Is this new seat 'the Holy Grail' of business class?

By David Flynn, April 10 2017
Is this new seat 'the Holy Grail' of business class?

Travellers want business class seats which have direct access to the aisle, convert into a lie-flat bed, and offer plenty of personal space and stowage as well as privacy.

Airlines want the same thing from a business class seat – they just want more of those seats in their premium cabins.

Satisfying both those markets could be what makes the new Zodiac Optima design 'the Holy Grail' of business class.

If the Optima looks familiar, that’s with good reason: it’s an evolution of United Airline's Polaris (below), created by London-based Acumen Design Associates.

While United hold US rights to Acumen’s canny concept, the Optima is available to airlines in the rest of the world – either as an off the rack product or a starting point for customisation.

“We’ve always known that there’s a Holy Grail of a layout,” Anthony Harcup, Acumen associate director, explains to industry publication APEX Insight.

“This is when you can get a flat-bed seat that gives every passenger aisle access, and gives them privacy, a lot of personal space and maintains seat count.”

That last part is the clincher for airlines, especially those looking to move up from a dated last-generation business class seating to a next-gen design – but without sacrificing seats in the process.

The Optima actually increases the seat count due to the way it mixes ‘inline’ or straight-ahead seating with an angled ‘herringbone' layout.

“We call the new layout the ‘herring-line,’” Harcup says.

“There are inline seats on the outboard windows, everything that faces into the aisle is a herringbone, and the two inboard seats are also inline. It’s four abreast.”

“If you match it against other all-aisle access layouts, you generally get a 10-15% increase in the number of seats in the cabin,” said Acumen senior designer Richard Nicholas.

Bed lengths are up to 83.5 inches (2.12 metres) and airlines can even opt to have each pair of middle seats convert into something akin to a double bed, similar to Qatar Airways’ new Qsuite.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

28 May 2016

Total posts 128

I personally wouldn't consider this layout the 'holy grail' of J class seats. I know someone who flew the UA Polaris seat on SFO-HKG, and said that the seats felt quite tight.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1244

This is the Holy Grail of business class? Hardly.

30 Nov 2016

Total posts 21

I'm struggling to see the 10%-15% increase. Based on the diagram shown (which looks like an A330), there are only 28 J seats - that's the same number as the Qantas business suite on the A330 in the same footprint (i.e. between doors 1 and 2). 

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 622


"Based on the diagram shown (which looks like an A330), there are only 28 J seats.."
The lower/2nd seat map is depicting @ least 30seats between door 1 and 2 as below:
Row 1(i.e. seat number 1A, 1D, 1G and 1L) to row 7 =4 seats per row, total =28.
Row 8 =2 seats per row(i.e. seat number 8A and 8L)

If removing that galley space between 8A and 8L to create 8D and 8G seats, total possible seat count between door 1 and door 2 would be 32.....that's over 14% higher seat count than "...Qantas business suite on the A330 in the same footprint..."

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 622

Sorry Fergo747, error in my previous comment.  Row 7 is also 2seats per row same as row 8.  So total seat count possible is 30.  Still 7% higher seat count than the J cabin on QF's 330.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 650

looks to me like a B789 layout. (note the 'spiral' lines at front of cabin denoting steps up to flight crew rest). And doing a side by side comparison with qantas B789, Qantas has 30 seats in this space, 'Zodiac' puts 28 seats, BUT BUT BUT, Zodiac has placed the galley area at Doors 2 further FORWARD (into the cabin), whereas Qantas (same)galley is further BACK, thus has the same space to place the 2 'extra' seats. If Zodiac seat map puts the SAME galley in the SAME position as Qantas, there is also room for 2 'extra' seats. Concluding Qantas 30 seats AND Zodiac 30 seats in the SAME area. (8 'window' rows per side=16, and 7 'middle' rows=14. 16+14=30 :)  I have the day off and the weather here is yuk, so I'm on the laptop passing time. lol

The problem with this layout is the lack of consistency - the aisle facing seats have very little privacy and also a smaller footwell. 

Its good to see the layout more available though. Airlines who desire higher-density business class without sacrificing aisle access would certainly be tempted. I think this model makes the table space a bit more convenient too... the Polaris seats allegedly have a problem with the table being either too far back or too far forward. 

I'd still rather be in a Vantage XL seat though. 


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1513

One of the most inconsistent layout that I know is that one with "throne" seat found on some AY A330 and on some SwissAir planes. And I like it the most exactly for versatility. Most consistent and prized by everyone reverse herringbone layout (CX one) is not my favorite - I enjoy look through window and in this layout it is incredibly inconvenient.

14 Feb 2012

Total posts 37

Let me get this straight, each commenter so far knows more about these seats and layout than the guys who designed it?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Nov 2015

Total posts 20

Yes Alexaqua, you are indeed right on the money.

Experience and first hand history are attributes which designers thrive for and hope to envision accurately,
 but Bums which are wearing the Seats are the Masters of the parameters of desire.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 192

why can't they adopt qatar's idea to put doors on this cubicles -people want privacy when they sleep and undress-this is not good enough

British Airways - Executive Club

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 70

I would get undressed in the toilet: not in a seat which has a door that passing people can see over!

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 192

obviously you never travelled in those suits-nobody can see you unless you stand on the top of your bed and flashing what you got :-)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Aug 2016

Total posts 24

Very similar to the JAL 777 business class setup and it was very functional but cramped

16 May 2017

Total posts 3

a design AirNZ should consider to adopt! 

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