Ranking the best airlines, airports and business travel perks in 2017

In today's highly competitive market for the business traveller and frequent flyer, airlines can't sit still.

With each new seat or suit, each new lounge and every 'enhancement' to their loyalty schemes, airlines have to push forward.

It's not just about catching up to the competition but aiming to vault at least one step ahead, and ideally two.

With that in mind, I'm going to close out the year by rounding up my call on the best of 2017 for the business traveller.

Best new business class

Qatar Airways brought first class frills into business class with its new Qsuite. Now flying on selected Boeing 777 jets, and from 2018 the Oneworld airline's new Airbus A350-1000, along with upgraded A350-900s.

Each of these business class suites has sliding privacy doors, while middle seats which convert into a double bed.

Going one step further, the walls of some adjacent suites slide back so that all four passengers can turn the four individual suites into a single a 'family room'.

With massive 54cm video screens that are as large as many living room TVs plus exacting and high-end fittings and finishings, the luxurious business class Qsuites show why many airlines are walking away from first class.

Best new first class

November saw both Singapore Airlines and Emirates pull back the curtains on their next generation of first class suites, but the Singaporean flag-carrier gets my vote.

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The somewhat cramped first class cribs of its current Airbus A380 will make way for a proper room in the sky.

Indeed, the suite is dubbed the 'Skyroom' and adapts into an office, a living room and of course a bedroom.

With each L-shaped suite boasting up to five square metres of space, passengers can relax in an elegant 21-inch wide Poltrona Frau leather armchair which swivels and can of course be adjusted for various sitting and lounging positions.

A separate bed folds down from the wall, while two pairs of the six suites can have their common dividing wall lowered to create a double bed.

Best new domestic airport lounge

Qantas' Brisbane business class lounge – which is also open to Platinum-grade frequent flyers – is the best way to begin any journey on the Red Roo's domestic network.

Long-time Qantas design partner Woods Bagot tapped local materials and a colour palette inspired by Moreton Bay at twilight, with plants and natural light nodding to the bright outdoor Queensland lifestyle.

The lounge's L-shaped floorplan, while retaining a contemporary open flow, is subtly zoned to suit different  types of travellers: from solo flyers wanting to work or relax, to couples and larger groups who'll socially congregate around tables or bars (and this lounge has two tended bars).

This is capped by an express entry which whisks passengers through a dedicated security lane to Qantas' upstairs lounge precinct (this includes a new-look Chairman's Lounge).

The Brisbane lounge also provides hint of what's to come in September next year with the overhaul of the airline's Melbourne business lounge and Qantas Club, followed by its Sydney sibling in 2019.

Best new international airport lounge

Here's a surprise: 2017's best international airport lounges opened in the USA of all places.

Yes, a country whose airlines seem to consider lounges as mere 'holding pens for passengers' has changed its tune – and its flagship lounges are the better for it.

United's first Polaris lounge at Chicago sets the trend for others to follow – and in 2018 that will include upscale Polaris lounges at Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and London.

These will vastly improved food and drink offerings, including a la carte meals and a tended bar with craft brew beer, specialty cocktails and barista-pulled Illy coffee.

Qantas partner American Airlines is also rolling out impressive Flagship lounges at New York, Chicago, Miami and later this month, Los Angeles. These include similarly-upgraded buffets and drinks and are available to Gold-grade Qantas frequent flyers.

Best frequent flyer program upgrade

Qantas' reboot of its confusing Aquire loyalty scheme to Qantas Business Rewards showed how going back to basics makes good business sense.

Travellers can earn Qantas points for their company as well as themselves, with a simpler structure for accruing those points plus a better range of benefits including flight discounts and bonus points-earning as your company ascends the QBR tier ladder.

Best of all, the requirement for each business to have at least two registered travellers was axed: a boon for sole traders such as consultants who don't have employees.

Best advance for the business traveller

Without a doubt, 2017 was the year of sky-high WiFi.

I expect readers to be split down the middle on this.

Half will cheer the ability to stay online above the clouds, the other half will curse losing that rare island of solitude in our hyperconnected world.

Personally, I've slowly shifted from the later camp to the former: I appreciate the opportunity to jump online for work if I need to, although nobody is forcing me to log on.

Regardless of your take, 2017 saw Qantas and Virgin Australia embrace inflight Internet.

Qantas says that all of its domestic Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 jets will offer fast and free WiFi by this time next year, while Virgin Australia is matching its Boeing 737 rollout with the launch of WiFi on flights to Los Angeles from the end of this month and New Zealand in early 2018.

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of . His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of 51698009 readers.

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