Sociability vs privacy in business class

Sociability vs privacy in business class

TALKING POINT | When Qantas recently revealed its all-new Business Suite, some travellers expressed concern that the paired middle seats are not 'companion-friendly' – that the wall between the two seats doesn't drop down to alllow chit-chat with a partner or colleague.

"Plenty of people travel in pairs" suggested AusBT reader Craig Macbride via email.

"An unmovable screen between all business class seats is not only bloody irritating, it also means that friends and coworkers will be speaking very loudly to each other around the screens, or standing up a lot, which is very distracting for other passengers."

Melbourne-based Mal Jeffreys says that he often travels to the USA, Singapore and Hong Kong with workmates.

"If we're seated next to each other (in business class) on the Qantas A380 we can drop the divider screen or we can go forward to the lounge for a chat, which also means we're not disturbing people near us" Jeffreys said.

"But on the new A330s we won't have either option. It's not a deal-breaker but it's not convenient either."

The Qantas Business Suite's lack of a movable privacy screen is an inherent and unavoidable part of the design of the Vantage XL platform on which the Business Suite was developed.

There's no sliding middle seat divider because the the storage nooks of each passenger's seat are back-to-back.

In other words, the console of the Business Suite passenger in one of the paired middle seats...

... abuts the same storage nook of the passenger next door.

Read: 10 things you didn't know about the new Qantas Business Suite

Cathay Pacific's highly-regarded business class seat is designed along similar lines, with passengers in the middle seats set back so far that that need to lean forward and crane their necks around in order to chat.

Compare this to the business class Skybed seat of the Qantas Airbus A380, which has a pop-up panel between each pair of seats.

Virgin Australia's new 'business/first' seat intended for the airline's A330 and Boeing 777 jets has a sliding purple perspex panel (try quickly saying that five times after a few drinks!).

Passengers paired up in Etihad's new Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Business Studio can also raise or lower a long divider which runs between the seats.

How often do you travel next to your partner or a colleague in business class, and do sliding privacy screens make that much of a difference to your shared travel experience?

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

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.
 

26 comments

  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    11 Nov, 2014 09:23 am

    Yes! Finally a win for introverts, who just want to be left alone, in a world too often designed and modelled for the extroverts! 

    No member give thanks

  • watson374

    watson374

    11 Nov, 2014 09:30 am

    Putting the 'win' back into 'window seat'.

    No member give thanks

  • eminere

    eminere

    11 Nov, 2014 10:29 am

    Privacy all the way for me.

    No member give thanks

  • humanuscomotose

    humanuscomotose

    11 Nov, 2014 09:28 am

    First-world problem...

    No member give thanks

  • bob342

    bob342

    11 Nov, 2014 10:03 am

    I think there are plently of other seats that offer privacy by default, if you're travelling with someone else you want to be able to socialise at least a little bit.  Seems like a bit of an oversight.

    I'm travelling with my partner to the UK next year with Etihad on the 787-9 and the A380, so I'm looking forward to being able to say hello with the drop down divider.

    No member give thanks

  • moa999

    moa999

    11 Nov, 2014 10:04 am

    Also seemingly a deliberate choice by QF in the middle seats.

    Instead of

    -0-0
    0-0-
    -0-0 
    0-0-

    They could have presumable gone

    -00- 
    0--0
    -00-  
    0--0

    Making every second pair of seats next to each other where you could have used a simple raised divider

    No member give thanks

  • moa999

    moa999

    11 Nov, 2014 10:05 am

    Grr. formatting looked OK when typing.

    Instead of

    -0-0

    0-0-

    -0-0

    0-0-

    Could have gone

    -00-

    0--0

    -00-

    0--0

    No member give thanks

  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    11 Nov, 2014 11:30 am

    Am I in the matrix?

    No member give thanks

  • drgmarshall

    drgmarshall

    11 Nov, 2014 11:29 am

    I have a strict policy of wife and kids down the back whenever I'm up the front.  So the lack of a sliding screen in J simply means I will no longer need to be anti-social to some unknown passenger who drew the short straw of sitting next to me.  It's a win all round I reckon.

    No member give thanks

  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    11 Nov, 2014 02:12 pm

    I'll take privacy and any seating configuration that enables minimal interaction with the pax next to me. 

    When travelling with colleagues I insist we're never seated side-by-side and even when travelling with my partner we're both more than happy to be seated separately.

    No member give thanks

  • grov

    grov

    11 Nov, 2014 03:33 pm

    The CX J seat can move forward for a chat. However, most of the time my partner and I prefer to sit back and enjoy the on-screen entertainment. Plenty of time to be sociable on arrival.

    No member give thanks

  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    11 Nov, 2014 04:33 pm

    Back in the day, some of the best "conversations" I've had with my siblings are over MSN Messenger (I know...I'm that old)...even when we're in the same building!

    These days Whatsapp messages come rolling in around the clock from family across the world.

    This mode of interaction is ideal and extremely non-intrusive.

    No member give thanks

  • watson374

    watson374

    11 Nov, 2014 08:29 pm

    We have to be sociable on the ground. Why on earth would we want to do it up in the air?

    No member give thanks

  • Rufus1

    Rufus1

    11 Nov, 2014 09:22 pm

    Unintrusive, provided your neighbours aren't subject to the constant "bleep bleep" as you receive messages, or the "tack tack tack tack tack" as you type them....

    No member give thanks

  • PunditShafton

    PunditShafton

    11 Nov, 2014 09:01 pm

    I make an effort to travel alone. Imagine 7,8,9 ... hours without having to talk to anyone. Serenity !

    No member give thanks

  • samson

    samson

    11 Nov, 2014 09:24 pm

    My partner and I recently flew CX for the first time.  It was also the first time we'd been in a layout of 1-2-1.  We deliberated about whether to reserve middle seats or window seats and chose the latter.  Given the privacy / separateness of the middle seats on the A330, we thought we may as well get window seats and enjoy the views.  It was a great flight in all respects but we both missed the sideways looks of excitement on take-off, the clink of glasses, the sampling of each others food, catching snippets of each others movies and the general interactions that occur when seated together.  With the current emphasis on privacy in business class seating I guess we just have to get used to clinking glasses and sharing food in the lounge - not a bad alternative, but it's an interesting shift for people travelling together.  Perhaps the next evolution for business class seating will be to incorporate companion dining, such as in F class now?   

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  • Ross

    Ross

    11 Nov, 2014 11:48 pm

    It makes supervising children that much more difficult.

    The EK, EY, BA, QR etc pairs make for a much easier time when you need to assist the person next to you.

    No member give thanks

  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    12 Nov, 2014 09:00 am

    Hope the logic then goes that kids would sit in Economy because the business class seat design prevents effective  supervision. One assumes parents are considerate and behave responsibly. 

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  • Ross

    Ross

    13 Nov, 2014 02:11 am

    not when they are 4, and we don't travel in economy - ever...

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  • AB__CD

    AB__CD

    12 Nov, 2014 12:36 am

    This was something my parents had a problem with when in CX's original herringbone business seat, where it was practically impossible to chat in.

    No member give thanks

  • crosscourt

    crosscourt

    12 Nov, 2014 10:34 am

    Love it! Glad to hear the divider does not move. Find it an annoyance in the BA Club World  seat as flight attendants keep sending it up and down to serve pax next door.

    No member give thanks

  • Ann Callahan

    Ann Callahan

    12 Nov, 2014 05:01 pm

    It seems those travelling together have lost out on two counts with the new configuration. Surely Qantas would have done some research on the percentage of people travelling together before installing such a couple unfriendly layout.On the A380 one has the benefit of a window seat and both can chat during the meal and enjoy the entertainment together. We have experienced the 1-2-1 configuration on Emirates and found the middle seats quite claustrophobic.

    Can anyone enlighten me as to whether it's possible to sit in an aisle seat and the adjacent seat without a fixed barrier between in any rows?

    No member give thanks

  • driley28

    driley28

    12 Nov, 2014 05:12 pm

    It is one of the most annoying things on a flight when people want to talk and I want to listen to music or watch tv.  I am happy with the design.

    No member give thanks

  • Mc

    Mc

    12 Nov, 2014 07:50 pm

    As I generally travel with my partner its not for me but, on the odd occasions I do travel on my own, I might change my 'preferred' airline and give this a go.

    No member give thanks

  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    13 Nov, 2014 10:41 pm

    Sounds good to me. I'm happy to say hello to the pax next to me on boarding and then be left alone for the rest of the flight. The more privacy the better.

    No member give thanks

  • enneiviv

    enneiviv

    16 Nov, 2014 04:04 pm

    If it stops some random person telling me about their life I am all for it. But it will stop me giving them the evil eye to wake them up when they are snoring.

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17 Jul, 2019 03:06 am

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