It’s being touted by Virgin Australia as the world’s most comfortable domestic business class seat and it was launched today as the firefight with Qantas for premium travellers hit a new level.
The seat uses “hammock” technology to ensure travellers do not feel metal components in the fully lie-flat seat and then adds a triple layer of padding and a foam mattress Topper to further boost comfort to a level the airline contends is similar to a bed.
The seat, also touted as the world’s longest and widest lie-flat bed in domestic business class, is configured in a reverse herringbone cabin layout with a 1-2-1 configuration that maximises privacy while allowing direct aisle access. It has space to store tablets, a generous work area for road warriors, three types of adjustable lighting and retractable privacy screen.
It comes equipped with a 16-inch, high definition touch screen and will be complemented by enhanced Luke Mangan-designed restaurant-style food and fine wines.
And in a move that will make George Clooney happy, the service will be the world’s first to deliver Nespresso coffee through a purpose-built machine to designed to overcome the challenges of making coffee at latitude.
The machine, which was tested during development in an altitude chamber, is designed to ensure the coffee matches ground-level standards such as cream and milk foam quality.
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti described the new business class suites, which were customised by British design agency Tangerine London, as a game changer.
“In 2011, we brought choice and competition to Business Class in Australia for the first time in a decade. The launch of the Business Class suites today sets a new standard in domestic business class around the world,’’ he said
“We believe this new product will ensure that Virgin Australia is the number one choice for premium travellers on the all-important transcontinental routes.
“Later this year, Virgin Australia will change the game again with the launch of its new long-haul Business Class on our Boeing 777 flights to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi.’’
The new seat will go head to head with a new business seat being installed on Qantas Airbus A330s. Qantas has been flying its seat since the beginning of the year and has it installed on 10 international and domestic aircraft. Two more are being refurbished and are on their way. The new seats will be installed on 28 Qantas aircraft when the refurbishment is complete and the airline is getting feedback from passengers on the seats described by insiders as “off the charts’’.
The Qantas seat is based on the Thompson Vantage XL seat and also is in a 1-2-1 configuration and converts to a lie-flat bed.
Premium travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller David Flynn said the war for business class customers represented the sort of dogfight not seen since the days of Ansett Australia and predicted the consumer would be the winner.
“Today’s launch is an escalation of the ongoing domestic business travel war, the first shot in which was fired when Virgin Blue relaunched as Virgin Australia in early 2011. In the subsequent four years, east-west flights have been upgraded from old-fashioned business class seat to the very latest lie-flat beds which you could comfortably fly from Sydney to Paris, let alone from Sydney to Perth,’’ Mr Flynn said.
“Qantas and Virgin Australia are going literally flat out to win over business travellers and corporate high flyers on the lucrative east-west route.’’
Mr Flynn said the real game changer would be when Virgin started fitting the seats on its Boeing 777s on US routes from November.
He said the new seats were “leagues ahead” of the competing Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 seats offered by Qantas.
This article first appeared on theaustralian.com.au