What the Future of Business Class Flying looks like
Featured Image: QSuite, 2017, Image: Qatar Airways
Business air travel is set to get a luxurious makeover across the next two years suggesting the future is bright in the skies.
Many airline passengers find the travelling experience to be far from luxurious. This comes as no surprise as companies like American Airlines cut more leg space and that economy passengers are seen to be treated with little regard. Case in point – the United Airlines fiasco.
But, if there is any indication air travel may become a more pleasurable experience, look no further than some of the amazing changes going on in business class.
Business class is effectively replacing first class as the premium flying experience. Yes, it may be less expansive than first class, but for a cheaper price passengers can still get many of the perks of first class, like lie-flat beds, multi-course meals that don’t come out of a plastic container, amenity kits stocked with little luxuries – and that’s only the beginning.
This preference for business class is a trend airlines are starting to get on board with. If more business class seats are available and there are more flyers willing to pay for these seats, there is more money to be made.
The first big feature of the new business class is it’s going to be high tech. Airlines like Qatar Airways, Emirates and Delta have already taken the first steps towards a high tech business class future.
While it will not be rolled out on flights until 2019, the Waterfront seat was unveiled at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, and features the absolute latest in airline luxury. A collaborative effort between B/E Aerospace, Teague and Formation Design Group and technology giants Panasonic, the seat is based on existing models, but with a huge tech upgrade.
From their smart phones, passengers will be able to control every facet of their experience including seat positioning (which can recline to be completely flat), ambient lighting (with more than 16 million settings), climate control and creating personalised entertainment playlists. They can also illuminate a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign and also set a wake-up call from the crew.
The best part is, a passenger’s preferences will be remembered within an online airline network, meaning from flight to flight, their settings will automatically be available.
The centrepiece of this seat is the 24-inch ultrahigh definition entertainment system, where passengers can connect to via an app on their smart phones.
What the Waterfront seat showcases is a sense of personalisation; that every customer is unique and own that their specific desires can be catered to. With so much change on the horizon, airlines are now pursuing this in different ways.
Matt Round, the Chief Creative Officer of London-based design firm Tangerine, who helped Virgin Australia redesign their business class experience last year, spoke to Traveller about the main guiding principle of the redesigning process.
“[It’s about] delivering comfort, which is about the whole space, not just the seat, and is both physical and psychological. The seat must look comfortable, but the physical geometry of it will need to back up first impressions.”
Space (or a lack of it) has always been a major complaint whenever any of us fly. Changing the space and incorporating ergonomic features give passengers a sense of control in their space.
Having power ports than enable cables to be tucked away; tables that slide back and forth so the passenger can adjust it to an ideal distance for work or dining; a discreet tablet holder that allows passengers to keep smaller items on them for the entire flight. These are small changes which make a world of difference in providing a great passenger experience.
Of all the complaints of flying, privacy is the biggest of them all. The best example is the new QSuite Qatar Airways will be introducing on many of their long-haul flights. These function like small booths with a door that separates the passenger from other passengers, giving them a completely secluded experience.
The QSuite is already proving to be a major windfall for Qatar Airways, who were recently named as the best airline of 2017 at annual Skytrax World Airline Awards.
Qatar Airways Vice President for the Americas, Gunter Saurwein, told Traveller about the demand that passengers ask for – the need for privacy.
“Business-class travel has evolved into a singular activity, separating people from their travelling companions more and more. However, we identified the need for a more immersive product.”
This immersion is behind many of the other suites other airlines are developing, such as Delta‘s forthcoming business class suites. These aim to focus on not only ensuring privacy, but giving the passenger more control in their flying experience.
Delta’s suites aim to include more space for storage, more surface area and even shelves where passengers can store electronic devices.
For Delta’s On-Board Product Manager, Robbie Schaefer, the nature of these suites and the fundamental reasons behind the change and upgrades are to cater to the needs of the customer.
“We want to make sure customers have privacy, but that they can choose how and when they want it… [The goal] was to create a residential feel where customers have a spacious, private area that’s their own, whether they want to work, rest, relax, or dine.
“We wanted to design a product that puts control back in customers’ hands.”
In-flight experiences are going to get better and better over the next few years, so much so that the days of cramped conditions may be behind us sooner than we think.