|Double bed in Etihad’s The Residence|
Your luxury clients, and others planning a summer or fall vacation in Europe, Asia or other long-haul destination, want, first and foremost, to arrive at their destination safely and well-rested. The Global Business Travel Association’s recent “Consumer Choice in Premium Air Travel” study indicates that nearly six out of seven premium travelers rank an airline’s reputation and safety record as the most important motivating factor for choosing who they fly with, while the availability of lie-flat seats is second, cited by two-thirds of the 1,650-plus respondents.
Lie-flat seats are the closest thing to a guarantee you can offer clients who want to sleep for a good portion of their extended flight so they can hit the ground running when they arrive and start their vacation fresh. Fully flat seats are a first-class luxury increasingly found in Business Class cabins. Here are some recent developments and related news on that front.
In April, Finnair began offering Zodiac Seats UK Vantage lie-flats, which stretch out to a bed that measures 79 inches in length, on its routes from Helsinki to New York and Tokyo. It has since introduced them on service to Beijing, Seoul, Hanoi, Nagoya, Osaka and Shanghai, and plans to add Hong Kong this winter.
Air France’s new Business Class seats, which fold flat and have a shape that offers privacy from other seats, all have full access to the aisle as well as a personal 16-inch HD TV and both a traditional plug and a USB port for charging electronic devices. In total, more than 2,000 of these seats will be installed between June 2014 and summer 2016 on 44 Boeing 777s.
In November, airberlin will increase the frequency of its flights to the Caribbean and expand its tourist services from Dusseldorf and Munich. There will be two extra non-stop flights from Dusseldorf to Varadero, Cuba, and to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. Travelers can take advantage of airberlin’s Airbus A330 Business Class section, which is limited to 19 seats for privacy and has fully flat seats that have a massage function.
Even clients flying coast-to-coast will appreciate the chance to catch 40 winks. For them, American Airlines introduced new Airbus A321 Transcontinental aircraft earlier this year on flights between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles as well as JFK and San Francisco. The A321T has fully lie-flat First and Business Class seats, as well as in-seat entertainment and in-flight air-to-ground Wi-Fi.
First Class Suites
For clients who really value their sleep and privacy, and are willing to pay for it, many airlines are offering personal suites. For example, Air France recently unveiled its new La Premiere suite, which is set to roll out on 19 Air France Boeing 777-300 planes in September. The new cabin will have four exclusive individual suites on Air France’s long-haul Boeing 777-300s. Onboard, each suite allows passengers to be totally or partially alone. Bonus: Each guest gets a personal 24-inch HD touch screen, one of the largest on any airline. Passengers also get a private wardrobe for their luggage.
Later this year, Etihad Airways, the flag-carrier for the United Arab Emirates, will introduce The Residence on its A380 aircraft, comprising a living room, separate double bedroom and en suite shower. The A380 will also have First Apartments, fully private suites with a separate reclining lounge seat and full-length bed, as well as a minibar, personal vanity and wardrobe. Etihad already offers Business Class travelers a fully flat bed in a privacy shell, with direct aisle access from every seat.
Qantas recently announced that passengers flying from Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney will get A380 service as of September 29 this year. The airline’s A380s will offer private First Class Suites as well as fully flat Skybeds in Business Class.