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The most expensive real estate is not always a skyscraper-topping penthouse or sprawling waterfront mansion. On a cost per square metre – or square foot, if Imperial is your measurement unit of choice – the premium cabin of a commercial jet can rank alongside the most luxurious land-locked abodes.
Airlines and design firms juggle the need to maximise that precious space while satisfying the expectations of high-paying passengers.
And those expectations are slowly rising. Lie-flat beds went from novelty to the norm, then privacy and direct aisle access became benchmarks. The latest flourish – seen in Qatar Airways’ Qsuite and Singapore Airlines’ latest business class – is the option for a double bed.
Now there’s a business class concept seat which aims to not only top the space-efficiency scorecard but even leave room for a cocktail bar.
Singapore-based AirGo Design’s Galaxy business class sprang from the idea that one size doesn’t fit all.
Instead, the Galaxy concept incorporates two different seat designs: one for the windows, and another for the centre of the cabin.
It’s still a 1-2-1 layout, but in a counterpoint to conventional thinking, it’s the window seats which can be converted into a shared space – if not a completely double bed – while the middle seats are set aside for solo passengers.
“The middle seats are ideal for business travellers,” explains AirGo co-founder Alireza Yaghoubi, as they deliver “a high level of privacy and at the same time, minimal human interactions.”
“We thought families also travel in business class and that is one scenario you want to have human interactions, especially when you are with kids. In the end, we decided it is best to have two completely different designs in the cabin.”
The angled sofa-style window seats can also be installed on single-aisle aircraft – a trait which may hold especially strong appeal to airlines adding the long-range Airbus A321LR and XLR to their fleets.
“Strong interest in A321XLR suggests that we are going to see more and more long-haul flights on narrow body aircrafts,” Yaghoubi predicts. “We can maintain the same number of seats as regional business class seats, except that our seats are flat-bed.”
A long partition between each window seat can be lowered to create a shared space for couples and even families.
However, while two very-well-acquainted travellers can sleep together, a wall containing the video screen and other controls is fixed in place so they won’t quite be ‘sleeping together’ per se.
Travellers in both seats have to allow the wall to be lowered, using two-party authentication built into the inflight entertainment system.
“You can send a request to lower the walls to the neighbouring passenger, and they have the option to refuse temporarily or for the duration of the flight,” Yaghoubi says.
“But if and when they accept, they have the choice of lowering only the top portion of the wall, or the whole dividing panel. Lowering the wall completely would essentially turn the adjacent seats into a queen bed for couples or even a larger shared area for families with children.”
The middle seats have a more traditional forward-facing design.
A privacy panel between the paired middle seats which can be lowered or raised.
AirGo’s Galaxy business class cabin design also features room for a cocktail bar towards the very front of the aircraft where the fuselage begins to taper.
The rear of the cabin has been modified to include a closet for hanging jackets plus a self-serve area for drinks, snacks and reading material.
AirGo isn’t shy about comparing its Galaxy to other business class seats, including United’s Polaris.
The company has filed a patent application for the Galaxy concept, although real-world lead times mean it would be several years until the Galaxy could take wing.
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