Three new business class seat designs we'll see in 2016

By David Flynn, May 11 2016
Three new business class seat designs we'll see in 2016

Qantas is in the home stretch of its A330 fleet-wide upgrade to the impressive Business Suite, and Virgin Australia has finally begun flying its new business class on trans-Pacific Boeing 777s.

But there are a few more new seat designs yet to take to the skies this year. Here's a rundown of what's on the radar.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 business class

Look for Cathay Pacific's first Airbus A350 to take to the skies by the end of this month or very early June sporting revamp of the popular business class seat first launched in 2011.

Travellers will notice improvements in storage space, the ability to slide the meal table forward and back, and a degree of tilt for the large HD video screen – plus, in a first for Cathay Pacific, inflight Internet.

The fleet of twenty A350-900 jets is first bound for London (in early September) and by year's end Auckland, and will slowly take over the Airbus A330 routes into Australia.

Qatar Airways 'Super Business Class'

Skipping down the calendar to November will see Qatar Airways reveal a new 'super business class’ seat to narrow the gap between business class and first class.

The seat will feature sliding doors to convert it into a suite-like cabin, similar to a prototype design proposed by British firm DCA Design International for Singapore Airlines (below).

Singapore Airlines business class concept. DCA Design International, 2014
Singapore Airlines business class concept
DCA Design International, 2014

Also on the cards for at least the middle seats is a ‘double bed’, according to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who boasts it “will frankly be first class at a business class fare.”

The Super Business Class berth will likely debut on a Boeing 777-300ER, and then be followed by Airbus A350s, including the first long-range Airbus A350-1000 in March 2017.

“Then we have a retrofit program where we will retrofit every aircraft in the fleet” at a rate of “three aircraft a month," Al Baker predicts.

Read more: Qatar Airways to reveal 'Super Business Class' seat in November

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER Business Class

Also taking wing in November: Emirates' new Boeing 777 business class seat, which will be fitted to all factory-fresh Boeing 777-300ER jets (but not the current Boeing 777 current fleet, which will be headed to pasture from 2020 once Emirates starts to fly the next-gen Boeing 777X as part of a sweeping overhaul).

As we've previously reported, the seats convert to a fully-flat bed – unlike the angled sleepers of today’s Boeing 777 business class – and are outfitted with a mini-bar and massive 23 inch personal video screen.

23 inch video screens: the next best thing to inflight IMAX?. Jacob Molin
23 inch video screens: the next best thing to inflight IMAX?
Jacob Molin

But the 2-3-2 layout makes no allowance for direct aisle access by the passenger in the middle seat, who'll instead need to step past or over their seatmates to get to the aisle.

Finally, a fully flat bed for Emirates' Boeing 777s. Jacob Molin
Finally, a fully flat bed for Emirates' Boeing 777s
Jacob Molin

This video offers a guided tour of the new seat:

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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

26 Sep 2011

Total posts 77

Nothing on Thai's A350 yet?

Yeah would be good to know more about this. Pretty sure it is still in the schedule (which means nothing with TG) to start BKK-MEL July 1st but considering they haven't even received the aircraft yet I reckon it is unlikely!

18 Apr 2015

Total posts 67

So we won't actually see the new Qatar Business Class in the flesh this year?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

EK's 2-3-2 is a let down, but I guess it is difficult to do any more on the super widebodies or lower deck of the A380 unless you go down the slanted seat, or super wide path.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 146

moa999 - the section in this article is about EKs 777-300ER....not the A380

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Yes. Emirates has its Business class on the narrower upper deck of the A380 and hence can do 2x2x2 forward facing -- its just that product doesn't fit nicely on the lower deck of an A380 or 777 or 350

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 146

Sorry - I misinterpreted your earlier comment. Yes, agree with that, and the public are certainly voting with their feet for the A380 J services out of Melbourne. If you're after a last minute Skywards miles upgrade heading to Europe ex Melbourne, you'll often find nothing available on the two daily A380s and will have to use the less popular 77W via KL.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 214

Could they not take a leaf out of CX's book, and have their business class suites on a fairly acute angle, with feet facing aisle? That's a fairly successful model for ensuring all passengers have direct aisle access on wide-body aircraft. The 2-3-2 layout is a fairly miserable prospect for anyone shelling out on a business class product, particularly with an airline that should know better...


19 Sep 2013

Total posts 202

Still no word on a QF update its Skybed seats?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

I assume you mean on the A380s - nope. I wouldn't expect any announcement until they complete the A330 refurb, and announce final design for the 787

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 390

So early next year?

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 191

certainly the best seat looks like qatar's new sliding door concept just like on Emirates current first class this is the ultimum privacy,anybody who flew in the sliding door cubicle will agree

so Qatar is well ahead of other airlines as far as business class products are concerned the EK as usual a big flop delivers very  little yet the price the highest so anybody with common sense will ditch them for the alternatives.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 584

the image used is actually for proposed for SQ A380s but Qatar will have something similar

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 503

How long until EK can keep on leveraging their hub and charging a fortune for crappy seats?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 May 2016

Total posts 1

I read somewhere that these 3 abreast 'Business' class will primarily be on planes serving developing markets in Emirates' African and Central Asian sectors. The same sectors where the other name brands are either monolithic state carriers or scary budgets with 20yr old planes. So in that perspective I guess EK's management would have thought this product is competitive. 

In our local context it would be akin to the business class airlines offer out of Melbourne into the US. Not much competition = half decent product. 

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

17 Apr 2014

Total posts 16

Wonderful seats and video screens. CRAP (Can Really Alienate People - in the middle seat). Emirates, will you never learn what higher fare people expect. Aisle access, good service, reliable timeframes and modern aircraft. STOP being so greedy and start thinking. If Singapore have decided to offer Premium Economy, it is time for you tao wake up.Even Hawaiian offer a sort of Premium with more leg space. I would suggest that you consider a more focused service in business class on your A380's, as my experience is if it looks like economy, then it probably is. You have a great product, but you do not have the service ethic that airlines like Thai, Korean, Japan and Singapore have.Time for a change. I am happy to be your "frequent flyer" to do spot checks -seriously, you have a problem.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

27 Nov 2012

Total posts 44

Two-three-two in J? Now I know why I fly the number one Arab Emirates airlines. Sorry Tim, I pay good money to fly in J, and expect direct aisle access from any seat. Your partner,QF, is also a negative in seat spread. Looks like VA with their new J seating will remain my choice to the Middle East.




12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1518

Emirate’s “plastic wood” is so distasteful that it is beyond any jokes.

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