The Daily Telegraph - Travel
Upgrade to Isolation Class
Airlines are investing in private, booth-style, Covid-secure seats to boost customer confidence, writes Jenny Southan
Last year, global analytics firm Gallup found that 82 per cent of Americans were concerned about catching Covid when flying (based on a survey of more than 15,000 people). Although airlines have been at pains to reassure passengers that the air on board planes is very clean (thanks to the widespread use of highefficiency particulate air filters), the reality is, if you are sitting for hours on end next to someone who is ill, you will almost certainly feel... icky.
This heightened “germaphobia”, which will haunt many of us even after we receive the Covid-19 jab, is motivating airlines to make flying at the front of the plane even more appealing than usual. Enter the rise of “Isolation Class”, a type of first- and businessclass offering that is becoming more prevalent as a result of the pandemic.
These days, high-paying passengers are seeking the comfort and reassurance that comes from being as far away from other people as possible, in a “Covid-secure” cabin that has seats in private booths.
As explained in forecasting agency Globetrender’s November 2020 Aviation Trend Briefing: “Real-estate has always been at a premium on board aeroplanes, but in the viral age, sectioned-off private cabins will be a highly desirable luxury for which airlines will be able to charge top dollar. Carriers that already offer customers self-contained ‘suites’ will do well, especially those with full-height curtains or doors. Examples include Air France La Première and the newest version of Emirates first class.”
Leading the way with variations of this idea have been: British Airways, with its business class Club Suite, which arrived in 2019 on its new A350; the Qatar Airways QSuite, which has
business class seats that convert into double beds; and the Singapore Airlines Suites on the A380 superjumbo, which have been conceived by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste. These have proper enclosed rooms with separate armchairs and beds, rather like Etihad’s First product, which also conceals passengers behind sliding screens.
The latest adopter of this “next gen” vision of Isolation Class is US-based JetBlue’s new Mint Suite and Mint Studio, which will debut on transatlantic routes (hopefully) to London this summer. Said to offer “the most space in a premium setting of any US airline”, each seat comes surrounded by a half-height walls and sliding doors to create a
“suite”. They also recline into fully flat beds. Each aeroplane will also feature two Mint “studios” on the front row, which feature an extra side table and guest seat.
In the future, we could see airlines installing a version of the Pure Skies Rooms conceived by transport design company PriestmanGoode, which positions each seat in a spacious passportphoto-style booth with a full-height curtain. Upholstery and surfaces would also be sanitary thanks to antimicrobial materials and finishes to limit the spreads of germs and viruses.