Of seats and space

Written by Deepak Ohri | Updated: Oct 30 2011, 07:55am hrs
When you think of seats, a few airlines stand out. The suggestions below refer to the newest offerings in the fleet; check with your travel agent to confirm the features of your flight. Lets start with business class and then move up to first.

Business Class

A good business class seat in todays market should be spacious, recline fully flat and offer easy adjustment. In flight entertainment should be displayed on a large screen and abundant storage should keep your laptop and other work materials close at hand. The best new business seats provide some degree of privacy through staggered positioning and/ or an adjustable divider, and should be designed such that reclining does not interfere with your neighbours space.

Singapore Airlines: Renowned for its service, Singapores business class seats are also world class. They advertise the widest business class in the sky and almost seems as if you can fit someone next to you! This lie-flat seat compares favourably with the best first class products.

Swiss Airlines: The new business class on Swiss is like the Swiss themselves, efficient and reliable. Available on Swiss long-haul Airbus A330s and some A340s, the stylish wood-accented interior hosts comfortable seats with mattress pad system and massage function.

Cathay Pacific: I liked Cathays previous herringbone seat because of the great privacy but it was admittedly rather tight quarters. The widely advertised new business class is an even better place to enjoy your pre-flight cocktail. In lie-flat mode the seat is very comfortable for sleeping and the redone cabins have smart feel, including refined lighting and appealing custom artwork.

First Class

First class on the best carriers really is a luxury. Given the evolution of business class seats in recent years, products like the ones mentioned above more than fulfill the basic requirements, so creating a wow product up front is getting ever harder. These airlines succeed anyway with private spaces, huge screens and all the little touches like personal wardrobes and innovative lighting.

Cathay Pacific: Cathays new First Class Suite poses one problem: it will spoil business class forever. One feature Im particularly fond of is face to face dining, whereby one suites footrest becomes a seat for your guest. Like Singapores suites, the overhead bin is removed, so a sense of spaciousness prevails. Unlike Singapore, Cathays suite is available on several aircraft types in their fleet.

Singapore Airlines: The most renowned carrier wins again for its amazing First Class Suites, available exclusively on the Airbus A380. This truly private cabin is best known for the proper bed in each suite that can be combined with that of your neighbour (a move for which I suggest you seek advance permission) to create a double bed in the sky.

Emirates Airlines: Emirates is not my favourite airline but the hard product on the A380 stands out. First class features not only the enclosed suite but also, remarkably, two in-flight showers so you can arrive refreshed. For airlines, space and weight (in this case, water), are money, so this is quite a luxury. If you tire of the minibar in your suite, socialize in the small first class bar or the larger business lounge.

In response to intense competition, airlines have produced impressive features for their premium passengers and your transcontinental flights can be an enjoyable, or at least productive, retreat. However, no business can invest in hardware alone. As our customers in the hospitality industry try to teach us everyday, it is people, service and passion that matter most.

Deepak Ohri is CEO of lebua

Hotels & Resorts. He can be reached at deepak@lebua.com