In the second part of a series, Business Traveller has compiled a summary of business class seats on airlines flying long haul out of the Middle East.
Welcome to our round-up of the long-haul business class seats currently available on Middle East airlines. Last issue we looked at the European airlines, and once again we are focusing on the seats available rather than service elements, such as food and drink, inflight entertainment, amenity products or whether there is wifi available onboard. In part this is because these elements change frequently, and often depend on the length of the flight sector, and also for reasons of brevity. You will find numerous reviews of most of the airlines mentioned here in the Tried and Tested section of our website, where all aspects are discussed and assessed in detail.
The good news for travellers is that the majority of airlines offering long-haul flights now have seats that recline fully flat in business class. Most airlines choose from one of several designs, and then, to a greater or lesser extent, add bespoke elements to those seats. This may mean just choosing a distinctive colour scheme to fit in with their brand, or it might mean adding a door to a seat and calling it a suite. The balance for the airline is how to stay price competitive while at the same time differentiating itself from competitors by offering a distinctive experience.
El Al has a long-haul fleet of B777s and B787s with two different types of business class, though it is gradually retrofitting the older aircraft with its new business class seat. The seat being replaced is currently on its B777 aircraft and is an angled lie-flat seat in a 2-2-2 configuration. These are being replaced by a 1-2-1 fully-flat seat – the Recaro CL6710 – which has direct aisle access and a staggered formation alternating in the cabin, so that some seats are closer to the aisle and in the next row they will be closer to the window.
Emirates has a huge widebody fleet of over 260 aircraft, including B777-200s, B777-300ERs and A380s, but unusually – or perhaps thankfully if you like consistency – has only two types of business class seat. On its 118-strong A380 fleet the business class is a version of Safran’s Skylounge seat which is in a staggered configuration of 1-2-1. Note, though, there are several different configurations of this aircraft, from a two-class (economy and business) version up to a four-class (also including first and premium economy), all of which means the business class cabins vary in size and number. On the B777-300 fleet Emirates has a different 2-3-2 configuration. This means that the middle seat of the ‘3’ and also the window seats do not have direct aisle access. The seat reclines into a 72-inch fully-flat bed. On the B777-200 it is the same seat, but in a 2-2-2 configuration.
Etihad’s fleet of over 100 aircraft includes long-haul B777-300s, B787s and A350s, plus a few narrowbody aircraft from the A320 family. There are a number of different business class seats across this long-haul fleet, but all recline fully flat into a bed.
On its B787s Etihad has the Business Studio, which is in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration and unusually has both forward and backward-facing seats. Having recently retired its B777-200 fleet, Etihad is keeping the B777-300ER fleet for the moment, and this has the same Business Studio seat just described for the B787s.
On its A350 fleet Etihad has the Collins Super Diamond seat (the same as the new British Airways Club Suite) in a 1-2-1 configuration. On new deliveries of the B787 the airline is going for the new Collins Aerospace Elements seat which features a reverse herringbone configuration with privacy doors.
Gulf Air has an all B787-9 long-haul fleet. Its business class is called Falcon Gold, and in that cabin you will find 26 seats with a seat pitch of between 80-89 inches (depending on whether in the front row or not), all of which recline fully flat. The seat is the same across the fleet – it is the Serenity Suite by Collins Aerospace (previously known as the Apex Suite by B/E Aerospace), in a 2-2-2 configuration, though these window seats are staggered so all seats have direct aisle access.
Oman Air’s long-haul fleet is made up of B787-9 aircraft and A330s. Like Gulf Air, the airline has a consistent business class seat which is the Serenity Suite by Collins Aerospace (previously known as the Apex Suite by B/E Aerospace). It is in a staggered 2-2-2 configuration, so all seats have direct aisle access and recline fully flat.
Qatar Airways has a large fleet (230 and counting) of largely widebody aircraft, and with several different types of business class. The fleet is diverse B777-300ER, B777-200LRs, B787-8, B787-9s, A350-900 and A350-1000, A330-200 and A330-300 and A380s, some of which have been brought out of retirement.
On its B787 and early A350 deliveries, Qatar had the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond Seat – a reverse herringbone configuration of 1-2-1 with direct aisle access for all seats and a seat which reclined into an 80-inch bed. In March 2017 the airline introduced the forward and backward-facing Collins-manufactured Q-suite and this has been installed on a wide swathe of the fleet, including the B777-300ER, A350s and B787-9s. These seats (or suites) have sliding privacy doors and depending on where you sit, and your preference, can be arranged so a family of four could spend a flight together in (almost) a private cabin.
The seats on the majority of the B777-300ER fleet recline fully flat to an 80-inch long bed, and are 21 inches wide (21.5 on the A350s), but note there are still a couple of B777s that have lie-flat seats.
On these A350s, things get more complicated, though. Qatar has both A350-900 and A350-1000s, though it is also in a well-publicised dispute with the manufacturer over the fuselage, and has grounded around half of its 50-plus fleet. It is one of the reasons the A380 has been brought out of retirement – luckily this has the Super Diamond seat in business class. Some of the A350s have the Q Suite and some have the Super Diamond.
The airline also has another seat on its B787-9 deliveries: the Adient Ascent business class suite. This is in a 1-2-1 herringbone layout, with all 30 suites benefitting from direct aisle access and sliding privacy doors. Features include a 79-inch fully-flat bed, and a dedicated mobile phone holder with wireless charging technology which can be used with compatible IOS and Android devices. Passengers sitting in adjoining centre suites can also “slide the privacy panels away at the touch of a button to create their very own enclosed private space”.
Royal Jordanian has a long-haul fleet of B787-8 aircraft. Its Crown Class business class has the Collins Aerospace Diamond (not Super Diamond) model in a 2-2-2 configuration, and if you are in a window seat you do not have direct aisle access. The seats recline to a fully-flat bed of 78 inches long and are 19 inches wide with 60 inches of seat pitch (legroom).
Saudia’s long-haul fleet includes A330s, B777-300ERs, B787-9s and B787-10s. On the A330s and B777-300ERs it is the Collins Aerospace Diamond, in a 2-2-2 configuration, which reclines fully flat with a 21 inch seat width and 60-61 inch seat pitch. Window seats do not have direct aisle access. On the B787 aircraft it is the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond in a 1-2-1 configuration with direct aisle access for all passengers. It reclines fully flat with a 20 inch seat width and 47 inch seat pitch.
Many airlines have varied fleets of long-haul aircraft with sometimes several different types of business class seats onboard. We have contacted all the airlines here to check the facts, but it is possible we have made mistakes, for which we apologise and will, of course, keep the online version of this feature corrected.