Delta Air Lines' new A350 business suite: Delta's One Suite wins Crystal Cabin Award for the best plane cabin concept

How to get the best seat on a plane

Ever spent 15 hours stuck in the middle seat in economy class? Then this guide's for you.

Is business class the new first class? While the airlines that still operate first-class cabins give their premium flyers plenty of reasons to prefer their caviar and vintage Champagne service, those same airlines are giving business-class flyers plenty to cheer about. 

Proof comes from the Delta One Suite, which has just taken out the Crystal Cabin Award 2017 for the best cabin concept. Presented in Hamburg for the 11th year, the Crystal Cabin Awards celebrate excellence in aircraft interior innovation. 

The awards are a significant benchmark, flagging the best in aircraft seating, layout, entertainment systems and health and safety innovations that you can expect to see deployed in aircraft over the coming years. Entries come from some of the world's leading seat-makers, design studios, electronics and aircraft manufacturers and universities. 

The Delta One Suite makes the point. Delta Air Lines is claiming this as the world's first business class suite. What makes this a game changer is the sliding door that gives business-class passengers another level of privacy within their own mini-suite. 

Installed in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration in which the footwell of one seat extends into the side table space of the seat in front, this is a fully lie-flat seat. Centre suites also get their own in-between divider.  

Adding cream to the cake, the Delta One Suite comes with a 45cm high resolution monitor, the largest among US carriers, power outlets, USB ports and multiple stowage compartments, although these are far from ground-breaking for flyers accustomed to the seats that Emirates and Cathay Pacific dish out to business class flyers. 

The seat in the Delta One Suite is the Vantage XL from Irish design firm Thompson Aero Seating, familiar to Qantas business flyers who would have experienced the very same seat on the airline's A330 services, with a few customised touches from uber-designer Marc Newson. 

One problem – the Delta One Suite hasn't been tested yet with paying bottoms on seats. The Delta One Suite will debut on Delta's first Airbus A350, not due to enter service until later in 2017. The airline has concluded that the Delta One Suite is most likely to give them an edge on long-haul flights, and its A350s will operate on flights between the US and Asia, and therefore it won't be seen by too many Australian travellers. Following its deployment on Delta's Airbus A350s the Delta One suite will be progressively rolled out on the airline's Boeing 777 fleet, again operating on long-haul routes

Other reveals from this year's Crystal Cabin Awards include the prize for the coyly named "Passenger Comfort Hardware". This year's winner is the Smart Onboard Wheelchair designed by Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, HAW for short. This wheelchair has a specially shaped seat which allows it to roll directly over the on-board toilets, giving wheelchair passengers a greater degree of independence. 

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Airbus took the prize in the Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment category with its clever ReTrolley, a recycler on wheels which allows presorting and manual compaction of cabin waste. The trolley uses three modules which can be interchanged for different purposes, for example, stacking cups, collecting residual liquids and compacting aluminium cans.

See also: World's best airline cabins: first class, business class and economy cabins

See also: What it's like to fly business class for the first time

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