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.