What do you want to see in a business class seat?

By David Flynn, January 18 2018

TALKING POINT | Today’s best business class seats tick three key boxes for the corporate traveller. They convert into lie-flat beds; they have direct aisle access; and there’s ample personal space around the seat itself.

That’s on top of the assumed basics, such as a comfortably wide seat with AC and USB power sockets at hand.

So what’s next for business class? This is the question which airlines and seat designers probe, prod and puzzle over in an effort to move beyond the norm and past the competition.

The average lifespan of a business class seat design is now said to be around seven years – so a seat launched in 2010 is already in danger of falling behind the times.

(Hence why Qantas is overdue to upgrade the circa 2007 Skybed II business class seats of its Airbus A380, and British Airways even more so with its eagerly-anticipated next generation of Club World.)

Some of the latest business class seat designs are borrowing concepts from first class, such as siding doors (Qatar Airways’ Qsuite and Delta’s Airbus A350 Delta One) and double beds (the Qsuite once again, along with Singapore Airlines’ new Airbus A380 business class).

Keeping pace with consumer technology sometimes means providing not one but two USB ports, and ideally both of those rated as high-power sockets capable of fully charging tablets and large-screen smartphones.

But there’s got to be much more than that – so we’re turning the topic over to the peripatetic Australian Business Traveller readers.

What features do you want to see in the next generation of business class seats? USB-C ports, to power the latest smartphones? Ever-larger video screens (in high definition, of course)? Even more space around and under the seat?

Share your thoughts and the top-line items of your wishlist as a comment 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.

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

17 Sep 2017

Total posts 17

I think having a comfortable seat which is soft as a bed is the most important, followed by privacy, then multiple storage options, then direct aisle access, then good inflight entertainment, WiFi and USB/power points. But having a soft seat is a make or break.

09 May 2016

Total posts 10

They can always improve food and service.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 93

Indeed. Maybe a meal that's really nicely plated and presented, and I don't mean like a Y meal on steroids.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 288

I think the next big area ripe for improvement is the small, cubbyhole sized spaces for your feet in a lot of current designs, (and even very recent ones - I’m looking at you SQ).

It doesn’t make for a natural sleeping position for lots of people.

07 Jun 2016

Total posts 29

- Good IFE (don’t ask me to bring my own devices and entertainment).

- IFE screens with centrally controlled brightness, such that brightness across the cabin is cranked up all the way on an overnight flight

- Intuitive and well placed IFE and seat controls (don’t even think of transferring these controls to an app on my smartphone)

- reading lights that don’t blind you from the edges of your field of vision.

- literature pockets that completely hide all the frazzled looking magazines and barf bags from sight

- a little storage cubby that exactly fits the size of the amenity kit

- slimmed down amenity kits to limited excessive waste. More products should be available in self service galley or lavatory spaces

- shoe horns in amenity kits

NZ

16 Oct 2015

Total posts 10

I agree about the sleep: move beyond the lie flat and offer something closer to a bed. But the seat should also be reclinable (not for sleep) during take off and landing. Nearby storage should be able to hold a charging 15” laptop securely.
sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

No Children.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 93

Or at least, cabin staff that will protect the wishes of passengers who want peace and quiet, not a playground in J. Same should apply anywhere on the plane really.
DCW
DCW

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 May 2014

Total posts 19

SGB, My 6 year old behaves better than some adults.

You are entitled to your opinion, however when I pay an adult ticket price for my 6 year old to sit in Business she can enjoy the little luxuries as well.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 Jun 2017

Total posts 2

"when I pay an adult ticket price for my 6 year old to sit in Business she can enjoy the little luxuries as well."

lol

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 264

I have to agree, children in J are normally really well behaved.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

20 Jan 2018

Total posts 33

Emirati children generally don't fit that model. On a recent flight to Casablanca, 3 kids ran uncontrolled and unsupervised in the J cabin, jumping around on empty seats and shouting while mum slept in F! She expected the entire crew of J FAs to act as babysitters. It reminded me of an attitude I experienced every day when working for 11 years in Dubai.

29 Jan 2015

Total posts 20

Provided she behaves, no issue with that.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 93

There should be “adult only” flights avaliable... not every flight but i would definitely book the flight that guarantees no crying baby or annoying toddler running up and down the isle... any any class

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 93

Aisle :)........

29 Jan 2015

Total posts 20

H*** yes. we can but dream, though

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 87

I don't know about a "revolution" so much as making sure the features that are already in a business class seat are spot-on.

- Please make sure that the storage spaces you have are large enough to hold a sizable laptop (and charge it) + secure spaces with charging outlets to hide my phone. And no sharp scratchy edges in these places.

- If I can keep my carry-on at hand under the seat somewhere and still access it when reclined that would be wonderful.

- A decent amount of room to sleep - no tiny cubby holes for my feet forcing me to sleep at weird angles.

- Privacy is good - don't need doors but I don't want to be sitting open to the aisle or staring my seatmate in the face a-la BA

- A good size table that is firm enough to lean on, locks in place when I want it to stay put and that I can move aside to get up during meal service if I need to.

- Good adjustable lighting so I can see what I'm doing and see into storage spaces but not be blinded by lights from other people or the cabin

dp
dp

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2015

Total posts 8

More than the seats, a decent ratio of toilets.... especially if the airline offers PJ's, as the line to change is huge.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 93

Absolutely. With or without PJ's, enough toilets. I'm looking at you Qantas. And toilets that get cleaned from time to time. I'm looking at you Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 332

Which is exactly why spaces like the useless "lounge" on the QF A380 should be converted into 'çhanging rooms' without the need for plumbing.

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 152

Agreed. Had a 20 minute wait last week on a QF 787 flight from LAX while one person changed, preened and groomed herself. 45 minutes from landing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Aug 2012

Total posts 71

A table that can be moved away from you easily.[whilst being used]

Better accessible storage.

thoughtful amenities kit.

PJs

More variable lighting

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2018

Total posts 1

- Privacy for me is paramount.

- Comfort of seat/bed.

- Accessibility to aisle without needing to step over someone in certain seating configurations. If I wanted that, I’d book Y class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Aug 2012

Total posts 71

Oh, I missed something. Access to adequate toilets !!!!!

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 93

I missed something too. Toilets that aren't shared with PE.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 131

i think they should work on making all these suits and cabin feel less claustrophobic! that's the one reason why i still search and search for any F rewards when the option is there...

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

I'd love to see wireless charging. Place your iPhone or Galaxy onto a clearly labelled spot on the side console and it charges up, no cables needed.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Nov 2011

Total posts 123

Seats that don't have shells that block out windows! Also rear facing seats need to go. I just can't travel backwards!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Mar 2014

Total posts 5

Some kind of personal climate control. With the removal of “gaspers” to save weight on many aircraft, attention needs to be given to cabin temp. With the trend towards private style cabins, a return of the personal gaspers combined with personal temperature setting for the private compartment would be an awesome next level step.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 585

EK's new suites have this

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 303

Are a lot of these suggestions what you expect to find in “First” or are business passengers just expecting too much nowadays?

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 71

As I'm reading these comments what you said is exactly what i thought. Although quite a few of these are already available anyway. People need to steer away from their "preferred" airline and travel with someone else.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

20 Jan 2018

Total posts 33

Exactly what I was thinking.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 86

HDMI in port to go through my go pro / camera footage or watch my tablet or laptop content on the now HD and superior screens on the newer business class IFE’s is a real want for me and lots of people I know!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jul 2013

Total posts 20

Lay-flat or even angle flat seat for narrow body trans-con flight. Recliners are soooooo 80s and you can't get a decent amount of sleep. I would take more red eye flight if it was lay-flat seat.

Just think. Passenger sleeping deeply - no one watching ife - no drink/food orders - less workload on flight attendant

FHD IFE screen.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

Modify the IFE system to:

  • allow In-Flight Magazine to be displayed on screen.
  • allow in-seat ordering of food / beverages / snacks

The benefits of these are relatively obvious - weight could be saved with the elimination of paper In-Flight mags, ergo cost savings and greater fuel efficiency. Customer service would be enhanced, for both the passenger and for the crew with in-seat ordering.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Aug 2017

Total posts 14

@sgb My daughter travels with my wife and I in business and is always well behaved and polite, unlike some adults. Example being on a recent flight from BNE a FIFO worker in 2d was set on drinking every drop of Scotch and dry on the plane, would press the steward call button then still with his head phones on shout out his order, the flight attendants eventually covertly cut him off. I would like a liittle more foot room when fully reclined.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2011

Total posts 79

I'd like:

- Aisle access from every seat

- Big HD IFE screen

- Seat controls, light controls, sockets etc that don't require a yoga pose to access

- Room for feet, shoulders, hips when lying flat

- Table that can be moved out of the way fully laden if I need to stand

- Cabin baggage close-ish at hand

- Window seats that you can see out the window of

- Privacy screens when required

Direct Aisle Access, separation from the aisle/privacy, and a fully flat bed are the big ones in my view. The ability to charge personal devices is also very useful. I also admit I like shoulder space too (the Cirrus/reverse herringbone config's big weakness is shoulder space).
Mr Miyagi Banned
Mr Miyagi Banned

18 Jan 2018

Total posts 63

Ban god damn babies!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 118

The problem with this question is that everybody wants something different, so any seat will be a compromise for someone.

For instance, direct-aisle-access isn't a huge deal for me. It's nice to have but having someone climb over you/climbing over someone is a mild inconvenience that doesn't really effect the overall flight for me. Of all my business class flights lately, the high density ones (Turkish, Air India) have been the most comfortable. Here's what I'd like to see in a seat

  • Wide seat, even at the feet when in bed mode. None of this tiny cubby for your feet nonsense. I am not a big person, but I think a wide seat is the simplest and best solution to accomplish a sense of privacy without making things claustrophobic.
  • Privacy dividers for dayz.
  • Also, storage compartments everywhere. A place here for your iPad, a place there for your headphones.
  • Large IFE screen with HDMI input. Flexible movement would be great too. I like Air NZ's implementation of the IFE on a flexible arm, but it doesn't have height or angle adjust so you can't sleep properly without it obstructing you if you try to roll over or sleep on your side.
  • A mini-bar! Just a place loaded with a can of coke, some nuts and a couple of chocolate bars etc to avoid having to call or get up for snack service.

I don't expect business class to be super luxurious, I just want a good rest, no stress and perhaps get a bit of work done.

13 Jul 2017

Total posts 4

For a start - not calling that rubbish product on the QF 737 'business class'. So annoyed that on my last trip to NZ, I didn't check it out properly and paid the same J class fare each way, with one in a decent A330 and the other on a crummy domestic grade 737

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2014

Total posts 97

Enough room for feet - hate the 'cubby holes'.
Enough shoulder room when lying down.
Decent meal sizes particularly on long-haul where you are trapped on board for 8+ hours.
Enough toilets.

Air France - Flying Blue

10 Nov 2017

Total posts 4

I'll keep it short, ME :-)
AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 264

Call me old fashioned ... but I love the space and room on QFs A380 in J. I know it’s dated now and 2x2x2 is old hat, but Im going to really miss the room-iness. I know all the rage is to have these single capsuals but jee-wiz they can be claustrophobic.

Last request - can I please order plain old fashioned meat and 3 veg for dinner in J, you know something without couscous!

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 152

I’m with you on this. The current pod design, like on the Emirates 380, Singapore, and the Qantas 330/787 sacrifices real world pitch for width and aisle access.

On the Qantas design when you recline te seat moves forward, loosing vital inches for taller folks like me. It’s very claustrophobic.

I’d be more than happy to stay with the sky bed II if it actually reclines flat, instead of the roller coaster they are now.

Rav
Rav

18 Aug 2017

Total posts 40

I am with you, I have just used the A380 from Mel to Sin on the way to Europe with Finnair and it was so much better than the A350 pods or cubicles or whatever they call them, so much room and so comfy, and the same with menu's can we just have some real meat with some basic foods added to the menu without having unpronounceable and unknowable stuff dripping with YAK curd as your main meal when you are on there for hrs.

Finnair seems mainly Vegetarian or if there is meat it seems waved over the plate and those cubby holes for feet are like a straight jacket.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

I think technology will lead to more ability to control your flight using your IFE and much less human crew interaction. I can see pax being able to ‘program’ their flight before take off, ie browse the menu on their screen, order their meals in advance (both what they will eat and when), and even the periods they plan to sleep. This should also make it easier for the crew to plan the flight. I can see crew service turning into more like room service where they fairly anonymously deliver pre-ordered food and drinks rather than having in-depth conversations with passengers.

08 Aug 2017

Total posts 37

Smit, mate, you're very probably right that that is how things will head, but personally I hope it doesn't go that way. I love engaging with - and being engaged by - the crew teams in J. De-personalising the service would be a big detraction from the product as a whole. Qantas' especially (more so than EK and AA who are the other two I fly regularly) really get this right: Very congenial and personable, but without being too casual or forward nor too stiff and formal. It's quite a balance to strike and Qantas by and large do it really well. I do QF 7 & 8 frequently and see the same crew members regularly and they recognise me ... some even remember my name which is incredible given how many folks they service. Really builds my loyalty far more than points which are impossible to use anyway.


In addition, particularly on that DFW-SYD sector which is sooooo frigging long, I couldn't plan it even if I wanted to. I can't guess how long I'm going to be able to stay awake, how much work I'm going to be motivated to do, or even whether I feel like a full three course meal or just a sandwich and a G&T, until the time comes. SYD-JFK or LHR would presumably be even more so.


But to get back to the original question of the seat ... Just give me a WIDE seat (none of this bollocks on EK777 or BA Club) with plenty of foot and shoulder room, useful lighting for reading and work that doesn't disturb others or make me squint. Flat to sleep. Recline to read and watch IFE. Upright-ish but feet up to eat and work. Great IF service with top shelf grog and I'm a very happy customer.

Oh, and as other posters have mentioned, a strong movable table and more dunnies (or add change rooms).

QF

12 Dec 2014

Total posts 6

Air. Air vents for all seats

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 194

Large retractable privacy dividers on centre seats, not silly little peek-a-boo dividers some have. Large firm pillows would be nice too.

British Airways - Executive Club

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 66

Lie flat seat. Priority boarding and disembarkation. Personal air vents. Large toilets (as on A380 upper deck). PJs. Charging points. Dine on demand. Pre order dining menu. All seats to have aisle access. Pre-takeoff bubbly. Good thick pillow and cool to touch blanket/covers.
Bra
Bra

QF

11 May 2015

Total posts 24

A window seat which actually has the seat next to the window and not the aisle for more privacy. Unobstructed view out of the window from the sitting position. Better low fat meals for long haul flights. Flat beds, direct aisle access, more and lager toilets. Sliding doors for more privacy. Sounds a bit like first class however I fly from BNE and all the airlines new jets except EK only offer J now so a bit more could be provided in Business.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

12 Feb 2016

Total posts 20

I think well designed spaces for putting things. I loved the window seats on the top deck of the 747 because my travel bag fitted in the bins and was easily accessible. Flexible meal service would be good. Personally i dont use the IFE and am annoyed by others in my line of sight after dark. The SQ screen on my last flight with them took seveal steps to turn off but came back on again at the slightest touch,

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 96

It was actually this post that motivated me to finally sign up to comment on this fine website.

I think the number one thing that airlines could do to improve J class amenity would be install personal temperature control (as EK has done) or, at the very least, reintroduce personal air vents like those which exist on short-haul aircraft.

I am sick of waking up over the Pacific in a pool of sweat. It doesn't help matters that most airlines only provide a thick duvet or blanket, which is hardly consistent with cabins heated to 22C or 23C degrees (72-73F).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 585

EK only have that personal temp control in their newly launched suites...didn't think they had anything of the sort in J

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Jul 2016

Total posts 13

Larger toilets, and improved methods of “blanking out” fellow travellers. A while back had an adjacent pax who absolutely had to sleep immediately on departure from SIN (FRA bound) then 3 hours in is demanding food and clunking along on a laptop, I coulda slapped her (several times).
Mr Miyagi Banned
Mr Miyagi Banned

18 Jan 2018

Total posts 63

It’s not your personal jet. People are entitled to food and to do work in BUSINESS class.

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 5

Somewhere convenient, ie that doesn't require me to move from my seat, to put my handbag! So few planes I have flown in think of this. And individual temperature control so I don't roast on an overnight flight. I always carry a large,very light wool wrap to use as a blanket instead of stifling doonas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 8

No 1, 2 and 3 - toilets that are large enough to actually move around in, more like a small bathroom. There's no room to even swing a body, much less a cat :-)

12 Aug 2017

Total posts 75

Control of IFE brightness by crew so when almost all the passengers are trying to sleep you don't have one person with a mega bright flickering screen ruining it for all

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 585

I thought that's what eye masks were for

12 Aug 2017

Total posts 75

Touch screen IFE rather than a fiddly hand unit and arrow buttons

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2017

Total posts 25

- healthy/better quality food, available on demand

- get rid of those second rate 737-800 seats

- kept smoked almonds, ditch the pretzel pack!

- PLEASE stop Y class pax sharing the loos!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2017

Total posts 25

oh and KEEP the curtains that separate Y & J... I don’t want to feel like I’m in Y.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2016

Total posts 40

I think there will be partnerships with big tech brands like (Samsung, Apple, Google) that will start making their own software for IFE systems, cutting-edge screens with the latest technology (HDR, 4K, OLED) and suites that feature other tech gadgets like wireless charging, USB-C and individual RGB lighting. I believe technology is going to be the next big thing for business suites.

29 Jan 2015

Total posts 20

if people can;t change into their pj's under a blanket how about relieving the pressure on the actual toilets for toilet use by making a space available for changing instead?

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

20 Jan 2018

Total posts 33

The PJs are a wank and I always laugh when I see people in them. I always take the EK F PJs, slippers and amenity kits off the plane as the African people I visit love receiving them!

19 Oct 2017

Total posts 1

Comfortable seat and bedding , great food, power ports, and Emirates' IFE (wifi can be a good addition too)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 127

I want to see it on either : SQ / CX / QR / VA . That should be all that's needed to be said!!!

20 Jan 2018

Total posts 1

Flat beds with heat and massage that stay on longer. Cabin staff that care about you and the aircraft, qantas to Melbourne then onto LA business class there were quite a few things wrong which I told the staff Melbourne flight didn’t care never came back. LA Staff just as bad. We went Business class to the Netherlands with Qatar airlines everything worked Staff were great excflight next time I fly to LA better to stay in the air 5 more hours with Qatar than qantas.

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