From December, Qantas will begin introducing new business class seats on its A330 aircraft. They look shiny and flash and comfortable -- but they do have a small problem.
First, let me be clear about this: I'm not the kind of person who is going to turn my nose up at a business class flight just because the seat isn't of an optimum design. Business class is a luxury that I'll enjoy whenever it's available, while recognising that mostly it will not be available. However, if I was regularly paying out large sums for business class seats, one aspect of the new design would bother me.
Qantas' big boast about the new A330 seats, which will be used on flights between Australia and Asia as well as flights between Perth and the East Coast, is that they can remain reclined even during take-off and landing. Because they're in a 1-2-1 configuration, every seat has aisle access, and hence there isn't a safety risk in leaving seats reclined. (That said, approval would still be needed from the relevant airports to allow this, and might not be automatic; some first-class seats are already in this configuration but you still can't land with them in a reclining position.)
While that redesign means you have more extravagant working space (handy for day flights) and more at-seat storage, it does eliminate the hooded design which Qantas uses on the A380 and 747:
For me, the overhead hood is one of the most appealing elements of Qantas' current business class design, because it makes you far less aware of your neighbours, and of any nearby lighting. It's the most relaxing experience I've had on a business class flight. That simply doesn't look to be the case with the new design, which exposes you far more to the cabin when you're reclined:
Some people may well prefer the trade-off of being able to stay asleep, especially on (relatively) short-hop overnight flights to Asia. For me, I'd still prefer the full enclosure. What do you think?
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman dreams of a day when his travel budget is all business class. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.