With travel enjoying a post-pandemic rebound, airlines are readying themselves for the boom times ahead.
From domestic business class recliners to suites designed for the world’s longest flights, here are three seats that’ll soon break cover.
Air New Zealand 787 Business Premier Luxe
We’ve known for some time now that Air New Zealand has been beavering away on an all-new Boeing 787 business class at its secret ‘Hangar 96’ skunkworks in Auckland.
We’ve suspected a radical departure from the current circa-2005 angled sleeper pods.
And Executive Traveller was first to report on plans to crown the business class cabin with four ‘business plus’ suites in the first row, resulting in a more premium and presumably higher-priced ‘mini-first class’ travel experience – and a perfect fit for the Star Alliance member’s non-stop treks between Auckland and New York, Chicago and Houston.
This was confirmed on March 30 when the US Department of Transport accidentally published a set of documents lodged by the Kiwi carrier.
Row 1 of the Boeing 787-9s will feature four oversized Business Premier Luxe suites with sliding privacy doors; behind those, a reimagined Business Premier cabin bristling with all the mod cons.
The airline’s filing to the DoT requested final approval “no later than April 29, 2022, so that it may proceed with certification and installation.”
The big question now is whether the Business Premier Luxe and Business Premier seats will make their debut on Air New Zealand’s inaugural Auckland-New York flight on September 17.
Qantas A350 Project Sunrise Business Suites
Speaking of non-stop to New York, we expect Qantas to soon pull back the curtain on its Airbus A350 business class suites for its own marathon Project Sunrise flights.
Although the Sydney-New York and Sydney-London A350s won’t take wing until late 2025, Qantas has already showcased the A350’s private first class suites, and a reveal of the A350 business class suites isn’t far off.
Early clues on Qantas’ A350 business class drawn from diagrams shared by Qantas suggest we may see only the aisle-adjacent seats sporting a sliding door.
Executive Traveller also understands the A350 business class seats won’t come from Thompson Aerospace, which supplied the first-gen Business Suites for Qantas’ Airbus A330s, A380s and Boeing 787s – and it would not surprise us if Qantas rolls out a new concept seat that’s yet to be officially launched.
(For what it’s worth, Qantas also has new domestic business class seats up its sleeve for the forthcoming Airbus A220 and A321XLR jets, which will gradually replace its regional Boeing 717s and workhorse Boeing 737s starting in late 2023.)
Virgin Australia 737 MAX business class
Virgin Australia also has new business class seats on the radar, and you may already have sat in them.
As part of the countdown to the February 2023 arrival of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets, Virgin has been evaluating new business and economy seats installed on two Boeing 737-800s which have been busily darting around Virgin’s domestic network for the past six months.
While these recliners are more sensible evolution than radical revolution, there’s no doubting their improved comfort or sensible features such as get leg and foot rests, AC and USB sockets, an inbuilt holder for tablets and smartphones plus a usefully capacious storage nook.
“Our customers love them, and our crew love them too,” Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has told Executive Traveller, while not letting it slip if – as we strongly expect – these seats passed the test and will find their way onto the 737 MAX fleet.