Written by Staff Writer at CNN
“Flying is a business and, over time, it is made up of interrelated parts: good airports, good airlines, good flight crews. When one component or element isn’t working well, so does the whole operation.”
— Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Kevin McAllister in the company’s 2025 manifesto
The world’s airlines have lavished billions upon designing and building the business and first class cabins of business and first class airlines around the world.
But these spaces weren’t always the industry standard. In fact, many of them were never designed at all.
CNN’s Richard Quest investigates the future of Airline Business Class
Take a closer look at the world’s first business class
In 1980, technology company Agilent Technologies, and elite air travel association Skytrax launched the first ever business class passenger ratings in Europe. After just one year of operations, the airline industry responded by making business class work better.
To this day, passenger ratings are one of the leading industry tools used to assess a business class aircraft’s quality. But these ratings have proved to be imperfect. They leave out some notable aspects of business class that are evident only from inside one’s own seat.
The upcoming 25th edition of Skytrax’s “Best Airline Seat” survey has been launched to improve those scores, and it promises to do just that.
Airline customers have told the company that they would like better recline visibility, greater tactile adjustment and a greater sense of space. Skytrax reveals two changes to be implemented in its new ratings; automatic gravity-based recline headrests and molded-in foot rests.
CNN’s Richard Quest explores the future of business class
In addition, the company has developed a new composite seat which will allow airlines to offer a “grow-like-you-want” seating configuration that will allow the flexibility to change the seat configuration for easy access to overhead compartments.
Back to the future
The new research centers on how to best infuse every aspect of a business class with value for money. Here, two aviation experts, Tom Splaine, business class director at Skytrax, and Jon Mayes, Vice President of Design at Design Research USA and Partner at Ideo, discussed the concept and concept products for the new Skytrax awards, winning first place in the “Best in Business” category.
By studying the next 25 years of business class we’ve uncovered five different ways we can experience business class — whether it’s a premium seat, premium seating, lounge, standing on the platform or BYO.
We also look at the trends surrounding business class, the future of privacy, the benefits of mobility, how the digital age will change our travel and even what we might get up to once we get to the air.
In addition, we learn that the design process should be about going back to basics, optimizing the experience, not changing the experience.
So here are some interesting trends we’ve spotted which will, we hope, be continued into the next twenty years of business class.