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What Suites You Best? A Play By Play Comparison of Business Class Products Flying Today

With the recent (very delayed) introduction of the QSuite, Qatar Airways’ much vaunted ‘Super Business Class’ we thought the new advent of suites in Business Class and the phasing out of most airlines’ First Classes was worthy of discussion. Also worthy of a word is what you look for in a business class product and what product accordingly matches you best. 

The general rule of thumb currently is that most of the world class airlines out there have a form of direct aisle access fully flat bed product with what is expected to be some generous storage space, USB and power outlets and some form of formidable inflight entertainment on a large high definition screen.

All airlines contract out their seat production – it has to be approved by airline regulatory bodies and tested for crash proficiency. It makes it easy for the airline if the seat has already been given approval by the needed government organizations and the aircraft manufacturers themselves – in this case basically Boeing and Airbus. As such seats, whilst fundamentally the same, can vary slightly from aircraft to aircraft. For instance, there’s a 0.5 inch difference in seat width on some business class flat beds on the A330 versus the B777 due to cabin width. Mind you, this is the very definition of ‘first world problems’ but it’s good to know especially when considering aisle or window seats in various configurations.

Given the nature of ordering these seats and beds when airlines receive new products, there’s essentially four or five main products that are out there, with a few bespoke modifications made on certain airlines based upon the core product that the seat producing companies offer. There are more unique cases out there – such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates, British Airways and now Qatar Airways – that offer a completely patented unique product.

In fact, since the advent of lie flat ‘beds’ back in the early 2000s, Singapore Airlines has always had a unique product that has been produced exclusively for the airline, starting with the SpaceBed and the various evolutions since then. The airline has always been very particular about this and offering a completely unique product.

We thought it’d be nice with all the buzz of the QSuite to take a quick look and comparison of the different hard products out there – and see whether this new Qatar Airways business class really lives up to its hype. While it seems to have all the bells and whistles plus some other nice perks thrown in, is it really a ‘Super Business Class’ that would, as the airline sensationally proclaimed, make First Class obsolete? Or is it really a marketing 101 tool of diversionary tactics which we know the airline’s controversial CEO, Akbar Al Baker is very good at.

Well, let’s look and see, shall we?

 

Apex Suites

  • Produced by: B/E Aerospace
  • Layout: 1/1-2-1/1
  • Seat Pitch: 74 inches
  • Seat Width: 25.5 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: No
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Selected Operating Airlines: Korean Air, Japan Airlines, Oman Air
  • Available on: A330, B777, B787, B748

 

The industry leading Apex Suite is offered on select Korean Air aircraft as pictured above. Image credit: Korean Air

 

Vantage

  • Produced by: Thomson Technologies  
  • Layout: 1-2-1
  • Seat Pitch: 78-81 inches
  • Seat Width: 21 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: Yes
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Selected Operating Airlines: Delta Airlines, Swiss International Airlines, Austrian
  • Available on: A330, B767, B777

 

Austrian Business Class Cabin, one of the first generation all aisle access products out there. Credit: Austrian

 

Diamond

  • Produced by: B/E Aerospace
  • Layout: 2-2-2
  • Seat Pitch: 78 inches
  • Seat Width: 23 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: No
  • Direct Aisle Access: No
  • Selected Operating Airlines: United, American (Flagship domestic), Aeroflot, Air China, Qatar Airways (A350, B787)  
  • Available on: A321, B757, B767, B777, B747, B787, A350

 

This product, while fully flat and a bit staggered, does not offer full aisle access to all passengers. Image Credit: United Airlines

 

Cirrus

  • Produced by: Zodiac Aerospace
  • Layout: 1-2-1
  • Seat Pitch: 81 inches
  • Seat Width: 21 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: No
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Selected Operating Airlines: Cathay Pacific, Air France, Virgin Australia, EVA Air, American
  • Available on: B777, A330

 

The EVA Air version of this seat in their Royal Laurel Business Class seat is the stock version which is widely considered as an industry leading product in Business Class. Image credit: WikiCommons

 

Aura HD

  • Produced by: Zodiac Aerospace
  • Layout: 1-2-1
  • Seat Pitch: 78-81 inches
  • Seat Width: 21 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: Yes
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Selected Operating Airlines: Finnair (A350), British Airways (First Class, 787), KLM (787)
  • Available on: A350, B787

 

The new KLM seat has debuted on their new 787 fleet – the design has been made for 787 and A350 aircraft. Image credit: KLM

 

Sicma

  • Produced by: Zodiac Aerospace
  • Layout: 2-2-2
  • Seat Pitch: 60 inches
  • Seat Width: 24 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: No
  • Direct Aisle Access: No
  • Selected Operating Airlines: Singapore Airlines (regional), EVA Air (regional), Fiji Airways
  • Available on: A330, B777

 

Fiji Airways is one of the only longhaul carriers to utilize this slanted bed format. Image credit: Fiji Airways

 

Bespoke: Singapore Airlines (New Business Class)

  • Produced by: Thomson Technologies  
  • Layout: 1-2-1
  • Seat Pitch: 78 inches
  • Seat Width: 28 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: No
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Available on: A350, B777 (long haul fleet only)

 

Singapore Airlines new Business Class, available on their longhaul 777 and A350 fleet. Image credit: Singapore Airlines

 

Bespoke: Emirates (A380 Business Class)

  • Produced by: B/E Aerospace
  • Layout: 1-2-1
  • Seat Pitch: 86/78 inches
  • Seat Width: 23 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: Yes
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Available on: A380

 

Emirates offers straight aisle access fully flat beds with personal mini bars on their A380 fleet. Image credit: Emirates

 

Bespoke: British Airways

  • Produced by: B/E Aerospace
  • Layout: 2-4-2 (direct aisle access, forward/aft facing seating)
  • Seat Pitch: 72 inches
  • Seat Width: 20 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: No
  • Direct Aisle Access: No
  • Available on: A380, B777, B767, B787

 

Club World on the British Airways 747. Image credit: Stuart Bailey / British Airways

Bespoke: DeltaOne (Suites)

  • Produced by: Thomson Technologies
  • Layout: 1-2-1
  • Seat Pitch: 81 inches
  • Seat Width: 21 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: Yes
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Available on: A350, B777

 

The new DeltaOne Suite will feature on the incoming A350 fleet. Image credit: Delta

 

Bespoke: United (Polaris)

  • Produced by: Zodiac Aerospace
  • Layout: 1-2-1
  • Seat Pitch: 78 inches
  • Seat Width: 23 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: No
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Available on: B777-300ER  

 

United Airlines 777, United Airlines Polaris, Polaris Seat, Polaris Business Class, UA Business Class, UA 777-300

The Polaris seat is a marked upgrade from anything on offer at United right now. Image credit: United Airlines

 

So there it is – how both the standard non patented products out there line up and compare to the and selected customized seats. If you look closely, there isn’t much difference really when it comes to the meat and bones of the seat itself in terms of legroom and seat width, with the one outlier being Singapore Airlines and their insanely wide seat (read: bench). The rest kind of fall in line with one another, with mild variations here and there and if you look at the ‘bespoke’ seats and their manufacturers versus the “standard” seats they produce for the majority of other airlines – well safe to say you can draw some conclusions. Correlation perhaps sometimes does imply causation – the numbers never lie, after all.

Okay, so with all this said, here’s what we see with Qatar Airways’ new QSuite product, branded as an industry leading, game changing, First Class irrelevant making product and now we can compare it with the best of the rest:

Bespoke: Qatar Airways

  • Produced by: B/E Aerospace
  • Layout: 1-2-1
  • Seat Pitch: 78 inches
  • Seat Width: 23 inches
  • Aisle/Window Variation: No
  • Direct Aisle Access: Yes
  • Available on: A350, B777 (progressively begining 2H 2017) 

The new Qatar Airways Business Class suite complete with a closing door. Image credit: Qatar Airways Facebook

 

The Takeaway

So what essentially differentiates this product from what’s currently out there is the ability for four people to dine together, with Qatar Airways introducing for the first time in their history both aft and forward facing seats. The center quad of seats have walls that can be lowered if passengers so choose to be able for people to dine with each other, restaurant style. How useful and often this feature will be used is yet to be seen – as is the “family bed area” that takes advantage of the ability to lower the walls of the suite.

Now is this product an upgrade from what Qatar currently has on any aircraft in their fleet? Most certainly yes, without a doubt. All of their Boeing 777 fleet, which operate ultra long haul flights to the United States, New Zealand and Asia from their Doha hub offer a fully flat but no direct aisle access product – the same can be said for their newly introduced 787 fleet though it’s a better, updated product. The A350s finally introduced straight aisle access for all in Qatar Business Class, and this new suite is definite progress from that product.

But let’s be real here and call a spade a spade – this new QSuite – with the hype that it was introduced to the market with – isn’t much more than a bit more trumped up version of the Apex suite, of which several airlines are already flying. The statistics match up, the seat producer matches up and the layout matches up. The main thing is the forward/aft facing seats (something that regional competitor Etihad already flies) and the ability to lower suite walls and dine as a foursome – again, I question how often that will actually happen.

The main thing and difference maker, as it usually is, will be Qatar’s soft product– their catering, their crew service and their amenities, that’ll make this an industry leading product. And we all know that in this respect Qatar consistently excels. They always find a way, regardless of cost.

So here’s our bottom line – it seems like some have been duped into thinking that this is a real game changer – buying into the very slick marketing that the airline doled out there. Yet, Delta – an American based airline – is putting out a fully enclosed suite (another trumped up version of a current product, mind) in Business Class market within the next few years as well really does take the gloss out of this QSuite product. Qatar is simply better at marketing than Delta (and probably has more resources to throw for this purpose) and does have a better ‘soft product’ than nearly all airlines in the world.

It’s  true – overall, Qatar has probably one of the best Business Class products in the world – at the best prices too. But let’s not kid ourselves – the QSuite is comparable number wise to many of the standard seats out there, is hardly the massive innovation the airline has touted it to be and is basically a bit of an upgrade of a suite that’s already flying today.

As always, feedback and questions are much welcomed.

 

 

Featured Image Credit: Qatar Airways 

 

 

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