Business class has come in leaps and bounds in recent years – so much so that some airlines are abandoning first class entirely.
When you think about it, it’s not at all surprising, given the latest pointy-end pews have moved beyond mere seats to fully-fledged suites with sliding doors and more space, alongside bigger video screens and even personal closets.
Here’s a glimpse at what seven leading airlines have in store for high flyers in the near future.
Cathay Pacific ‘Aria’ business class suite
Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific is also jetting into a new era with a fresh business class on its flagship Boeing 777-300, with travellers primed to enjoy a first taste of the ‘suite life’ from the second quarter of 2024.
Evoking what Cathay describes as ‘quiet luxury’, Executive Traveller suspects this is the same suite intended for the airline’s long-delayed Boeing 777X jets, for which it holds 21 orders of the 777-9 model. Delivery of that aircraft is now expected some time beyond 2025.
Promotional images of the current 777 reveal a contemporary suite tucked discreetly behind sliding doors and privacy ‘wings’,while the sky-high living space itself is adorned in timber-look finishes and silver trims, together with a cloth seat and multiple storage nooks.
One of what we’re sure will be several modern touches is wireless device charging, and you can bet that the large video screens facing each business class passenger will not only run at 4K but come with Bluetooth audio streaming to a passenger's own headphones or earbuds.
Air India business class
India’s national carrier Air India recently stunned with the unveiling of its impressive new business and first class suites, which are set to roll out across the airline’s twin-aisle fleet from late 2023. By March, it expects up to 22% of the fleet to be refurbished.
Concept images of its refurbished Boeing 777-330ER show a light and bright interior from nose to tail, with the business class cabin adorned in a neutral palette of aubergine and grey accented by rose gold and silver.
The seat itself is based on the Safran Unity product, which is coincidentally also set to take wing on Qantas’ A350 from 2025 (more on the Red Roo’s version later).
Passengers will be cocooned behind sliding privacy doors in a 1-2-1 layout, with the suite itself featuring modern conveniences such as wireless charging along and large touchscreen monitor, as well as a pull-out tray table and, unlike Qantas, a fold-down drinks shelf.
Lufthansa Allegris business class
That manifold mix includes
- upmarket ‘business plus’ suites with sliding doors, personal wardrobes and even a minibar
- double suites for couples travelling together
- solo ‘throne’ seats with additional personal space,
- and seats with an extra-long 2.2m flatbed.
Lufthansa says it’s all about offering “personalisation and choice” to suit the needs of each traveller, although these different seats will generally come with a higher price tags than the ‘basic’ business class seat.
But no matter where you’re seated, common to all Allegris business class seats will be direct aisle access, Bluetooth audio connectivity, wireless charging, a minimum 2m long bed and a ‘shoulder sink-in’ to boost comfort for for side sleepers.
Each seat has warming panels built into the cushions, similar to a car’s heated seats, while cool air can be circulated from underneath the seat as well as from a vent mounted on the seat wall.
Lufthansa’s Allegris business class is set to debut on factory-fresh Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in early 2024, followed by new Airbus A350s later in the year.
The same seat, but with a markedly different and arguably more elegant look, will also be adopted by sibling Swiss from 2025.
Etihad 787 Business Studio
Etihad Airways is following up the debut of its Airbus A350 Business Studio suites with spacious private suites for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Every Etihad 787 business class suite will have a sliding privacy door, and there’s added seclusion compared to the A350 sibling through slightly higher walls plus a small lip or ‘halo’ wrapped over the top of the suite.
Other design and engineering tweaks unlock more personal space inside the suite, including additional space for your feet under the 17.3” 4K TV screen, which has Bluetooth headphone pairing for use with travellers’ own headphones.
The seat is based on the Elements suite from Collins Aerospace – a model that’s already broken ground on Taiwan’s Starlux A350 jets, where our Starlux A350 business class review described it as the foundation of “a suitably stellar business class offering.”
Etihad’s 787 version is due in the third quarter of 2023 with the delivery of three new Dreamliners of out a larger order of 11.
Air New Zealand 787 Business Premier
September 2024 will see Air New Zealand finally ditch its 20-year old ‘sleeper shells’, with their narrow confines and a steep rake that sees many passengers facing one another like commuters on a bus on the way out in favour of an all-new Business Premier class.
These will debut on ultra-long range Boeing 787s dedicated to the Auckland-New York and Auckland-Chicago routes.
Taking pride of place on the marathon flights will be eight private Business Premier Luxe suites – four in the first row of each business class cabin – with a ‘buddy seat’ where a companion can sit and share a meal, a glass of wine or a game of cards, and dressed by upmarket touches including a Merino wool throw.
Behind will be new-look Business Premier seats with their own sliding privacy panels – albeit not a full door – a storage cabinet and vanity mirror, a spacious side shelf, wireless device charging and a massive 24” video screen with Bluetooth audio streaming to your own cordless headphones or earbuds.
The updated Business Premier beds are slightly longer than the current model, and in sleep mode will be dressed with a memory foam mattress and feather pillow; the seat itself can also be put into a reclined position for the taxi, take-off and landing stages of the journey.
American Airlines 787 Flagship Suites
This business class seat is allegedly so good, it killed first class: at least that’s the take of American Airlines, which joins other carriers in removing first class from its international fleet.
These all-new Boeing 787 Flagship Suites feature more personal space than American’s current business class, along with the now-almost-mandatory sliding door.
As a halfway point to transforming into a lie-flat bed, American claims its Flagship Suites convert into a relaxed “chaise lounge position” – which to us sounds like marketing-speak for what other airlines and seat-makers invariably refer to as Lazy Z, sun-lounge or deckchair mode.
Other creature comforts include several storage nooks, power from AC and dual USB-A and USB-C sockets and, Executive Traveller understands, wireless charging for smartphones.
Each Flagship Suite is angled away from the aisle for greater privacy, with a sliding partition between the paired middle seats if you’re travelling with a partner.
We’ll first see the Flagship Suites on new Boeing 787-9 deliveries expected from 2024, with a retrofit to the older Boeing 777-300ER fleet from in late 2024.
Qantas A350 Business Suite
It’ll be late 2025 before we see this next generation of Qantas’ international business class, which has been designed especially for non-stop Airbus A350 ‘Project Sunrise’ flights from Sydney and Melbourne to the likes of New York, London and Paris.
Branded as the Qantas A350 Business Suite, the seat itself is based on the new Unity platform from Safran Seats – albeit heavily customised and styled by David Caon (who also helped shaped the airline’s Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 business class seats).
And it’s got the works: sliding doors, a long fully lie-flat bed, a generous 18” video screen with Bluetooth audio streaming, USB-C and wireless device charging plus plenty more.
Surrounding the suite is a soft-touch material which reduces noise while adding a tactile element which supports what Qantas describes as a ‘residential’ aesthetic in the materials and colours.
Each seat fronts a cushioned leather ottoman which becomes part of the 80” (2m) bed – that’s actually an inch longer than the beds in Qantas’ A380 first class – while the ottoman also lifts up to reveal additional storage space.
The Qantas A350 Business Suite is framed by 47” walls, with a sliding door at the same height (although the inside of the doors is bare rather being lined with that noise-dampening fabric).
The first row of each Qantas A350 business class cabin will offer more legroom and an enlarged ‘foot cubby’, just as it does on the current Business Suite family.
Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.