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.
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?
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