Finnair’s revolutionary ‘Air Lounge’ business class, in which the passenger reclines instead of the seat, is arguably the most innovative business class for long-range twin-aisle jets since the debut of Qatar Airways’ private Qsuites.
But this ‘couch above the clouds’ concept could also find its way onto the new breed of single-aisle jets such as the Airbus A321LR and even XLR, at least if this concept from Airbus itself has wings (so to speak).
Dubbed the Settee Corner, it’s a joint development between Airbus and seat & interior specialist Geven with the aim of creating a welcoming home-like environment for business travellers on extended A321 journeys, such as eight-hour jaunts between Australia and Asia or the US east Coast and Europe or the UK.
First revealed at the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg in 2019, the Settee Corner seat comprises two seats, but they’re intended for only one passenger.
How does this work?
The seat located immediately next to the aisle is adapted from one of Geven’s sturdy but lightweight economy designs, is fixed in place – there's not even an inch of recline.
But business class passengers would be in this seat only during the taxi, take-off and landing stages of a flight.
For the rest of the trip, they’re free to move to the window seat or lean back and sprawl across the bench, just as they might do on their favourite couch at home, with a padded section at the front of the settee swinging up to boost the useable space for sleeping or in sprawling mode.
There’s plenty of space to stretch out once you’re sitting by the window and perhaps taking in a movie, or you can just nestle into the settee and along the contour of the seat itself.
One thoughtful little design touch is that the corner nook opens to reveal a deep stowage bin.
This cabin layout from Airbus indicated a standard A321LR cabin layout could accommodate six rows of Settee Corner business class seats, or 12 passengers, in an admittedly tight 32” pitch (although the unique design of the Settee Corner would maximise legroom and knee-room, especially in the seat used for take-off and landing).
No airlines have yet adopted the Settee Corner in their A321LR jets, where the benchmark remains the private Mint Suites and row 1 Mint Studios of US airline JetBlue. And yes, those seats do recline into fully lie-flat beds.
On the local front, while Qantas has yet to pull back the curtain on the seats and interiors of its Airbus A321XLR jets due from 2024, indications are that business class will see recliners rather than lie-flat beds.