When Qantas pulled back the curtain on its new Boeing 787 cabins last week, business travellers got a glimpse of how they'd be darting around the globe after the red-tailed Dreamliner makes its debut in late 2017.
As expected, the pointy end of the Boeing 787 features a slightly updated version of the Business Suite already flying on Qantas' domestic and international Airbus 330s.
Suite dreams are made of this
Qantas tapped award-winning Aussie industrial designer David Caon – who also helped shape the airline's Singapore and Hong Kong business lounges – to refresh the original Marc Newson model.
Caon and Qantas quickly zeroed in on one common criticism of the A330 Business Suite: a wall between each pair of middle seats made it hard for people flying together to easily chat back and forth.
"One of the issues with the previous iteration was that if you were sitting next to somebody it was difficult to have a conversation" Caon told High Flyer on the sidelines of Qantas' Boeing 787 launch event in Sydney Airport.
Caon revamped the design to provide a moveable partition between each seat pair, "to facilitate interaction between those passengers."
Similar to the panel between the business class pods on the Qantas A380, travellers can slide the partition for privacy or push it down for sociability.
The rest of the Business Suite recipe remains pleasingly the same: a goodly amount of space around the seat to keep your personal stuff close at hand, conveniently-located AC and USB power sockets, and a large 16 inch video screen.
The seat can be partially reclined during the taxi, take-off and landing stages of your Boeing 787 flight, and of course it swings down into a two metre lie-flat bed.
Such rich feature sets continue to narrow the gap between business class and first class, at least in terms of what most passengers are prepared to pay.
Give them what they want
That was certainly the intent with the Business Suite, especially as first class will remain exclusive to the Flying Kangaroo's Airbus A380 superjumbo fleet.
"It's about trying to bring business class up a level towards what first class was offering previously so that you're giving a first class experience" explains Gary Montgomery, CEO of Thompson Aero Seating, which developed the business suite for Qantas.
"Passengers today are demanding a lot of features around technology and integration" Montgomery said, adding that today's business class travellers "expect more" than a a short 20 years ago when only first class sported lie-flat beds.
"But I think the industry is stepping up to the challenge."
Less is more
Both Caon and Montgomery also highlighted the work done to minimise the seat's weight, which will be a critical factor when it comes to Qantas' ambition to fly the Boeing 787 non-stop on ultra-long routes such as Australia to Europe.
"Aircraft like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 are more point-to-point aircraft and (carriers) are looking at longer range," Montgomery said. "Therefore weight is becoming hugely critical, even though fuel prices are still quite low at the moment."
Qantas has also opted for a lower passenger count than most other three-class Boeing 787 jets, again to keep weight down.
The airline plans to announce its first Boeing 787 route in December, rostering the jet onto an existing international route, with all-new direct and Dreamliner-exclusive destinations from early 2017.
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.