No matter where you're going, "business" has never been better. A growing number of airlines has invested in more and better business-class seats-or, in many cases, suites. The changes have been years in the making, but lucky for travellers, they're hitting the market just as "super long-haul" flights get longer and more common.
In the past three years, Qatar Airways and Delta raised the ante for in-flight exclusivity by adding closing doors to their lie-flat seats. Singapore Airlines and Qantas forged strategic partnerships with wellness experts to offer such perks as menus designed to combat jet lag or meditation classes in the lounge. On several airlines, you can now control your in-flight entertainment screen with Bluetooth or apps on your mobile phone.
Here are five of the most exciting new business-class offerings to look for-ranked for innovation and comfort-and how to book them with points and miles. Remember always to double-check your flight's seat map before booking in order to determine whether your plane will have the latest and greatest cabin.
All Nippon Airways
In July, Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways Co. announced it had commissioned architect Kengo Kuma and British design firm Acumen to overhaul the business-class cabins on 12 of its Boeing 777-300ERs.
Formally titled "The Room," the new suites are inspired by traditional multifunctional Japanese living spaces: They come with various wood-toned panels and double-wide, lie-flat seats topped by luxe Nishikawa Sangyo cushions. Sliding doors, like those on Qatar Airways' Qsuites, make them especially private; in the center section of the 1-2-1 configuration, you'll get privacy partitions as well. Bonus: A mobile app allows you to turn your phone into a remote control. (There are plenty of outlets and USB ports to combat battery drain.)
The new design is currently flying on 777-300ERs between Tokyo Haneda and London Heathrow; more routes with the same aircraft will be added in the coming months, including to New York and Frankfurt.
British Airways unveiled its new "Club Suite" in March, and it's being installed on all 18 of the new A350-1000s in the fleet-along with some refitted Boeing 777s. Expect a look that's reminiscent of Virgin Australia's and American Airlines' upper classes (they're by the same manufacturer) but with slate-gray upholstery and a reverse herringbone layout. More important, these are suites, which means closable doors and privacy screens, as well as sumptuous down bedding from White Co..
Compared to the airline's old seats, these are far more spacious: Each is up to 27 inches (69cm) wide with the armrest lowered and reclines to a 79-inch (200cm) lie-flat bed, with outsized tray tables and 40 per cent more personal storage space. All that will take you from Heathrow to Dubai, New York, or Toronto, with Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Seattle, Chicago, and Boston coming soon.
After dropping hints for months, Virgin Atlantic revealed it would be installing entirely new "Upper Class" seats aboard its order of 12 Airbus A350-1000s, which fly between London Heathrow and New York JFK.
The new seats have doors that slide about halfway shut for privacy and are arranged in a 1-2-1 pattern, with each seat angled slightly outward, toward the sides of the plane. The palette is also brighter than on the rest of Virgin's fleet, with splashes of purple, coral, and an off-white cream lending the look some depth.
As for the specs that really matter: These seats are not the widest, at 20 inches (51cm), but they're some of the longest, at up to 82 inches (208 inches). Control the 18.5-inch (47cm) high-definition screen with your phone via Bluetooth or head to the Loft, a lounge-style twist on Virgin's famous in-flight bar, where you can work (martini in hand) at a booth or a standing desk.
Turkish Airlines began flying the first of its 25 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners with its newest business-class seats back in July, between Istanbul and Bali, Indonesia. That's since expanded to include routes to Atlanta, and Washington. By spring 2020, the carrier's Airbus A350s will be upgraded, too, and additional routes will head to New York, London, Dubai, and Los Angeles.
The cabin consists of 30 pod-like seats spread out in a 1-2-1 pattern, which is a far cry from the 2-2-2 and 2-3-2 arrangements previously on these planes. For the most privacy, opt for even-numbered rows; not every row has the same amount of space separating the seats, due to how they're angled. Traveling with a companion? The odd-numbered rows may be better.
Despite all those major changes, the seats themselves are the same size as Turkish's previous versions, at 22 inches (56cm) wide by 76 inches (193cm) long. Now, however, they are upholstered in noise-reducing Alcantara microfiber, feature do-not-disturb indicators, and have 18-inch (46cm) HD touchscreens.
South America's largest airline is currently in the process of updating its Boeing 777s and 767s with all-new business-class seats to the tune of $US400 million ($A590 million). Future Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 orders will also get the new seats, but the airline's previously delivered 787s and A350s will not.
Passengers on the right side of that coin will find customised versions of Thompson Aero Vantage XL seats similar to those found on such other airlines as Qantas, SAS, and South African Airways. They're 23 to 24 inches (58 to 61cm) wide and recline to 79-inch (201cm) beds that flight attendants will dress with temperature-regulating mattress pads and full-size pillows. Among the sophisticated style upgrades are textured backboards, granite countertops, and 18-inch (46cm) HD monitors.
Good luck booking them, though. So far, just five aircraft have the new seats-and they're not scheduled regularly on any specific routes. (Earn your bragging rights by digging around and checking seat maps.) We've recently spotted the upgraded 777s on routes from Sao Paulo to Madrid and Miami.
Not-So-New but Notable
Delta's suites are some of the hottest tickets in the sky-and their continued rollout is making them easier to find. Now, in addition to the fleet's A350s and Boeing 777s, you'll find them on new A330-900neos, which fly from Seattle to Seoul, Shanghai, and Tokyo Narita (starting on Oct. 27).
Qantas also has been updating its Airbus A380 superjumbos with its latest business-class design, now officially installed on its Boeing 787-9s and A330s. These planes and subsequent refits will be deployed all around the network, rather than on specific routes, touching down in Singapore, London, and various US gateways. Just focus eagle eyes on that trusty seat map.