Sociability vs privacy in business class

By David Flynn, November 11 2014

TALKING POINT | When Qantas recently revealed its all-new Business Suite, some travellers expressed concern that the paired middle seats are not 'companion-friendly' – that the wall between the two seats doesn't drop down to alllow chit-chat with a partner or colleague.

"Plenty of people travel in pairs" suggested AusBT reader Craig Macbride via email.

"An unmovable screen between all business class seats is not only bloody irritating, it also means that friends and coworkers will be speaking very loudly to each other around the screens, or standing up a lot, which is very distracting for other passengers."

Melbourne-based Mal Jeffreys says that he often travels to the USA, Singapore and Hong Kong with workmates.

"If we're seated next to each other (in business class) on the Qantas A380 we can drop the divider screen or we can go forward to the lounge for a chat, which also means we're not disturbing people near us" Jeffreys said.

"But on the new A330s we won't have either option. It's not a deal-breaker but it's not convenient either."

The Qantas Business Suite's lack of a movable privacy screen is an inherent and unavoidable part of the design of the Vantage XL platform on which the Business Suite was developed.

There's no sliding middle seat divider because the the storage nooks of each passenger's seat are back-to-back.

In other words, the console of the Business Suite passenger in one of the paired middle seats...

... abuts the same storage nook of the passenger next door.

Read: 10 things you didn't know about the new Qantas Business Suite

Cathay Pacific's highly-regarded business class seat is designed along similar lines, with passengers in the middle seats set back so far that that need to lean forward and crane their necks around in order to chat.

Compare this to the business class Skybed seat of the Qantas Airbus A380, which has a pop-up panel between each pair of seats.

Virgin Australia's new 'business/first' seat intended for the airline's A330 and Boeing 777 jets has a sliding purple perspex panel (try quickly saying that five times after a few drinks!).

Passengers paired up in Etihad's new Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Business Studio can also raise or lower a long divider which runs between the seats.

How often do you travel next to your partner or a colleague in business class, and do sliding privacy screens make that much of a difference to your shared travel experience?

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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.

Yes! Finally a win for introverts, who just want to be left alone, in a world too often designed and modelled for the extroverts! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

Putting the 'win' back into 'window seat'.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1137

Privacy all the way for me.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 14

First-world problem...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 47

I think there are plently of other seats that offer privacy by default, if you're travelling with someone else you want to be able to socialise at least a little bit.  Seems like a bit of an oversight.

I'm travelling with my partner to the UK next year with Etihad on the 787-9 and the A380, so I'm looking forward to being able to say hello with the drop down divider.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1381

Also seemingly a deliberate choice by QF in the middle seats.

Instead of

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They could have presumable gone

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0--0
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Making every second pair of seats next to each other where you could have used a simple raised divider

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1381

Grr. formatting looked OK when typing.

Instead of

-0-0

0-0-

-0-0

0-0-

Could have gone

-00-

0--0

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0--0

Am I in the matrix?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 140

I have a strict policy of wife and kids down the back whenever I'm up the front.  So the lack of a sliding screen in J simply means I will no longer need to be anti-social to some unknown passenger who drew the short straw of sitting next to me.  It's a win all round I reckon.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

I'll take privacy and any seating configuration that enables minimal interaction with the pax next to me. 

When travelling with colleagues I insist we're never seated side-by-side and even when travelling with my partner we're both more than happy to be seated separately.

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 151

The CX J seat can move forward for a chat. However, most of the time my partner and I prefer to sit back and enjoy the on-screen entertainment. Plenty of time to be sociable on arrival.

Back in the day, some of the best "conversations" I've had with my siblings are over MSN Messenger (I know...I'm that old)...even when we're in the same building!

These days Whatsapp messages come rolling in around the clock from family across the world.

This mode of interaction is ideal and extremely non-intrusive.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

We have to be sociable on the ground. Why on earth would we want to do it up in the air?

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 124

Unintrusive, provided your neighbours aren't subject to the constant "bleep bleep" as you receive messages, or the "tack tack tack tack tack" as you type them....

I make an effort to travel alone. Imagine 7,8,9 ... hours without having to talk to anyone. Serenity !

18 Jul 2013

Total posts 25

My partner and I recently flew CX for the first time.  It was also the first time we'd been in a layout of 1-2-1.  We deliberated about whether to reserve middle seats or window seats and chose the latter.  Given the privacy / separateness of the middle seats on the A330, we thought we may as well get window seats and enjoy the views.  It was a great flight in all respects but we both missed the sideways looks of excitement on take-off, the clink of glasses, the sampling of each others food, catching snippets of each others movies and the general interactions that occur when seated together.  With the current emphasis on privacy in business class seating I guess we just have to get used to clinking glasses and sharing food in the lounge - not a bad alternative, but it's an interesting shift for people travelling together.  Perhaps the next evolution for business class seating will be to incorporate companion dining, such as in F class now?   

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2014

Total posts 96

It makes supervising children that much more difficult.

The EK, EY, BA, QR etc pairs make for a much easier time when you need to assist the person next to you.

Hope the logic then goes that kids would sit in Economy because the business class seat design prevents effective  supervision. One assumes parents are considerate and behave responsibly. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2014

Total posts 96

not when they are 4, and we don't travel in economy - ever...

29 Mar 2014

Total posts 81

This was something my parents had a problem with when in CX's original herringbone business seat, where it was practically impossible to chat in.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 363

Love it! Glad to hear the divider does not move. Find it an annoyance in the BA Club World  seat as flight attendants keep sending it up and down to serve pax next door.

It seems those travelling together have lost out on two counts with the new configuration. Surely Qantas would have done some research on the percentage of people travelling together before installing such a couple unfriendly layout.On the A380 one has the benefit of a window seat and both can chat during the meal and enjoy the entertainment together. We have experienced the 1-2-1 configuration on Emirates and found the middle seats quite claustrophobic.

Can anyone enlighten me as to whether it's possible to sit in an aisle seat and the adjacent seat without a fixed barrier between in any rows?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 May 2012

Total posts 371

It is one of the most annoying things on a flight when people want to talk and I want to listen to music or watch tv.  I am happy with the design.

Mc
Mc

BA

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 18

As I generally travel with my partner its not for me but, on the odd occasions I do travel on my own, I might change my 'preferred' airline and give this a go.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 194

Sounds good to me. I'm happy to say hello to the pax next to me on boarding and then be left alone for the rest of the flight. The more privacy the better.

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 5

If it stops some random person telling me about their life I am all for it. But it will stop me giving them the evil eye to wake them up when they are snoring.


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