What's next for business class in 2017?

March is set to be a big month for airport lounges in Australia, with Air New Zealand expected to open its new international lounge at Melbourne Airport.

Sharing the same slick design as its siblings in Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland, with a tended bar and "live cooking station", this is set to become the local lounge of choice for travellers on Star Alliance airlines such as Air China, Air India, Thai and United Airlines.

Qantas will add to its Brisbane lounge portfolio with an all-new domestic business class lounge (also open to platinum-grade frequent flyers), and later in the year a refreshed Qantas Club.

Alongside the new business lounge will be a 'premium lounge entry' with its own check-in facility and luggage drop-off point.

Qantas is also eyeing March for the opening of the airline's new London lounge at Heathrow terminal 3. The split-level lounge will seat 230 travellers, who'll enjoy "a Rockpool menu and dining experience" featuring seasonal menus with a British bent and tended wine and cocktail bars.

New business class seats

Also in March: the debut of a new 'super business class' promised by Qatar Airways.

Seeking to step out from the shadow of its near by Gulf neighbours Emirates and Etihad, Qatar is promising a seat with suite-like doors for privacy and even the possibility of two middle seats converting into a double bed.

Mid-year will see the launch of new business class seats and first class suites for Singapore Airlines' flagship Airbus A380 fleet, ahead of celebrating the superjumbo's 10th anniversary in October.

And if we're lucky, and Qantas is listening to its passengers, the Red Roo may this year announce an upgrade for its own A380s to replace the current Skybed business class seats with the highly-praised Business Suite of its Airbus 330s and forthcoming Boeing 787.

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New aircraft

Speaking of the Dreamliner, Qantas will collect the keys to its first Boeing 787 in mid-October. Watch for the advanced fuel-efficient jet to strut its stuff on selected domestic routes – both along the east coast and on the transcontinental trek – before beginning daily flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles on December 15

Cathay Pacific will fly its latest Airbus A350 jets from Melbourne to Hong Kong from February 1 (on daily flights CX104/105, if you're keen to book the new bird) and Brisbane-Hong Kong in March (CX156/157).

New routes

Qantas is kicking off 2017 with the relaunch of its Sydney-Beijing service as the airline seeks to tap into the China travel boom.

Virgin Australia also plans to begin flights to Beijing and Hong Kong, although the airline hasn't yet revealed from which Australian cities they'll depart – but the prospects of Virgin Australia flying from Sydney or Melbourne to Hong Kong are pleasing to many business travellers, who'll welcome competition against Qantas and Cathay Pacific.

Virgin's plans call for daily flights on its Airbus A330-200 aircraft, complete with the airline's superb 'The Business' seats at the pointy end.

Qantas is expected to make several more international route announcements this year, with the Boeing 787 starring on new routes as well as replacing the Boeing 747 on existing ones.

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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