The new Business Class introduced by Singapore Airlines at the end of 2006 has emerged as the clear winner
of the World Business Class Survey.
Commenting on the results, Edward Plaisted (CEO, Skytrax) said .."this new product introduction by Singapore
Airlines has established a new quality benchmark for business class across the world airline industry. It is
viewed as being akin to most other airline First Class standards".
"From a product aspect, Singapore Airlines is primarily competing with the business class seats offered by
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic (similar seats of Air New Zealand, Jet Airways and Air Canada), Cathay Pacific,
and South African Airways - with the main business class market being made up of the angled to the floor, lie-flat seats
being offered by many airlines. The British Airways front-to-back Club World seating performs well as a proper, flat
bed seating surface, but in overall comfort assessment did not match the style and privacy afforded by these new
Singapore Airlines seats" added Plaisted.
The seats used by Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand etc again provide a comfortable sleeping surface, although this
was noted to feel very confined in contrast to the SIA seating, and the angled cubicle layout did not find much
support amongst the Survey assessors. "These seats are certainly a step up from the angled seat type" according to
Peter Miller (Director Marketing, Skytrax), "but they do not come close to the true quality we observed in the new
product for Singapore Airlines".
The World Business Class Survey is a qualitative analysis which covers more than 750 different items of research into
each airlines Ground and Onboard product and service delivery features. The most comprehensive annual study of its type,
the World Business Class Survey has been operated by Skytrax since 1991.
Other top-end quality contenders in the Business Class seating section included Cathay Pacific's "new" Business Class
seat - another full-flat, solo seat concept in an angled cubicle format, and Etihad Airways business class seat. "What
we did find across some of these other products was that the cubicle style used to create privacy has been driven by
a need to fit in as many seats within the seat pitch confines, and that does result in the cabin feeling crowded and
not particularly private" said Plaisted. "This is an area where the new Singapore Airlines business class cabin has stolen a considerable
lead across the airline industry - with space being the primary factor that customers enjoy. There are no angled seat
layouts in this SIA cabin, and the seat privacy partitions offer just the right amount of height and space without
making the individual seat area feel clauthrophobic".
2007 will see more airlines upgrading their Business class cabins, installing predominantly the angled lie-flat seating
format. "We cannot understand why any airline would press ahead with such product introductions at this time" says Miller,
"bearing in mind that all customer research points to the fact that business class travellers perceive these angled seats
to be such an inferior product to the flat seats leading the market. Maintaining maximum seat capacity is clearly the
commercial factor behind such seating, but we have yet to find an angled lie-flat business class seat that comes close
to matching comfort of the full flat bed styles. In effect, those airlines have lost any real chance of being able to
compete at a product level, and with seat comfort being one of the major satisfaction drivers for long haul passengers,
we would have to call into question the commercial judgement being exercised by many airlines at this time".