Sliding doors are increasingly becoming ‘industry standard’ in business class, particularly for long haul flights. But not everyone sees them as progress. Some people believe they are an unwieldy solution to a greater problem.
Sliding doors in business class used to be all ‘wow.’ Now they are just part of the furniture. Literally. Qatar Airways already has them (see: The QSuite), Delta has them (see: the Delta One Suites) and British Airways and Etihad are rolling it out. Air France unveiled a new business class with sliding doors earlier this year. JetBlue Mint started the trend 10 years ago. All Nippon and China Eastern also have sliding doors in business class. Cathay Pacific were reportedly thinking about implementing them in 2020. The only airlines you might expect to have sliding doors in business class but which don’t (yet) are Emirates and Qantas.
The main benefits of sliding doors is pretty obvious: privacy. As Traveller’s Michael Gebicki once put it: “If you’re hammering away on a laptop, the closed door means fewer distractions. If a neighbour wants to rock along with Machine Gun Kelly, make mirthful snorting noises while watching The Hangover or go gamer on their screen like a caffeinated woodpecker, a door is a good thing.”
#AirFrance reveals all-new fully flat Business Class seats with sliding doors. https://t.co/iQodXEGXZq pic.twitter.com/YEm1zSwvjL— PAXnews (@PAX_news) May 16, 2022
One Mile At A Time’s Ben Schlappig put it another way: “Privacy doesn’t mean that you can’t have anyone see you because you’re trying to join the mile high club or because you’re a drug runner. Rather to me, privacy means the ability to minimize the extent to which you’re disturbed by others.”
Executive Traveller wrote in 2020 that the sliding door mania had gone so far as to mean: “‘Will it have a door?’ has become perhaps the number one question asked of all airlines contemplating their own next-generation business class – including the forthcoming Boeing 777-9 products of Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.”
Not everyone agrees that sliding doors in business class are necessarily an improvement, however. Chris Brady, an industry veteran and founder of start-up seat maker Unum told CNN Travel that it’s a complex issue.
“All recognize that doors are heavy and complex… with lots of hidden complexity due to the certification requirements,” Brady told CNN Travel. “I think it’s fair to say that doors can enhance the passenger experience, but for outboard-facing herringbone at 40-ish degrees plus, where you face away from the aisle, the contribution is marginal.”
“In my personal view [doors] should be avoided on the basis that perfection is achieved not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away… a brave airline can and should delete them.”Chris Brady
“I’m a bit conflicted,” Brady added. “As a passenger I like a door. I find flying a wonderfully insular experience and revel in being alone, and a door helps. As a citizen I know they’re heavy,” (a feature which, CNN Travel points out “also means more carbon emissions”).