Is this the new international standard for long-haul Business class?

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British Airways new A350 Club Suite product responds to many previous flaws in the product

For anyone that travels in premium cabins a lot, there seem to be a few moving goalposts when it comes to an internationally standardised product. Where some carriers believe business class comes with all bells and whistles, such as chauffeur drive, the same carrier might not believe in pyjamas. While some offer dine on demand, they might not offer complimentary WiFi.

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Qatar Airways new QSuite product

This seemingly differing approach to Business Class means that passengers will find different carriers’ premium cabins appealing for different reasons. But we ask, should there be an international benchmark that all carriers should aspire to achieve, before deciding to deliver more?

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China Airlines A350 and 777 product is an industry leader 

In the never ending quest to lure these lucrative and often brand loyal passengers, it is more important than ever to make a passenger’s experience effortless, comfortable and enjoyable. TheDesignAir outlines its benchmark expectations of an international Business Class product offering.

Dedicated, premium check-in zones with Fast Track security

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Oman Air has a dedicated wing for Business and First class passengers

Airlines should have clearly defined, premium check-in zones and priority fast track services for Business Class passengers.

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Virgin Atlantic offers a dedicated wing for business class passengers to check in

Ideally this space should offer more than just dedicated desks in their hub airports, with either separate wings, or branded check-in channels that offer some brand touch points, such as areas to relax or sit during the check in process.

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Istanbul’s airport offers Turkish Airlines Business Class passengers an exclusive check-in zone.

After check-in, fast track security is important, but not always possible as certain airports don’t allow for this service. However within the airlines’ home airport where the airline has more sway, this should be a given.

Branded lounges that feel homely, and give a sense of cultural roots

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Cathay offers the epitome of a relaxing residential lounge environment 

Airports are inherently sterile spaces, although they are working hard to change themselves into more dynamic, inviting environments that now reflect modern day shopping centres instead of just a mere transport hub.

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Even United’s Polaris lounges are unrecognisable from their previous incarnations 

In recent years airlines have invested in to rebranding and remodelling their lounges to remove themselves from sterility and inject a residential approach to these spaces, with warmer, more inviting environments that mirror a home away from home approach.

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Oman Air’s award-winning lounges in Muscat reference the local landscape

While we aren’t suggesting all airlines need take the same approach, lounges should be zonal in approach, feel on-brand and unique to the airline. Naturally they should be comfortable to spend time in, and where possible, inject a sense of locale.

Social spaces onboard wide-bodied aircraft

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China Airlines 777 offers a SkyLounge space for passengers to relax 

Long-haul flights become a small-confined home for potentially over 12 hours, therefore a welcoming entrance area which turns in to a social space mid-flight should be considered.

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Virgin Atlantic offers bars and social spaces on virtually every aircraft

Airlines and cabin designers are increasingly thinking about aircraft beyond just the seat, and ensuring that galleys and entrance doors are becoming an integral part of the passenger experience.

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Emirates A380s allow for a large social bar space, recently upgraded on the latest deliveries

While larger aircraft can accommodate lounges and bars, smaller long haul aircraft can still utilise an entrance galley to create a social walk up space for a mid-flight snack. As the industry is looking at health and wellbeing, this emerging trend will be vital for passengers to feel like they can stretch legs and grab a healthy snack.

All-aisle access and fully flat beds

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Carriers like LATAM (pictured), British Airways and Turkish have all introduced all-aisle access business class seat designs recently

This is almost a given now, with virtually every airline now offering all-aisle access and fully flat beds, but some carriers are still offering products that don’t conform to this standard.

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However, airlines like Air France are still releasing cabins that don’t offer such access

While there are many products currently on the market, which vary depending on aircraft type, it’s also very important to offer consistency, especially airlines that operate a hub and spoke model.

Every inch counts when it comes to entertainment

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ANA have delivered a 4K 22″ screen in their business class

While viewing sizes depend on where the screen is positioned in comparison to the seat, we’d expect a screen size of no less than 16″ with hi-definition on-demand movies and entertainment as a minimum.

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Second screens, such as Oman Air’s Aria handheld controller are becoming commonplace 

Naturally the airline should offer other entertainment, such as WiFi capabilities, inseat power, branded airline magazine of a high-quality and the option of other reading materials offered either onboard or in the lounge.

Premium class toilets

While this isn’t the most glamorous of benchmarks, toilets are still an essential part of the passenger experience, and premium cabins should offer passengers a larger, more premium space onboard with enough space to change in to pyjamas or a new outfit pre-landing.

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Turkish Airlines offers Molton Brown premium toiletries and fresh plants in its toilets

They should also offer premium amenities, such as improved soaps, perfumes and body lotions. These should be a part of the same brand universe found on the ground or amenity kits. Airlines can build on signature fragrances, brought to life by brand partnerships with well known cosmetic brands.

Dine on demand

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Turkish Airlines now also offers a dine on demand service

A few carriers have already adopted this service, which allows Business Class passengers to pick and choose when they dine, allowing them to work, sleep or relax at their leisure. This is an important part of a passengers experience, and while not standard, is an emerging trend, especially on carriers offering connecting long-haul segments.

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Etihad is well known for offering a Dine on Demand service for many years now

The dining should be of high quality and delivered course by course, apart from on time sensitive night flights where an emphasis should be placed on length of sleep, therefore courses could be delivered at once.

Proper bedding

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United’s Polaris now offers Saks Fifth Avenue bedding

Simply put, a mattress topper, high-quality duvet (not simply a blanket) and large thick pillow are required for overnight flights.

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British Airways White Company bedding was seen as a huge upgrade from its previous incarnation

While some airlines offer branded bedding, the importance is on comfort and a high quality finish. With the increasing importance of cutting down single use plastics, we’d be happy to see less plastic being used in presenting these amenities.

Going further

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Virgin Atlantic has just released a brand new pyjama kit

There are many more amenities that airlines offer, from chauffeur drive to pyjamas and arrivals lounges. All of these are exciting additions, but we don’t class them (yet) as benchmark Business Class products. However, it is our belief that airlines should master the above before offering these additional benefits which will add a point of difference.

The question is, does your go-to airline offer all of the above as part of their product?

 

One comment

  1. OnWingsofSaffron

    Business Class has become what was once First Class, ever more luxurious, yet at a lower cost than First. (And First is what: mere 6 or 8 seats?) Cattle Class on the other hand remains what it has always been and probably will have to stay: cramped and in no way aspiring. Cannot remember when last I read an excited, breathless article on how Economy was made all comfy, sexy and truely enjoyable for the masses.

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