The business of first class
What's next for first and business class passengers? Steve Colquhoun visited Boeing's Experience Centre in the US to find out.
There's far more cost and complexity than meets the eye to those comfy pews at the pointy end of the plane.
As you snuggle into your business class seat on your next long-haul flight, consider that what's beneath your behind may have cost more to build than your car.
The average long-haul business class seat can cost between $US30,000 and $US80,000 ($32,500 to $87,000) to develop and build, according to a New York Times report.
And if you're affluent enough to be in the first class cabin – or lucky enough to have scored a prized upgrade – then your pew could be traded in for a house or apartment, coming in somewhere between $US250,000 and $US500,000 ($271,500 to $543,000).
While the name of the game in the economy cabin is to utilise every spare centimetre in order to fit in the largest number of low-yielding customers, it's exactly the opposite at the pointy end of the plane.
No expense is spared to lure travellers who are willing to pay top dollar for extra space, better food, a decent sleep and that intangible feel-good luxury factor.
A huge part of that offering is comfort, and that's where seat design becomes paramount. The Times describes the chase for big-spending, high-yield business class passengers as “an aerial arms race” to design the most comfortable and user-friendly seat.
But for the airlines that purchase and install the seats, comfort isn't the only factor. Seats must be lightweight – every extra kilogram must be justified in terms of the extra jet fuel that will be burnt to get it in the air and keep it there – and pass strict safety tests.
Durability is another key factor. Each seat is expected to last for several years and will be a temporary home for thousands of customers, many of whom will treat the seat and its surrounds with the same disdain routinely meted out to rental cars. The difference is that an airline seat has a far longer service life expectancy than any rental car, and must do its job almost 24 hours a day, every day.
Business class seats are becoming increasingly complex – almost all have a wide range of electronic adjustment and some even include a massage function. They can include up to 2000 components, the Times says, and take up to three years to develop and produce.
Chew that over the next time you accept the complimentary glass of pre-flight bubbly and plonk yourself nonchalantly in the business cabin's leather-clad opulence.
With BUSINESS INSIDER