With the latest news from Air France launching a business class seat with a door, and doors becoming “the norm” for new business class configurations, it’s time to explore a key question in branding and expectations.
What sounds better to you: a seat or a suite? Most likely, you have chosen the latter.
When I think of a seat, I think of a car, a restaurant or a train.
When I think of a suite, I think of four seasons, an infinity pool, and a great heavenly bed.
Attracting corporate dollars and wealthy travelers is much easier when something sounds incredible, without even seeing it, and ultimately, that’s precisely what airlines rely on, even when it’s not justified.
So what makes a business class seat become a business class suite?
It starts with a door
In March 2017, Qatar Airways did what no other airline had ever imagined.
With Qsuite, they put a real door into a business class seat, thus transforming it into a private space, rather than a quasi-bed. Previously, the privilege was reserved exclusively for first-class travelers, and even then, the gates were only found on a few select airlines.
To think: Emirates, Etihad, Singapore, Asiana and Air France.
Placing a door on a fully customized business class seat, Qatar Airways coined the phrase ‘Qsuite’ to distinguish the product.
After all, it ticked all the boxes that every other airline using the term suite had used in first class, including a completely flat bed, privacy door, and high-definition entertainment systems with 20-plus-inch HD screens. .
Naturally, people’s jaws dropped, and it wasn’t long before other airlines thought a gate might be a great idea for their seats, too.
Now you can also find business class “suites” with doors on Delta, ANA, Air France, British Airways and JetBlue. Rumor has it that American is adding them as well. Virgin Atlantic has one, but also doesn’t.
But how high?
Having a door on an airplane with a seat that can be converted into a bed is always an exciting travel gift, but for true “fitness,” the size of the door really matters.
Take Qatar Airways’ ‘QSuite’ and British Airways’ ‘Club Suite’ as an example. In one, you can’t really see another person sitting on the plane while he’s sitting or sleeping, whereas from the British Airways Club Suite you can.
I’d say ANA offers the best business class gate of any airline, for what it’s worth.
In my opinion, if the door isn’t tall enough to cover the line of sight of someone above average height, it really isn’t that good, unless you’re sitting back in the seat.
You could say it’s useful for getting the job done and protecting company secrets, but that’s quite a scope, even for a marketing guru. If anything, it just helps prevent the seatmate across the aisle from seeing your butt bust, if you sleep on your side.
Storage space counts too
At least for me, the concept of a suite is a self-contained space, where you don’t need anything from the outside world, or at least the lovely crew that attends you on the flight.
Obviously, there’s the whole food element, but for this criteria, it’s more about the ability to have all your belongings, bags, and electronics within easy reach, without needing to climb into overhead bins or open the door.
God forbid, he sees another passenger on board!
The best business class ‘suite’ I have found in this regard is easily All Nippon Airways (ANA) with ‘The Room’ business class.
The new Business Class Suite, which debuted in August 2019, has enough room for two passengers to sit in the seat, meaning a backpack and other things have plenty of room to stay out of sight.
First world problems and marketing hoaxes
One thing is certain in aviation: People love the term “suite” in product marketing, whether it’s justified or not. Airlines are quickly changing the word seat to suite whenever possible.
Let’s just hope the “seats” really do have tall enough doors, roomy storage, and the high-end electronics and bells and whistles to fully deserve the lofty title.