Some airlines are converting wasted business class space into first-class style suites.
This is happening as first-class is becoming less and less common, with first-class being already made a bit redundant with how good business class was getting pre-COVID, and even more so now that COVID has caused a lot of airlines to pull their larger aircraft (like the A380) from the sky.
The upshot? Most new aircraft are doing away with first-class and dedicating that space to business or premium economy. And the ones that are focussing on business have found that, with the herringbone type configuration that is proving to be most popular, there is a bit of extra cloth to cut, so to speak, at the front of the cabin.
CNN Travel reports that this space, on large passenger planes for international flights, is being used for “a new kind of seat – front-row business-plus.”
CNN Travel calls this “a kind of secret first-class, tucked away quietly at the front of business, but with more room, more hidden features, and more luxurious touches.”
Anthony Harcup, a senior director at design house Teague, told CNN Travel space for these seats comes from the staggered layout commonly seen in business.
He said: “Business class seats get their density efficiencies by staggering or nesting passenger enclosures – often the feet of one passenger will nest under the side furniture of the passenger in front.”
“The front row seat is free of any forward nesting passenger.”
This space, CNN Travel reports, is often left empty, “or has something like a magazine rack screwed onto the top of it, or a cupboard for the galley kitchen on top.”
Harcup says: “Repurposing that space to house premium features and create more living space transforms it into prime aircraft real estate.”
This space can be utilized to put in a sofa, wardrobe, or even things like workplaces. Further options include romantic dining tables, bassinets, or even (mini) playrooms for kids (depending on the type of airline flying such suites).
Essentially: the sky is the limit. Who knows, if you were feeling really keen you could use this space to film yourself doing a champagne slammer (the latest trend in business class debauchery).
Watch pointy end passengers doing champagne slammers in the video below.
The way to spot if the plane you are flying on has these (somewhat) secret first-class seats is to look for extra little touches of luxury (like wood panelling) as you walk past, or by browsing your airline’s website for subtle distinctions in their business class offerings (look for words like business class plus or business suite).
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The most well-known example of this space maximising phenomenon is JetBlue’s Mint Studio. Another is China Eastern’s Thompson Vantage XL+ front row.
But there have been rumours of other airlines mulling it over too, like Air New Zealand. Then you’ve got other airlines like Qatar Airways, whose Qsuite offering lets every single Qsuite ticket holder travel in a suite-style setting.
Maybe luxury (whether or not you want to call it first class) isn’t dead after all.