Future Of Business Travel? Sleeping, Eating, Meetings

While economy class is often much of a muchness across airlines, the business class cabin is where they can really pull out the stops. Comfort and soft product improvements are a must, but what about those who want to use their time in the air to actually do business? A group of students from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) have come up with a concept that promotes just that.

Multipurpose Business Area
The Multipurpose Business Area could let you sleep, eat and work more effectively. Photo: DLR

Does business class let you do business?

Business class is one of the most profitable areas of the aircraft. With this in mind, airlines are always trying to improve what they have to offer in this space. While comfort and good service are a must, so too is the ability to actually do what the cabin is intended for – business.

Airlines have tried to tackle the business-first nature of the premium cabin by providing things like multiple charging points for technology, larger tables for laptops and paperwork, and somewhere comfortable to get some rest before an important meeting. But for those traveling with colleagues, collaborating in flight remains a tricky prospect.

Business Class
With a focus on privacy, most business class cabins are not built for collaborative working. Photo: American Airlines

Students at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have come up with a concept that could make this far easier on future flights. Fabian Reimer, Ivana Moerland-Masic and Thomas-Mathias Bock have made it to the shortlist of this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards with their concept, which they call the Multipurpose Business Area.

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The Multipurpose Business Area

The essence of the Multipurpose Business Area is that it can be adapted to suit the needs of a multitude of fliers. Whether they want to eat, sleep or work, the setup can be adjusted to make it a better fit. The student team describes the concept in their entry as follows:

The Multipurpose Business Area is a sleeping and seating concept in which different scenarios can be flexibly adjusted to the individual comfort needs of the passenger of the future.

Essentially, this is a new business class arrangement that can be adapted to suit the needs of the individual at that point in the journey. Seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 layout, but with a divider between the two middle seats. Dual aisles allow access up and down the cabin.

For taxi, takeoff and landing, the seats look pretty normal. Facing forwards and at a slight angle, they appear to be a fairly standard herringbone-type layout. But, once in cruise, the space can be adjusted to become so much more.

Multipurpose Business Area
Raisable partitions let passengers travel in privacy. Photo: DLR

As expected, seats are capable of lying fully flat. That’s pretty much a standard requirement of business class these days. Adding to the privacy for those wanting a nap are partitions that can be raised up from the side of the seat. These allow those sleeping, or sitting, to shield themselves from the rest of the cabin.

180-degree rotation

For passengers who are awake, there’s a large tray table that pulls out of the cabin wall. Most interesting, however, is the ability of the seats to rotate a full 180 degrees to face aft, giving the passengers the ability to share their flight with their colleagues or friends.

Multipurpose Business Area
Seats can be rotated to provide working or shared dining areas. Photo: DLR

For window-seated passengers, this works by adding a second table behind their forward-facing seating position, which pulls out of the wall also. This allows them to build a large table surface to share with the person behind them. That way, they can share a meal, watch a movie or collaborate on work projects comfortably during the flight.

For those sitting in the center seats, it’s possible to form a group of up to four people for the same. The students envisage an OLED IFC screen popping up from the folding table to provide the IFE.

Multipurpose Business Area
The large tables would also contain the IFE screens. Photo: DLR

The concept fits into a standard widebody aircraft, and allows for a decent level of passenger density in the cabin too. While it’s not your standard business class, it seems to tick all the boxes of privacy, direct aisle access, sleeping comfort and more. Perhaps, through concepts like these, we could see business class cabins that are more conducive to business in the future.

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