The high-tech tablet controller of Lufthansa's Boeing 777X business class.

Lufthansa began work on its next-generation seat over five years ago, shortly after the current business class seat debuted. A very long list was whittled down to a shortlist of five candidates which went through the gamut of everything from 3D visualisations to wooden mockups before Lufthansa settled on the new design.

Invitation-only workshops made of Lufthansa's Miles & More frequent flyer members "that reflected the full spectrum of passengers in terms of weight, physique and demand" tested the seat at a nondescript warehouse near Frankfurt Airport, while airline CEO Carsten Spohr has also bunked down in the business class bed for several nights.

This seat won't be limited to Lufthansa's Boeing 777-9 jets – it will also take pride of place in the premium cabins of sister airlines Swiss and Austrian, although slightly customised to suit each airline's unique branding.

What else we'll see: Expect a second generation of Lufthansa's premium economy seat, which popped up during an airline presentation to investors to show a more streamlined concept for a cabin which Lufthansa rates as its most productive on a 'revenue per square metre' base (sitting at 6% higher than the more spacious business class cabin).

Lufthansa's Boeing 777X premium economy seat, shown here perched ahead of economy class.
Lufthansa's Boeing 777X premium economy seat, shown here perched ahead of economy class.

First indications are that Lufthansa's Boeing 777X premium economy seat will come with a larger video screen and a larger storage nook below that upsized display, and more privacy between the aisle passenger and the aisle itself.

There's also speculation that some Lufthansa Boeing 777X jets could have a more spacious front row at the bulkhead to create a premium 'business plus' or 'business first' seating category, rather than a dedicated first class cabin.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-9 business class

What we'll see: Of all the airlines in the first wave of Boeing 777X deliveries, Cathay Pacific is perhaps attracting the greatest interest.

The Oneworld member's current business class seat is based on a design from 2011 – so, one decade on, is it time for another evolution or more of a revolution of Cathay's flagship business class experience?

How much change is Cathay planning from its current decade-old business class design?
How much change is Cathay planning from its current decade-old business class design?

While the airline is known to have been in 'deep evaluation' of several concepts – including at least one which swapped the classic and popular angled layout for a staggered forward-facing seat orientation – nothing of substance has surfaced.

What else we'll see: Cathay's Boeing 777-9 jets will be crowned by an all-new first class cabin. As with business class, the airline's current first class is a survivor: it debuted on the Boeing 777-300ER in 2007 and has since undergone two updates of the physical or 'hard' product – once in 2013, another in 2017 – with a 'soft product' refresh from late 2019.

Cathay's Boeing 777 first class will make way for an all-new design on the 777X.
Cathay's Boeing 777 first class will make way for an all-new design on the 777X.

In shaping a new first class for a new decade, Cathay Pacific has worked through mock-ups of high-walled private cribs as well as the more open design of the current first class suites – but again, the airline has managed to keep its hand well-guarded.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-9 business class

What we'll see: Singapore Airlines is taking a next-generation approach to its Boeing 777-9 business class, with a number of top-tier frequent flyers having already examined the proposed seat after signing non-disclosure agreements.

Speaking to Executive Traveller ahead of the delivery flight of the airline's first Boeing 787-10 in 2018, airline CEO Goh Choon Phong would say only that a "quantum leap" is in store.

Singapore Airlines' CEO promises a "quantum leap" from its current business class to that of the Boeing 777X.
Singapore Airlines' CEO promises a "quantum leap" from its current business class to that of the Boeing 777X.

Goh said the airline's "product innovation team has already begun to conceptualise on what product we should introduce in the 777-9, what they should be like. We will of course be going out to our customers to get better ideas about what they really want in the next quantum leap of our product."

What else we'll see: New first class suite concepts have also been workshopped, and Executive Traveller understands that sliding privacy doors are on the menu.

Again, airline CEO Goh has promised "it will be a first class that we believe when we launch (it) will again set industry standards."

Singapore Airlines' most recent Boeing 777 first class suites, designed in conjunction with BMW Group DesignWorksUSA and built around a fixed-back shell with curved side panels, will be a decade old by the time Singapore Airlines begins flying the 777-9.

Singapore Airlines' current Boeing 777-300ER first class.
Singapore Airlines' current Boeing 777-300ER first class.

Also read: Flight of fancy – Singapore Airlines' initial Airbus A380 first class concepts revealed

Qatar Airways Boeing 777-9 business class

What we'll see: Qatar Airways' Qsuite business class has won plenty of praise, and the airline's Boeing 777-9s won't change that winning formula. However, they're expected to feature the 'Qsuite 2.0' evolution which was also slated for the Gulf carrier's Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners.

Qatar Airways' highly-regarded Qsuite business class.
Qatar Airways' highly-regarded Qsuite business class.

That sweeter suite was due to be revealed on opening day of the ITB Berlin travel trade show on March 4, 2020, before the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic saw the travel expo cancelled.

At first glance the new Qsuite appears little different to its predecessor, although it weighs substantially less: it's believed to be at least 20% lighter, and when it comes to fuel efficiency, every kilo saved and shaved helps.

Executive Traveller understands that the height of the suites and their sliding privacy doors has also been slightly reduced from the current 135cm (53 inches) based on feedback from passengers.

What else we'll see: Some of Qatar's Boeing 777-9s may also sport a first class cabin, although airline CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker has told Executive Traveller this could be as small as "just four seats" and appear on “just a handful” of the jets, which in turn would feature on only a few premium-heavy European routes such as London and Paris.

Read more: Qatar Airways plans "exclusive" Boeing 777X first class suites

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 255

Looks good.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2020

Total posts 1

Ah those distant memories of J Class travel. Looking forward to the day we can all sample these again! :-)

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 479

Doesn't really matter what they do with the 777 hard product wise; it will still be an old design tarted up 777. Poor atmospherics, loud and probably still cramped. Give me Airbus any day who actually care by factoring in 'passenger experience' in their designs. I'll continue to avoid the 777 while I know some will actually pay for this lesser experience-the mind boggles.

Correction needed: Qatar is introducing the new QSuite on the 787-9, NOT on the -10. (they don't have those on order)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 55

I hope SQ isn't rigid in its approach and re-works the dreaded footwell, a major design flaw.

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 160

Not interested in any J design that includes a middle seat. The current Emirates version is terrible. How the heck do you get out of it when it's made up as a bed? Slide down to the end? No thanks - there will be plenty of other airlines flying into Aust. that don't do this.

22 May 2020

Total posts 1

Bollocks I say. Agree with Joe, an old design tarted up. I avoid 777 - too noisy, and in Swiss' version, too cramped. Sure it's 5 across, but the 5 across behind interleave with the 5 in front so it's a “nearly 10 across” in business - way too narrow. And I don't know what Lufthansa are thinking - the thing I love about reverse herringbone on the A350 (Cathay, Finnair etc) is that all seats are equal. It really doesn't matter where you sit. I don't want to be stressing about it being a ‘good' or 'not so good' seat. Even LH say ‘you can upgrade yourself to a better product than standard business class”. What cordial are they on? “Sorry sir, you will have to have the seat with the short bed, we hope you fit”. And sorry if you take the window seat that faces inwards and you can't look out. Bonkers.

By the time I get to book, often quite close to travelling, there are not many seats left anyway. I prefer that even if I take the last seat in business, it is the same as any other seat, and not the runt in the litter. And forget three in the middle. No matter how you dress it up, it's tight. Herringbone does away with all of that. I also read that Boeing in their infinite wisdom will introduce the same chromatic windows as the 787. The exact reason I avoid the 787 on day flights when I want the window open and to stay awake. Don't want the crew dimming them in broad daylight when I am adjusting for jet lag amelioration. If someone wants to sleep put on your eyeshades! Anyhoo, it sounds to me not an improvement. The A350 airlines will continue to get our business.

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 160

Hard to avoid the 777 when it's flown by many long-distance airlines. That said, much prefer the 380 and the newer, quieter aircraft. The Cathay herringbone seat layout is fantastic, Qatar layout is close. Don't like the Air New Zealand J seats in their 787s. Qantas new J class is good.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 32

you wouldnt book that middle seat and risk having one pax in each ear hole masticating their duck confit and hoovering into stale bread and butter approx one metre from the back of your head, awful design. Ill stick to EK 380s.

KLM - Flying Blue

05 Feb 2019

Total posts 39

I like the symmetric design of the Herringbone Layout in KLM and BA new aircraft.

I feel a Herringbone Layout offers a more relaxed cabin arrangement, better passenger comfort, increased privacy, better access to window viewing...


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