Regional business class: It's business, but not as you know it

Think of business class and the images which spring to mind are wide comfortable seats that convert into a fully flat bed. Direct access to the aisle. Ample personal space surrounding you. Seats so good that the best of them are starting to threaten first class.

But that's not always the case. The business class experience can be quite different around the world.

Euro business

Nowhere is this more evident than in Europe, where the pointy end of the plane is usually decked out in what's called 'Euro business' class.

It's typically an economy seat – the exact same seat as you'd get down the back of the bus – albeit sometimes with a little more legroom or little extra recline.

A key difference is that if the business class cabin follows an economy-style 3-3 configuration, the middle seat will be kept vacant so there's a bit more 'personal space'.

Perk up

(This is similar to many of Air New Zealand's trans-Tasman jets, which have economy seating from tip to tail but the front rows are higher-priced 'deluxe' seats with nobody next to you.)

Of course you still get those expected business class perks such as lounge access, priority boarding and a better quality inflight meal, but in practical terms of comfort you're essentially stuck in an economy seat.

Local heroes

Stack that up against the standard business class of Qantas or Virgin Australia Boeing 737s – even on relatively short trips such as the Brisbane Sydney-Melbourne 'triangle' – or the international-grade business class of both airlines' domestic Airbus A330s flying east-west, and it can be argued that we Aussies are spoiled by comparison.

Regional recipe

Another twist to the business class recipe is 'regional business class', which some airlines roll out for trips of around 4-6 or even 8 hours. Regional business class is popular with Asian airlines, as those short-to-medium range flights make up the bulk of their routes apart from long-range journeys to the UK, Europe and the Americas.

Advertisement

Dragon dodge

Cathay Pacific and its Chinese-focussed offshoot Cathay Dragon offer a regional business class that's closer to what we know as premium economy.

The seats are wider and have more legroom than their economy counterparts, with a deep recline rather than going fully flat.

Add a decent-sized table plus AC and USB sockets for powering your inflight tech and regional business class is perfectly suited to high flyers making short hops.

Singapore swing

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines is reinventing regional business class with a new seat bound for Australia.

In every respect it's an international-grade business class seat complete with a fully-flat bed, direct access to the aisle for every passenger and extra space to spread out work your during the flight.

This seat makes its Australian debut on a daily Perth-Singapore flight from Monday May 7 on the airline's factory-fresh Boeing 787-10 – a longer version of the same Dreamliner flown by qantas, but with room for more passengers.

Singapore Airlines will be bringing more of these advanced Boeing 787-10s with their superb regional business class seats to Australia over the coming years.

The same seats will also appear in the airline's latest Airbus A350 jets, with the B787-10 and the A350 replacing Singapore Airlines' older Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 jets, in what will be a solid upgrade for Australia's business travellers.

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.

Follow David Flynn on Twitter