Why BA's new business class has a door, but Virgin Atlantic's doesn't

By David Flynn, April 9 2019
Why BA's new business class has a door, but Virgin Atlantic's doesn't

Now that Britain's two international airlines have revealed their next-generation business class, the most obvious different is how British Airways and Virgin Atlantic each approached the issue of privacy at the pointy end.

British Airways' Club Suite sports a sliding door which fully encloses the seat, turning it into a cosy cocoon.

Virgin Atlantic's latest Upper Class has less of a door than what could be called a 'privacy panel' that extends only partway between the seat and the aisle to be half-closed (or half-open, depending on your life philosophy).

Apart from that, the seats are broadly similar – direct aisle access, 1-2-1 layout, a good degree of personal space for each passenger – and each marks a dramatic shift from its predecessor.

So what drove these staunch competitors to a decidedly different approach when it comes to privacy for those primo passengers?

For British Airways, the foundation seat (Collins Aerospace's Super Diamond) lacked sufficient privacy in its native form.

'I’ve flown the seats without a door and it’s not that private, you still are open to the traffic of people going back and forth," admits British Airways CEO Alex Cruz.

"With the door closed you will only see the head of the person going by. You also have the option of privacy. If you don’t like it, you can keep it open and then the experience will be like those others."

"But if you want privacy and sleep, it will shield a bit of noise and no one will walk into your space. It was not an easy feature to include, but it’s also about differentiation with other airline’s seats."

Virgin Atlantic maintains that its choice of seat – Safran's Cirrus NG – and its angled orientation offers sufficient privacy as a sans door starting point.

"The staggering of the seats and the layout has been designed in such a way that with the privacy dividers pulled out you can't see the person sitting across from you," the airline's Vice-President of Customer Experience, Daniel Kerzner, tells Australian Business Traveller.

"So whether that privacy divider closed completely or didn't close completely it's giving you maximum privacy in the suite."

"But the other thing that we noticed throughout our research was that a full door can often create a barrier between you and the service on board. So having the partial privacy divider gives you maximum privacy but it also protects have maximum sociability."

Read more: Virgin Atlantic's new Upper Class business set revealed


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

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1388

One assumes it's too late for Qantas to fit a door for its A380 Business Suite.

Unless they've actually kept their plans secret for once.

01 Sep 2018

Total posts 29

Personally, I find the A330/B787 QF J suites that have the table/bench on the aisle side sufficiently private already. I wouldn't complain if a door was added but I really don't think it would make a change to the experience.

On the other hand, the alternating seats where the table/bench is not next to the aisle are hideously exposed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 92

Agreed. I avoid the seats that open directly into the aisle. Strangely l, my boss prefers them. (So long as it’s on the right aisle-apparently heavy qantas staff thump up up and down on the left aisle, causing the floor and seat to depress as they go by)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 211

I don't have any issues with no doors. Never really saw the appeal of being in a closet, but each to their own.


03 May 2013

Total posts 445

That stupid blockage of the window with Virgin Atlantic is a deal breaker for me. Was always a gimmicky airline. Last time I flew them in upper class they had bangers n mash as a main meal.....pure ‘class’

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2017

Total posts 34

Suits their British and American clientele. Americans inparticular would find that really cute I think.

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