2017 Was A Great Year For (Cash Paying) Business Class Fliers

by John Harper

Perhaps 2017 was the year that business class began to eclipse previous conceptions of premium service, surpassing first class service U.S. fliers anticipated less than a decade ago.

Three dramatic developments did not fail to impress even the most cantankerous fliers.

United’s much anticipated (and on most routes still anticipated) rollout of the new Polaris seat managed to impress a rarely-impressed cohort of travel writers.

“United’s Polaris bedding is so damn impressive. It’s hands down the best bedding available in any business class product.” – Ben Schlappig (a.k.a Lucky), One Mile At A Time.

“Those of us who know where to find the 777-300ER and how to book it are in for a treat.” – The Points Guy.

United Polaris is United's new take on the International Business Class. Source: United

United Polaris is United’s new take on the International Business Class. Source: United

United still lags behind competitors Delta, which has offered direct aisle business class seating on all long-haul aircraft for several years, and American, which achieved fully flat, all direct access seats this year. It will be years before the Polaris seat is the norm, although retrofits have ploddingly begun on the airline’s Boeing 767 fleet.

Not to be upstaged, Delta Air Lines bested United with top honors at the Aircraft Interiors Expo for its newest business class configuration. The enclosed suites now available on A350 flights to Beijing, Seoul  , offer passengers the first enclosed suites available in any business class cabin in the world.

Besting both is perhaps the Qatar Airways Q-Suite concept that entered service this year on one U.S. route — Doha to New York (JFK). In the event that one can afford to bring the entire executive office overseas in business class, the suites convert into a conference-type communal dining space. The suites have door enclosures, as well.

These improvements have come at some cost, however, to frequent fliers. Affordable saver level space in premium cabins on many airlines, including Delta, has become a rarity. And then there’s first class. Or was first class. United has officially nixed any future for its Global First cabin. American’s newly refurbished 777s are devoid, also.

Not to fear, premium economy is here. More on those developments to come later in this end-of-year series.

To celebrate the year in aviation, Point Me To The Plane is recapping the most impactful aviation stories of 2017. Want to see a story covered in the next two weeks? Share your idea in the comments below.

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