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The best new business class seats coming your way in 2016

By David Flynn     Filed under: cathay pacific, business class, Air Canada, Malaysia Airlines, Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways

A new year is here, and it's one which will see some welcome improvements for business travellers perched at the pointy end of the plane.

And it's true that the best of today's business class beats the previous generation of first class seats from as recently as the early 2000s.

Goosed by the GFC and rising fuel costs, many airlines began to wind back their investment in first class in favour of creating better business class seats and cabins.

So while there's still plenty of luxe being laid on in first class, business class has become the new battleground for high flyers and well-heeled corporate travellers.

Here are five new international business class seats you might end up flying next year.

Virgin Australia

Already darting east-west on domestic Airbus A330 routes, Virgin's 'The Business' seats are expected to make their international debut from Sydney and Brisbane to Los Angeles in the first quarter of 2016, having been pushed back from a slated late 2015 rollout due to certification issues.

Read: AusBT's review of Virgin Australia new A330 business class seats

(You'll also see them on Virgin's Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights, but on that route we'd suggest Etihad's Airbus A380 with its own Business Studio suites and inflight Lobby lounge.)

The wide, comfortable seats convert to fully flat beds and offer direct aisle access to every passenger – two must-haves for any modern long-haul business class.

Virgin's Boeing 777-300ER jets they will trump their domestic Airbus A330 cousins with an even larger 18-inch video screen.

Overall, these will be the seats to beat on the Sydney-Los Angeles route. They'll easily surpass the Skybed II seats on Qantas's flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo.

The closest competition will be American Airlines' own Boeing 777-300ER business class, which is modelled on the same seats as flown by Cathay Pacific – but with the added appeal of in-flight Internet in case you need to knock over some work en route.

Virgin Australia's extensive make-over for each Boeing 777 will also include a larger inflight bar, with face-to-face service for up to four seated guests and additional lounge seating behind the bar.

Cathay Pacific

The Hong Kong carrier will unveil a revamped business class seat on board the first of its new Airbus A350 jets, which is expected to take wing in March.

It's an 'evolution, not revolution' strategy which sees refinements to the airline's current and highly-regarded business class (below).

All the same, with the seat being shaped by Porsche Design Group, expect some elegant touches to the finished product.

Read: Inside Cathay Pacific's all-new Airbus A350

Malaysia Airlines

From April we'll see the first of Malaysia Airlines' new-look business class seats on the airline's Airbus A330 flights to Australia and Asia.

The 'sloping sleepers' of today's A330s will make way for fully flat 76-inch beds with 16-inch video screens, AC and USB power sockets and direct aisle access for most travellers.

And the seats will probably be familiar to many Aussies, as they're built on the same floorpan as the excellent Qantas Business Suite, although with far less customisation.

Read more: 7 things you need to know about Malaysia Airlines new business class

Air Canada

There will also be a better ride for Vancouver-bound business travellers with the debut of Air Canada's latest business class on flights from Sydney.

From May 17, the Canadian flag-carrier's daily direct service between Sydney and Vancouver will feature an upgraded Boeing 777-200LR jet sporting the same business class as its flagship Boeing 787 fleet (which will also begin daily Brisbane-Vancouver flights from June).

The pointy end of the plane will get 40 'Executive Pods' – next-generation lie-flat seats arranged in a 1-2-1 layout.

Each seat extends extends to an 80-inch fully flat bed dressed with a 100 per cent cotton duvet.

Creature comforts include an adjustable 'pneumatic cushion' headrest, 18-inch personal entertainment screen, and noise-cancelling headsets.

Qatar Airways

As is often the case, the punchy Gulf carrier looks set to be the wildcard.

Qatar Airways will begin daily flights to its Doha hub, with onwards connections to the UK and Europe, from Sydney on March 1 and Adelaide on May 2 (with the City of Churches enjoying the airline's new Airbus A350 business class).

But sometime this year the airline is due to unveil what it calls a 'business class bedroom', which the airline's outspoken CEO Akbar Al Baker says will be comparable to today's first class.

The all-new design will deliver "a double bed at a business class fare", he promises. "We are developing a new seat to which we will have proprietary rights, and one which will be unrivalled."

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 5/1/16 by Christopher

Come on Qantas refurbish your A380s!

1 on 5/1/16 by Jesse

I have to say I agree with this.  I recently got lucky and was upgraded to first class on an A380 flight to the US.  While the seat was good in terms of size and specs, the first thing that struck me was "this looks/feels old and tired", even more so than their business class seats.

2 on 5/1/16 by sgb

Business class climbing over a business class passenger to get out is not a good look, especially when sleeping. Refurbish.

3 on 5/1/16 by petrhsr

Agreed.  Alan Joyce, get the A330 business seats onto the A380 fleet NOW.  NOW!!!!!

1 on 5/1/16 by Christopher

And at the same time refresh/refurbish Economy/Premium Economy with the latest IFE

2 on 5/1/16 by Joe

Agree ...Mr Joyce if you cant afford to run a 1st rate carrier in terms of premium seating get out of the game. Third world and third rate carriers are flying new ac and state of the art J cabins. It's becomming embarrassing sporting outdated A380/744 premium cabins. I'd say the F offering is still great but J...come on AJ, give us what we pay for - premium J fares but inferior hard J product. Your J class menus and meals could also do with an overhaul with more substantial meals.

4 on 5/1/16 by traveller99

Agreed 100%.  The Qantas A380 business class is very dated.  The seat itself is quite uncomfortable when fully flat (I extend it about 80% of the way to sleep), and I always get a middle aisle seat, otherwise I or the person next to me would have to climb over one another when sleeping.  Don't the 747's have 2/3/2 config?  Even worse.

1 on 6/1/16 by Speak_

It's only 2-3-2 in Qantas business downstairs in the main cabin. Upstairs and in the nose are all 2-2 (there's 1x row of 2-2-2 in the nose). 

All Emirates 777s have 2-3-2 for their entire business cabin, for the record.

5 on 5/1/16 by Shoudy

Absolutely agree with you Christopher. The Business Class A380 are too outdated and desperately needs a revamp.

6 on 8/1/16 by John

They could start with their appaling grey 737s on which they have the gall to charge full business.

2 on 5/1/16 by superflyer

Crazy how similar business class has become. Before if you had a flat seat with aisle access you were ahead of the pack. Now every new J class product is basically the same. I wonder what the next real innovation will be.

1 on 5/1/16 by petrhsr

I think it will be more privacy.  I don't like interacting with strangers on a flight; I don't even want to make eye-contact with them.  F is very good in this regard, but J seats, in general, need more shields and higher enclosures, so that when I'm sitting in my cocoon I cannot see anyone else, and they can't see me, unless they stick their head into my personal space.  Give me tue privacy over  a 1er cru Burgundy and a feather doona anyday. 

2 on 5/1/16 by Jono

Yep, I was going to suggest that a more acurate description would be 'two new business class seats'.

Qatar, Air Canada, Virgin Australia and Cathay are the same seat and Malaysian Airlines offering looks straingley similar to JetBlue's.

Don't get me wrong, it looks like a shnazzy product. I just respectfully disagree with the innovation label. 

3 on 5/1/16 by moa999

Definitely pressure on Qantas now to look at the A380 product, now that the A330 refurb will be finished just after the middle of 2016.

Mind you remember that Qantas still has two unrefurbed 747s flying around - with a now seriously dated Business (and Economy) product.

4 on 5/1/16 by Serg

I am most definitelly puzzled by “rising fuel cost” when oil hits its decade minimum.

1 on 5/1/16 by FLX

<<puzzled>> perhaps due to a memory lapse and focusing only on the present?

The article referred to 'rising fuel cost' during a period right before the full impact of GFC-induced recession was felt globally circa 2008.  World oil price was on a relentless upward trend and hit a peak beyond US$147 per barrel in Jul08....a level nearly 400% of current prices over the past few mths.

Theoretically if someone was able to short-sell oil future 8yrs ago and settle today(i.e. borrow 1 barrel in 2008 and sell it immediately @ Jul 2008 price and then buy 1 barrel today @ Jan 2016 price and return it to its owner along with interest @ mkt rate), he would hv made over US$100 in profit per barrel.

1 on 5/1/16 by Serg

It all fine, but article is current, so no one need to be rude.

BTW on side note petrol prices nowhere at decade ago level - in our so-called "free highly competitive market" they rise petrol prices immediately when our dollar falling on one cent or oil price rises on one dollar, but they waaaayyyyy toooooo slaaaaaaaack to drop prices back when opposite happens. Basically pretty much as city councils - they doing you because they can. So despite oil prices dropping I do not believe that ticket prices will drop anytime soon, despite they saying that fuel is biggest expense. Instead they start to feed you with rubbish that they buying fuel upfront to "secure lowest possible price for your ticket, blah, blah, blah".

5 on 5/1/16 by Bizflyer

Hawaiian is getting new seats in business as well.

6 on 5/1/16 by dimi

Virgin's 'The Business' seats have already made their international debut, on SYD-NAN-SYD flights. I am taking VA 181 the coming Saturday, and they promise it will be a 'The Business' seat.

1 on 5/1/16 by David

That's quite true – I was writing about 'real' international long-haul on the Boeing 777 but you're correct, the Virgin A330s which fly to Fiji have 'The Business' too. Ten points to Hufflepuff!

1 on 5/1/16 by FLX

VA has a distinct advantage of being much smaller than QF to respond to inflight premium product upgrade trend especially re widebodies.

Total VA widebody(77W+332) fleet size=11

Total QF fleet size for 380 alone=12

Total QF fleet size for all 330+744=39

Even if only half of the 330+744 fleet(i.e. 19-20 frames) will get the upgrade as older frames will be left untouched, QF has to order about 3x as many new seats as VA to complete its upgrade.  A lot of business class customers fail to realize that seat manufacturers worldwide do NOT carry inventory.  They certainly don't sit around in a warehouse waiting for Alan Joyce to declare QF is profitable again & ready to order and then deliver to QF within wks.  Typical order lead time for state-of-the-art premium seats(e.g. QF's latest on its 333) sought by dozens of longhaul carrier worldwide these days is 0.5 to 1yr fm order confirmation to delivery assuming no design customization(QF's latest do hv some customizations).  Afterwards, QF still has to schedule installation(i.e. detach old seats+wirings+floor rail  attachments, assemble each new seat inside cabin due to door size limit, install new seats+wirings+floor rail attachments, testing on electronic gizmos, etc.)  either thur QF Engineering or outsource the work.  Typically, it takes a team @ least 2-3wks to finish installation on each widebody frame.

To upgrade seats on all 31 frames and assuming QF wants to take no more than 1-1.5 frames out of service per mth for the upgrade work, QF will be really lucky if all can be done 2yrs fm now.

Meanwhile customers will continue to praise VA and condemn  QF re premium seat consistency in their fleets.....

7 on 8/1/16 by Charles

Ian not sure if Qantas had refurb the A330 to  Bangkok. I flew 3 days ago, and I think they need more movies on their channel. There was nothing worthwhile to watch. My feet was under the seat  in front of me when I laid the bed flat. I had to extend my feet to not rub against it rather than have my toes upright. I am not a tall person.  Yes like someone commented earlier, you have to climb over the passenger. Someone need to redesign this. I suggest increasing more flight to BKk as business class was full and I am dreading flying back as it's also full

8 on 9/1/16 by Meridiengroup

The new QF international business class on the A330 is really good. Then you get the 747 and you realise how good the A330 product is. CX is also excellent.

If QF want to keep up, they will have to have consistent product for premium classes. It does not make much sense for the shorter Asia flights to have a better product than the long haul USA and LHR flights.

I agree with the comment about the IFE above. If you fly regularly you will really struggle to find something to watch.

And, QF seem to be slipping back to being consistently inconsistent in respect to service. Some flights are the best you will ever get and then others deserve a letter of complaint and to consider moving to CX. One thing about CX is that the service is consistently excellent - not friendly like a good QF crew, but always professional and well delivered.

As an SME owner paying for my own fares it is hard to justify business class if the service is ordinary so I am looking at Scoot Biz to see what that is all about because I am tired of paying QF $500 to make a change of itinerary on top of a bloody expensive fare.  

 

 

 

1 on 11/1/16 by FLX

<<I agree with the comment about the IFE above. If you fly regularly you will really struggle to find something to watch....looking at Scoot Biz to see what that is all about because...>>

Scoot Biz <<is all about>> freeing U from the <<struggle to find something to watch>>.  Unless U bring your own tablet/iPad, there'll be absolutely nothing, zip for U to watch re IFE on any Scoot flight.

From nose to tail on any Scoot aircraft, the only LCD screens are located in front of the pilots for flying the darn thing or near the galley for CAs to control the cabin environmental system.

With <<QF seem to be slipping back>>, isn't it exciting for U to see today's brave new world of a wide ranging definition of <<ordinary> and fare/price points in terms of business class service available in the mkt?

<<...others deserve a letter of complaint and to consider moving to CX.>>

Why consider anymore if service+product consistency is your top priority?  Just ditch the QF misery and move over to CX.  But wait a minute, does CX network /pricing work in all geog mkts /budget for everyone......?

9 on 9/1/16 by Rod

Good to see the new Business Class coming in 2016.I have tried quite a few of  last years types and by far the best is Singapore Airlines closely followed by VA A330. QF are just OK but domestically why would anyone bother with QF when you can fly VA in their terrific new seats. They are really that good.

The worst without any doubt at all is EK.

Pathetic seat width and very poorly designed layout both B777 and A380 . Seat wise  I had the worst Business Class flight with them recently . A beautiful Aeroplane ( A380 ) completely ruined by a crappy seat. Never again!!!

It will be great to try CX A350 one day , it looks great.

QF have a long way to go to be anywhere near as good as most of their competitors seats go. Their service is quite good but SQ is superb and VA is far  better IMOP.

What a difference good competition makes in getting such good new seats.!!!!

 

1 on 11/1/16 by FLX

<<why would anyone bother with QF when you can fly VA....>>

Not a tough question to answer at all: Because QF's latest domestic J design is objectively(e.g. measurable) every bit as good as VA's best domestic J seat design.  Plus the added legacy benefits of an @ least slightly larger network+more frequency.

<<The worst without any doubt at all is EK.>>

Some doubts if your comparison is restricted within a very small sample of 5 carriers(i.e. QF, SQ, VA, EK and CX) U hv cited.

Serious doubts if the comparison extend beyond your sample to worldwide.  As a start & closer to home, see today's vast majority of J seat designs onboard PR, VN, MH, China Big3, etc. and even UA serving Australia.  U'll likely start to doubt EK's J on their 380 is really the worst.

<<...very poorly designed layout both B777 and A380>>

Interesting comment since the J hard product design & stds @ EK are @ least 1.5 generation apart between its 777 and 380. Diff in their design concepts /specs /layouts are like night and day yet U lumped them as equally bad.....

10 on 10/1/16 by Roger

I wish  Thai Airways    would   come  up   with a   decent  Biz  seat  on  the   flights   to Melbourne!

1 on 11/1/16 by FLX

Given consistently serious financial losses, mis-management, CEO/Top mgmt team changed nearly 10 times(Typically due to political reasons, others corruption-related), etc. over the past 2 decades or so, I wish TG can continue this miracle of still surviving as an airline and financially able to sustain MEL service....let alone coming up <<with a decent Biz seat on the flights to Melbourne>>. 

11 on 12/1/16 by Rod

FLX.

It's a pity you don't appear comprehend the substance of my Post.

I stated that I had tried quite a few Business Class seats last year and because this article is about Business Class seats I gave MY observations and experience I had .

The seat in VA A330 are far better than QF IMOP and I did not quantify that comment any further than to say just that. Later in my Post I did mention service but again seats were mentioned as the subject matter being the important point.

My stating the EK was the worst was totally justified because that's what my opinion is having tried them and compring them to Airline on whose J class seats I have flown on. Other Airlines seats may be worse or better but I cannot judge them as I have not yet flown on them. EK's are simply the worst I have personally experinced!! so your comment is irrelevant.

The EK J class seats I had flown on were practically identical as far as I coudl see. The B777-200 seat was a bit wider than the A380 but both felt very narrow and confined.There may be some differences but they were not noticable by me so as far as I am concerned they were much the same. I flew in both types of aircarft within 3 days  and I did not think they were very good at all.One very annoying thing about EK's seats is that when a drink is placed on the drinks table you cannot pick up the glass with your hand on that side because there is a piece of the seating cabinet jutting out that prevents your arm from being able to reach the drink. To reach the drink you have to use your left arm or sit right forward , not a real clever piece of design..

My comparisons are are purely based on what I have experienced and not someone else's .

The post I placed was simply my personal observations and experinces I had and it is good too see that so many new and better Business Class are coming onto the market.

Simple as that!!!

 

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