Will we ever have, on planes, our cozy little individual cabin or, on the contrary, will the supersonic flights crossing the planet in the blink of an eye leave us no time to watch a film? The experts are not entirely in agreement on the version of our future airline, and the competition in the refinement of the business class still has a bright future ahead of it. Born in the 1970s, launched by Air France, the “J” class, as the regulars call it, has gone through different cycles. European companies, long focused on the United States, quickly fell behind those of the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, which imposed an extraordinary level. Prancing at the top of the Skytrax rankings, names like Qatar, Emirates, ANA or Singapore have shaken up habits. Today, the race is tighter, and passengers who have the privilege of traveling in the “front” classes have become accustomed to receiving noise-reducing helmets and pajamas and to tasting fine wines. We can treat them: according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), this segment of the clientele represents less than 10% of tickets but generates 30% of revenue! Sometimes even more: Korean Air, which has decided to dedicate the entire upper deck of its A380s to business class, attributes 50% of its turnover to it. While the economy class makes the cabin profitable by shrinking the seats, at the front of the aircraft, the space unfolds and the attention is redoubled. Especially since the attendance of this class is also progressing, by 5% per year, on average. It all starts at the airport, since the business traveler, increasingly in a hurry, no longer wants to wait for three hours. What is called the “customer journey” is therefore simplified as much as possible. The waiting rooms then pull out all the stops to make the time pass faster. Atmosphere “like at home” at Korean Airlines; ultra-luxury assumed for Finnair, Qatar and Singapore… Emirates goes so far as to offer Formula 1 simulators and Xbox consoles to forget the wait.
Brands fly away
On board, we obey the “3 F” rule: “flat bed, full privacy, full access. » Understand horizontal bed, privacy and free access to the corridor. The seats are renewed faster than smartphones. Cockles are all the rage right now – Air Canada calls theirs “Distinction Lodge”. Air France has invested nearly 100,000 euros for each of its 2,000 new business seats, Lufthansa mentions an investment of 1 billion euros spread over three years. The price of business tickets (3 to 4 times that of economy class) reflects these repeated investments and justifies covering the passenger with small attentions… OpenSkies, a subsidiary of British Airways, equips the on-board staff with iPads allowing him to know the preferences of each passenger and even to wish them their birthday! To associate themselves with the image of luxury, the companies go so far as to launch partnerships with brands: Finnair has tableware and cases designed by the Finnish designer Marimekko, Qatar Airways slips in Armani cosmetics, Air France offers Clarins products , La Compagnie prefers Caudalie treatments. Cathay Pacific serves you Illy coffee, while Singapore Airlines has opted for table service by Givenchy.
It is also through indulgence that we build passenger loyalty: spoiling them with menus concocted by chefs has become commonplace. Air France regularly solicits big names, such as Joël Robuchon, Régis Marcon or Anne-Sophie Picq, ANA has called on Pierre Gagnaire and Toru Okuda, Qatar Airways has called on Nobu… Last novelty? Low-cost airlines are also positioning themselves as players in business travel. Easyjet and Ryanair now offer services to upgrade their trips.
What other innovations are the airlines preparing to pull out of their hats? Already, we are talking about 3D on the screens as well as a massage chair… So see you soon for new adventures… mind-blowing!
A bed worthy of the first
The Gulf company serves 152 destinations departing from Paris thanks to excellent connection times via the new Doha terminal, with its peaceful and refined lounge. It has just fitted out the intimate cabin of its new A380, with only 48 seats, remaining faithful to its emblematic burgundy-mouse gray palette, highlighted with varnished wood marquetry. In a pleasant 1‑2‑1 distribution, the seats have dimensions worthy of a first class: 2 meters long and 76 cm wide. The LCD screen allows you to treat yourself to a real cure for cinema, with no less than 155 films in French! And when we saw his james bond preferred and tasted a dinner signed Nobu or Tom Aikens, we treat ourselves to a drink at the central bar. What could be better than tasting an old cognac in the sky?
A very cocoon bed
The Japanese company All Nippon Airways (ANA), which has just celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Paris – Tokyo line, has taken particular care of the business cabin of its brand new 787‑9s. Its armchair beds, arranged in 1-2-1, are real cocoons. We fall asleep in homemade pajamas on a soft mattress topper, noise-reducing earphones and an aromatherapy-infused eye mask. The feet do not protrude from the duvet thanks to its “onesie” shape and the lungs do not dry out, since the air is maintained at an ideal humidity level. Meals are particularly cared for by 2 and 3 star chefs, while on the floor the lounge offers hot dishes served à la carte. Thanks to its joint venture with Lufthansa, ANA now offers an increased offer on departure from major French cities.
Cold colors, warm atmosphere
Starting from the principle that the route via the North is the shortest, the Finnish company has resolutely turned towards Asia, making a specialty of connections calculated to never exceed 45 minutes. We almost regret it, as the Helsinki airport lounge, where there are showers and sauna, is attractive with its Scandinavian design. On board the very quiet and brand new A350, a European premiere, which is currently flying to Shanghai, and soon to Beijing, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York, the shell seats arranged on the cob are glacier white. The polar blue welcome light evolves during the flight, simulating an aurora borealis or a sunrise depending on the time zone. Marimekko has sprinkled its green polka dots on the pencil case, on the slippers and on the blanket under which you slip to enjoy a Blue Sky cocktail. Long live Nordic hospitality!
It’s better !
Elected “the most improved company in the world” in 2015 by Skytrax, Air France has reworked its business cabin down to the smallest detail, drawing inspiration in particular from the hotel industry: it’s about feeling like in her bed. The shell seat of the Boeing 777 (while waiting for the Airbus A330 and A380 to follow, by 2018), baptized “a cocoon in the sky”, meets the criterion of excellence of the “3 Fs”. French chic atmosphere, blue leather, red storage box: we stay in the style of the company. Softness is provided by curved lines, a (very) soft pillow and a down duvet. For even more comfort, the gastronomy on board is currently entrusted to chef François Adamski. As for the superkits, whose graphics recall those of the Concorde, they are already collectors.
The Korean airline is the first in the world to boldly dedicate the entire upper deck of its A380s to a single class of travel. The 94 Prestige Sleeper seats offer an experience comparable to a 100% business class aircraft. Passengers are won over by the comfort of the sky blue leather seats, the configuration of which has been designed to allow passengers, on the window side, to access the aisle without disturbing their neighbour. A superb Prestige Class Bar Lounge, forward, and a Celestial Bar, aft, invite you to relax and enjoy
cocktails with exclusive recipes. The Duty Free Showcase, a veritable mini-boutique, offers a shopping break. Finally, on set, the meal promises “farm-to-plane” quality. Convenient for business travellers, the flight to Seoul at 9 p.m., departing from Paris, allows you to preserve your working day.
First airline to have ordered the Airbus A380, in 2000, Emirates has continued to improve the comfort on board its fleet, the youngest in the world (supplemented by Boeing 777). It all starts with the driver, who graciously picks you up to take you to the airport. On board, priority is given to intimacy, with a massaging hull seat equipped with movable partitions for privacy and a large table to put down your glasses, files and computer. Half of the devices are connected to wi‑fi at the moment. If you prefer to socialize, the bar offers canapes, soft lighting, drinks and snacks. Back in his cocoon to watch a movie or zap between 2,186 entertainment channels, while digging into his personal minibar. All that remains is to let yourself be tucked into your 1.98 m long bed by an international and multilingual crew, the company’s signature.
Communicate or isolate
Renowned for its particularly comfortable and user-friendly waiting lounges, like those that have just been revamped in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Chinese company also takes care
passengers on board. Its seat, in white and champagne tones, is one of the longest and widest in existence. The herringbone arrangement offers a highly appreciated private space, especially
that an extension on the side automatically deploys when switching to bed mode, increasing its width. The central seats (in 1-2-1 configuration) can preserve their privacy or orient themselves towards each other, at the push of a button, if you prefer to chat when traveling with two people and sharing a meal concocted by one of the great chefs of the Mandarin Oriental group, a treat.
Great restaurant atmosphere
The German company, which has just strengthened its presence in French airports, has renovated its cabins and changed 7,000 seats to Business Class, offering a fully reclining bed 1.98 meters long, with an original V-shape providing real privacy. A case signed Samsonite is slipped in, full of products from the famous Greek brand Korres. Thanks to the FlyNet system, passengers can access the Internet via wi‑fi and consult online content, the latest information or follow sporting events… While having their meal served on individual tables set up by the on-board staff, coated in white, while dishes and drinks are served directly from the kitchen, a grand restaurant atmosphere. The German company puts the small dishes in the big ones.