Sliding doors: the new trend in business class

Privacy doors turn a business class seat into a private suite, but is this really an open and shut case for the passenger?

By David Flynn, September 22 2020
Sliding doors: the new trend in business class

Once the exclusive domain of luxury first class suites, sliding privacy doors are steadily pushing beyond the curtain into the business class cabin.

Admittedly, only a handful of international airlines have launched business class seats with doors.

That leaderboard includes Delta Airlines, which debuted the business class door for its Delta One suites in mid-2016; Qatar Airways, with its elegant Qsuite in 2017; China Eastern, across its new Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 fleet; and British Airways' long-awaited Club Suite of 2019.

Delta Air Lines' Delta One suite.
Delta Air Lines' Delta One suite.

Yet the concept has had outsize impact across the industry.

"Will it have a door?" has become perhaps the number one question asked of all airlines contemplating their own next-generation business class – including the forthcoming Boeing 777-9 products of Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

The companies which create, design and manufacture seats for airlines – among them Adient, Collins, Jamco, Recaro, Stelia, Thompson – now include at least one business class platform with optional doors in their catalogues: bait for carriers looking to not just catch up to but leap ahead of their competitors.

Sliding doors take 'personal space' to the next level.
Sliding doors take 'personal space' to the next level.

But now that many high flyers have sampled those business suites of Qatar and co, is a door really a deal-breaker?

They have obvious benefits when snatching some sleep on long international flights. Blocking out the distractions of noise and aisle movement helps transform your seat into a cosy snooze-inducing cocoon.

A door turns your business class seat into a cosy snooze-inducing cocoon.
A door turns your business class seat into a cosy snooze-inducing cocoon.

A closed door can also be a boon for those who need to work above the clouds: given enough personal space and fast inflight WiFi, a private business class seat becomes an office above the clouds.

However, many travellers tell us that the 'novelty' of a door quickly disappears and after a few flights, they find themselves generally keeping the door open for most of the trip.

Close the door and you miss out on a lot of crew interaction.
Close the door and you miss out on a lot of crew interaction.

So this week, we're asking Executive Traveller readers who've flown in first or business class suites with doors: what's your preference? When do you keep the doors open, when do you close them, and does a door make that much of a difference to the overall experience? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

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.

Have flown in Qsuites several times now, I close the door for sleeping but pretty much leave it open the rest of the time unless I really want to be in 'do not disturb' mode. If I'm sitting in a Qsuite where the seat is at the aisle the door is right up next to me and almost feels claustrophobic when closed, so I choose a Qsuite where the seat is next to the window, this makes it a better experience all round.

22 Sep 2020

Total posts 1

I've tried both the BA and QSuite. BA was YYZ LHR and QR was CMB DOH. Both were relatively short flights, so no real time to sleep. The aisles feel quite narrow and tight, and the floor space in the seat/suite when the door is closed is non-existent. Loved the privacy when sleeping, however the walls are quite short so anyone can look in when they walk past.

On QR there was a family of 4 who used the 4 Suite option with the middle walls down, and that looked very social.

I think I prefer no door and the QR seats on the A380.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 98

Definitely prefer a door. I like the privacy, away from aisle movement. I agree, seat by the window makes the suite seem a lot more spacious. Crew interaction is just a button push away.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 113

I dont like the door at all... the seat feels claustrophobic when closed... its totally unnecessary.

I don't even like the door on the EK first seat (Mk1), what are you doing in there that You need a door?? All this is doing is pushing up the cost of J even more, and I believe that its high enough as it is and is perfectly comfortable without a door, the Qantas Business Suite is private enough with out door and so is the CX seat... 

Big thumbs down

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 147

I prefer without a door!     And since Long haul Im usually in F,   prefer F without sliding doors - etihad F is ok  but when you try LX(Swiss) F on 777 with sliding doors you feel like you are in a coffin, so when F is not full window seat with door open and if seat behind free then sleep in this seat returning to other seat during flight - only close doors when sleeping  Much prefer LH QR CX F where you have privacy slides raised as required, and in CX F you dont need it when in 1A my usual seat

In Business/C  QF and UA Polaris privacy is good, with no need for doors/privacy slides CX C is OK LX C throne seats with new LX(Swiss) C privacy is fine

Certain  demographics like sliding doors 

09 Mar 2015

Total posts 32

I've done some Delta One flights from the US, it definitely can feel a littler bit like an office cubicle with the door closed, so I leave it open most of the time and just close it when I want to sleep. All things being equal I would prefer a business class with a door so I have that option, over a seat without a door. If it's a seat without a door then I like ones which angle away from the aisle to encourage a sense of privacy, like Cathay Pacific's do for example.

JTG
JTG

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 44

When flying in business I typically fly with a colleague or client on about 50% of my flights and as such prefer without a door for the social interactions. I am also a good sleeper so don't require the door for that aspect. 

The opposite is true when travelling in first class and I prefer a door. The additional space means I don't feel claustrophobic when the door is shut.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2018

Total posts 1

Flown First with EK many times - the door is great for privacy when going to sleep but I generally keep it open the rest of the time (as it just gets in the way when being served).

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 74

Having missed out on the Q seat experience in May 2020 and having read the comments above, I would suggest that having the option of a door is a winner. When it comes to sleeping mode on a long or ultra long flight ( par for most Australians) to have the option of less disturbance from passers by on the way to the ' convenience', might well be a deal sealer.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 122

Always prefer the option of a door that the QR Suites have. If I don't feel like using it, I just don't use it, but it is good to have the option there. Some airlines (SQ, CX etc.) don't have doors, but the seats are pretty private and spacious. Anything beats the old Qantas seats on the 380 and 747. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2015

Total posts 46

It’s not a dealbreaker for me. If I think across all my J class flights and those with or without doors the one that got the right mix of privacy, comfort and ‘openess’ is still VA’s 777. Geez I am going to miss it!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 135

Doors are a sales gimic and many succumbed to them. A well designed first or business class seat and cabin will remove the need for a door by giving great privacy all the while offering an excellent open and non-claustrophbic feeling.

This is where QF First really excels. I would say the same for BA First and the new BA Club seat....just that they dont need the door. JAL first is amazing, while JAL SkySuite feels very boxy and tight. EK F is nice, but you really are just in a little cubby hiding away from the world.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 111

I agree on the appeal of a spacious and well-designed 'open' suite. The Qantas A380 and BA first class suites are pretty good like that, and Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777 first class has certainly stood the test of time, despite being over a decade old. All the same I was very keen to see what Qantas planned for its Airbus A350 Project Sunrise because I'm sure those first class suites would have had doors.

Qf

26 Apr 2015

Total posts 19

I must love hiding away from the world as I loved the door option in EK and SQ F.  We have had 4 legs in Qsuites and thought it was amazing.  Travelling as a couple you have a fair bit of space between you and the door and with the central divider down it’s a terrific space.  So I would pretty much prioritise having a door when booking,  

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 54

Door, no door, I'm not that fussed. For me, its about footwell space. Give me enough room in the footwell for my feet to fit and I'll happily fly business class, until then, I'll stay upfront.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

04 Sep 2018

Total posts 13

It’s funny, I have the instant reaction of ‘it must have a door otherwise it’s not as luxury’.. but when I flew first class with Lufthansa last year, I really missed the human connection and ‘openness’. The doors (divider) shut made me feel more isolated and less social.. particularly when someone shut their door before me, it wasn’t the nicest feeling - and I’m an introvert so that really surprised me. So I kept mine open until I slept.

However, WHEN I slept, a door became a very very good thing. I felt private and secure.

I think the problem is that once you’ve tasted privacy, not having the ‘option’ on your next flight now feels like a downgrade.. that’s the real problem I see airlines facing in this debate.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 147

LH aka Lufthansa doesnt have doors privacy slides for head which are fine and when you are 6ft3 they dont cover your head  Egalitarian F like CX LH QR LX (on A330) which you get to/from TLV aka Tel Aviv sometimes 777 F with closing doors ANA aka NH F private enough empty and sliding doors not required  due to cocooning of suite

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 390

I've travelled in Emirates First suites on several occasions. I have never closed the door, as I don't want to be sitting in a box.  I have never really understood the privacy concept, given that - unless you're in a suite with walls that extend to the ceiling - then anyone walking past can just look over the top of the walls and door anyway. 

My preference has always been for reasonably open plan seating in F and J. If it's designed well, you can get a good mix of an open and airy cabin whilst also providing relative privacy. The Qantas A380 F suite is the best example of this I have seen.  Thai (B747) and BA also do this well.

And for safety in the case of an incident, access from seats to the aisle - and the ability for flight attendants to see passengers without obstruction - is important.

27 May 2017

Total posts 22

As someone who has flown QR J extensively as well as having tried new BA J and new DL J I can say hands down I hate the door. I feel for starters it hinders the ability for more personalized checkups and service like exhibited on SQ.  Also it is added weight that is not needed and just creates more fuel burn which is worse for the environment. I would take SQ or QF J any day over QR, BA, DL J etc.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 170

Great question, David. And, I like the responses. Generally speaking, we like the connection.

Like many of my fellow ET's I've enjoyed being up the front and would agree, QF First is a warm and welcoming feel. EK I'm not a fan of and EY was just too over the top. I'm a sucker for SQ service, always will be. 

Yes, QR have done a ripper of a job with the Q-Suite but, generally speaking, I like the connection and as John mentioned above the need to ensure all passengers are safe is one reason for keeping a gentle eye on each other.

Once we have our freedom, and confidence back in a vaccine world, I'm sure we'll all enjoy a smile, a nod, a chat and (as I attest to after a stressful work gig) a good laugh. Open doors for me.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

02 Nov 2017

Total posts 6

I fly LHR-SIN or LHR-DPS several times a year, and recently I've tended to choose QR when available. I'm trying to work out how much of that is down to the door. At the same price, to SIN, I would always choose SQ because I prefer the single flight and their seat, to me, is fine in terms of privacy and ability to sleep. If the one-stop option is more than 20% cheaper, I'll take it and I will definitely choose QR over EK or EY every time at the same price (but the cheapest if the difference is more than another 10% or so). The reason however I think is more than just that door: that the cabin is smaller, the seat more comfortable than SQ when used as a bed, (my perception) the crew friendlier/service better plus the ability to order the meal when I want it. EK product feels much more commoditised. The QR door is nice for sleeping, but it does give the overal cabin a somewhat claustrophobic feel and I can't help but agree with the person who compared it to office cubicles.

02 Nov 2017

Total posts 5

I’ve flown Q Suite Sydney to New York and new Qantas Business same journey. I loved the Q Suite. So for me doors every time and business class without doors feels like a class lower.  Another advantage of doors is ability to change in and out of pajamas without having to go to the bathroom 

It's an interesting discussion taking place about the door or no door. My comments are based purely on SQ Suites and for that reason probably not relevant to business class travel.

I have travelled many times long haul on SQ and because there are fewer people in that section, it does not have the claustrophobic atmosphere of what I imagine, when I look at articles specifically about biz class appointments. I close the door when I want complete privacy for thinking time and for sleeping. Otherwise I leave it open. The flight staff are always very courteous and seem to know when to appear and when not to.

I am so much of a fan of SQ Suites that, in days gone by, when I had to travel Syd-HK, I would fly SQ Suites to Singapore and catch the one midday 380 Suite flight to HK. And return to Singapore on the 380 Suite before returning to Sydney on the 380. The entire SQ process from terminal to plane and into the next airport/city making for a wonderful experience.

I am really disappointed about what appears to be a likely reduction in Suite availability across the major airlines. It is a most pleasant way to fly, it is peaceful, bathrooms easy to access and no queuing up and there is no rush for the exits as if there's a prize for first out the door.

In all that i see and read about the "new" business class design, the more I see it as people being squashed into a very compact space. Therefore IMO, doors would be a necessity for privacy but claustrophobic in outcome. Overall it looks like a set of office cubicles of olden days. But I'm sure the PR people will make it sound all so wonderful.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2011

Total posts 91

Having played with the doors in EK First I have to agree that the novelty wears off and can’t see a need for them

08 Oct 2011

Total posts 49

I had only a couple of experience in Malaysian Airlines Business Suite seat in their Airbus A350. I see no importance at all for the sliding door and during my flight I kept the door open. Anyhow the sliding door was stiff and difficult to move.  I was on holiday at that time but even when I was flying on business, I rarely do any inflight work at all.  I prefer to enjoy the inflight movies, food and beverage rather than tie myself up in work. Yeah, sliding doors makes no difference to me.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2016

Total posts 27

Door or no door - easy choice for me - "No door"!  We flew refurbished Business on QF1 through to LHR in February and it was fabulous.  The A380 is spacious anyway, but in refurbished layout 1-2-1 just splendid. (Don't forget downstairs 3-4-3!!, not including the lie flat bed space!) The door would remind me of those single cabins (roomettes!) on the old Southern Aurora & Indian Pacific - so claustrophobic!  

Particularly on the A380 space is what it's all about - cabin height, distance to next row and space throughout the "seat area".  The separation partition between the two centre seats is perfect - privacy without any thought of claustrophobia.   My wife and I normally do three or four through trips to Houston and London each year visiting family, and the thought of being in a cubicle for that length of time is mind boggling.

Our thoughts are also with the QANTAS staff at the moment - what pressure they must be under.   During our return QF2 in March, despite flying into the unknown, the staff were their usual brilliant  selves.  Cant's wait to join QF7/8 and QF1/2 again.   Thank you QANTAS.   

For me it is all about day or night-time flight. If I want to sleep then I shut the doors, if awake and working or having food/drink then doors open. When travelling with out ==r young son, doors very much closed at all times, kept him "in place"

In simple terms, if there are doors we have the choice open or closed. No doors, no choice, so I would always choose doors. QSuite is (in Biz) the best by some margin in my humble view.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 56

As a former cabin crew, and with friends also in the business, representing several airlines,

I can say that in our limited observation, most passengers prefer to keep the door ajar. Never completely closed, never completely open. We think passengers are afraid that they'd be skipped for service, because those that close doors tend to ask and double check.

I'd be surprised if Singapore Airlines ever introduces a door for business class, given the troubles they face in Suites. Believe it or not many people book Suites just to f**k, and we've had instances where some try to sync their beginning and climaxing with takeoff rolls, so yeah. And some just do it, thinking they can just remain silent, but unaware that passengers below can hear the thrusting rhythms.

A lot of airlines will be retrofitting theirs, so for majority of airlines, it does add to claustrophobia, and it adds to the fright of turbulence. Economy Class passengers overall deal with it the best, because like a roller coaster setting, there's a sense of communal vibe to it.

We think the reason for doors, is because just as we saw in economy class, we think business class will see a price bundling such as Basic Business in which passengers pay for the seat but dont want the bells and whistles, and just want Economy Class meals and service. A few passengers, such as my uncle who's a Solitaire Life, insists on economy class meals because the food served at the back is regulated whereas the food upfront isn't necessarily under QC regulations and policy.

Singapore Airlines First Class Suites i have the door closed because there is so much more room and with the huge tv inside the suite it feels like i am in a studio all by myself which i prefer. Their new  first class suites is the best i have experienced and along with their great service i will always fly with SIA. As for a door in business class seats the cabin is not big enough i am not looking forward to that option on any airline.

CX

05 Jun 2012

Total posts 127

Surely this is a no-brainer?

Whether you like the door or not:

(a) Prefer no door - have one but keep it open, allowing others with different preferences to close it

(b) Prefer a door - have one and close it

(c) Sometimes like a door - have one and choose when to have it open or closed


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