The five best business class seats you need to experience

Flying in first class comes with undeniable bragging points but business class is where all the action is right now.

As airlines continue to cut back on first class, their investment in taking business class up a notch continues to close the class gap at the pointy end of the plane.

We're already seeing business class seats which offer space, privacy and creature comforts that were once the exclusive domain of first class.

By the end of next year, at least one airline will boast business class suites with sliding doors, similar to those private first class cabins on the Airbus A380.

Here are the trend-setters and game-changers for the business traveller.

Qantas Business Suite

Let's start with the home-grown hero of the business class brigade: the Qantas Business Suite.

I'd wager that most High Flyer readers will already have sampled this superb seat, as it's flying on most of the Red Roo's domestic and international Airbus A330 jets.

This was the original game-changer because it delivered international-grade business class to domestic flights, including a few Sydney-Melbourne services.

Qantas ticked pretty much all the boxes.


Design-focused luxury

The Marc Newson-designed Business Suite has wide seats which convert into long lie-flat beds, with a relaxing recline mode for take-off and landing; large 16 inch video screens, AC and USB power sockets and ample room to spread out your work during the flight.

Qantas is expected to roll out the Business Suite, or a slightly tweaked version of it, as the business class on its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners from late 2017.

Before then, we're hopefully also hear of plans to fit the Business Suite to the Flying Kangaroo's Airbus A380 superjumbos in place of the current last-generation Skybed II seats.

Virgin Australia The Business

Virgin Australia's latest business class, dubbed The Business, shares the same core traits as the Qantas Business Suite and indeed most modern business class designs, including direct aisle access for every passenger.

It's on every Airbus A330 in the Virgin Australia fleet as well as the international Boeing 777s flying to Los Angeles.

This is where Virgin clearly has the edge.

The Business is easily the best business class experience between Australia and the USA, not just as a seat but for inflight meals and that swish bar.

Singapore Airlines 'next generation' business class

It's odd to refer to the Singaporean flag-carrier's current Boeing 777 business class seats by their 'next generation' marketing tag.

Not only have they been flying since late 2013, but they're set to be superseded by all-new business class seats on Singapore Airlines' new Airbus A380 superjumbo fleet next year.

But it'd be a mistake to write off what's soon to be SQ's 'last generation' business class seats.

They're arguably the closest thing you can get right now to an international business class suite, and many travellers would be hard-pressed to know they're not first class.

The 28 inch wide seat converts to a 78 inch long flat bed, using the same flip-over design as SQ's current business class product, with copious amounts of space including dedicated books for laptops and inflight amenities.

I'm frankly curious as to how Singapore Airlines can top this, a product I rate as the world's best business class seat… but the airline invests heavily in creating superb cabins for its high-paying passengers, so watch this space.

United Airlines Polaris

Standing alone among all the new breed of business class seats with 1-2-1 layouts is United Airlines.

The US carrier's new Polaris international business class will launch in December 2016, although it'll take several years before the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners which United flies to Sydney and Melbourne are upgraded to sport the new seats.

What's different about Polaris is that it brings the benefits of direct aisle access to what the airlines call a 'higher-density' business class layout.

The Polaris pods are interleaved in a unique combination of forward-facing and angled versions to maximise the room available to each traveller.

Passengers get two-metre lie-flat beds, 16 inch HD video screens and ample personal space while United Airlines doesn't take the hit on the number of business class seats in its premium cabins or the revenue it can rake in.

And for airlines fighting in an increasingly competitive market, that's a game-changer.

Delta Airlines DeltaOne suite

US carrier Delta Airlines plans to introduce the world's first fully-enclosed business class suites on its international Airbus A350 fleet from late 2017.

Each of the Delta One suites has a sliding door as high as the seat itself, creating a private cocoon for passengers.

Inside that cocoon there's stowage compartments for shoes, headphones and laptops; two console shelves so passengers can comfortably spread out their work during the flight; and an 18-inch HD video screen with AC and USB power sockets.

"This product is meant to be as close to a private jet experience as possible and is driven by our customers, who were telling us that they wanted more privacy," explains Tim Mapes, Delta's chief marketing officer.

The Virgin Australia partner could to bring the Airbus A350 onto its Sydney-Los Angeles route as early as 2018.

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.

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