Aircraft business class doors offer new levels of privacy. Here’s why they might not be a good idea

(CNN) — Business class is becoming more and more luxurious, spacious and private. From custom designed seat and bed cushions, bespoke fittings and accessories, to co-branding with some of the biggest names in luxury, business truly is the new first class on board. many planes.

This is especially true in the business class mini-suites with doors, which debuted nearly 10 years ago on JetBlue’s high-end Mint aircraft, and are now found on a dozen carriers, including Delta, All Nippon Airways, British Airways and China Eastern, with more rolling leaves each year.

The doors enhance the business class experience in two ways: first, they add privacy, and second, they avoid what airline seat designers call the “brush pass”, where a passenger or crew member walking down the aisle runs into a seated passenger.

If you’ve flown business class, you may already be thinking of certain seats where this would be particularly advantageous.

One could be the different types of staggered layouts where some seats are right next to the aisle, but others are away from the aisle, across a small console. Another could be the angled herringbone layout where the seats face the aisle and you end up avoiding eye contact with the person in front the entire flight.

Privacy shells

A sloping herringbone layout also provides privacy.

Saffron

The doors obviously help to avoid this. But while these mini-suites with doors are more private than many first-class seats, the word “mini” is in their name for a reason: the space for each passenger is, albeit massive compared to the economy. , always smaller than in first class.

Adding an inch or two to incorporate a door can really impact the amount of space available for your seat.

It’s certainly a nice problem to have, you and I might think from our narrow 17-inch seat in row 54, but every fraction of an inch of cabin width is used, and on some mid-size aircraft like the Boeing 767 or 787 and the Airbus A330 or A330neo, it can make a real difference in how spacious a seat feels.

So why are airlines choosing doors even on some of these mid-size planes?

“There is definitely a move towards greater privacy on airplanes, moving from first class where Emirates’ full-height suite has set a new standard, to business class,” the vice-president told CNN. President of Collins Aerospace Aircraft Seat Sales and Marketing, Alastair Hamilton.

“Most business class seats have had privacy shells for a number of years now, keeping other passengers out of your view when everyone else is seated. isolation, closing the aisle to you, especially when lying flat in bed position.

“So, are doors necessary? Obviously not. But they are a benefit for passengers who improve privacy and, most importantly, rest and sleep during a long flight.”

Weight and Space vs. Revenue

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Business class doors help passengers avoid bumps from people walking down the aisle.

Unum airplane seats

Hamilton adds that doors can add cost, weight and complexity to a seat, but can generate more revenue.

“From a passenger perspective, the ability to close the door and have ‘my space’ will always be seen as an advantage,” he says. “The closer the aisle is in line with the eye, the greater this benefit, especially when the passenger is sleeping. Airlines tend to favor gates and increase privacy in general as they continue to improve the passenger experience.

Some airlines say no.

Quentin Munier, executive vice president of strategy and innovation at Safran Seats, told CNN that the request for doors will often be on a case-by-case basis, depending on comfort requirements or seating layout.

Nevertheless, Munier’s colleague, Jean-Christophe Gaudeau, vice president of marketing, says demand seems to be increasing.

“Doors have been open for a few years now, and year after year we have seen a steady increase in the share of airlines requesting doors in our surveys or in actual quote requests – to a point where a large majority airlines are asking for it now.

“The question will increasingly be less about whether or not to have a door, but more about how to deliver smartly and efficiently.”

The question will also be whether doorless options can meet the need for privacy while saving weight and space.

Safran offers an option that essentially looks like a thick, horizontal, magnetically attached, spring-loaded roller shutter that spans the entire door space. Other options include a curtain like Air France uses in its first-class seats, dividers that expand and retract like a hand-held fan, or sliding panels that don’t fully replicate the door but add substantial privacy.

Time to go?

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Chris Brady, founder of seat maker Unum, says airlines are divided on the issue of doors.

Unum airplane seats

All of these have tradeoffs, which is why Chris Brady, an industry veteran and founder of startup seat maker Unum, says airlines are divided on the issue.

“Everyone recognizes that the doors are heavy and complex…with a lot of hidden complexity due to certification requirements,” says Brady.

“I think it’s fair to say that doors can improve the passenger experience, but for outward facing rafters at 40 degrees and above, where you face the aisle, the contribution is marginal. “

This type of seat, at such a wide angle to the aisle on a single-aisle aircraft like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 families of aircraft, is what Unum creates as the first seat, alongside other seat manufacturers to both startup and established.

“I’m a little conflicted,” admits Brady. “As a passenger, I love a door. I find flying a wonderfully island experience and enjoy being alone, and a door helps. As a citizen, I know they’re heavy,” this which also means more carbon emissions.

He adds that doors, “in my opinion, should be avoided on the basis that perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”

The door issue will continue as more airlines and seat manufacturers evaluate the benefits.

But, says Brady, “a brave airline can and should remove them.”

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