New Airbus A321neo business class seat is like a first class suite

Flying between Sydney and Perth would be more akin to a great Sydney-London experience.

By David Flynn, October 26 2020
New Airbus A321neo business class seat is like a first class suite

Airbus' seating arm Stelia Aerospace has revealed a flagship business class seat with just about everything you’d expect from a first class suite – and to further confound expectations, it’s a seat created for single-aisle jets like the A321neo.

Ready to work your way through the checklist? Direct aisle access for every passenger. A fully lie-flat bed. Sliding privacy doors. An over-sized 20-inch video screen. Dedicated storage nooks for everything from amenity kits to a laptop.

Go flat-out in Stelia's new Opera business class seat.
Go flat-out in Stelia's new Opera business class seat.

The Stelia Opera pulls it all together in a sophisticated design suited to everything from a transcontinental hop to a longer-legged international journey up to 10 hours.

Stelia's Opera business class seat will officially launch in early 2021.
Stelia's Opera business class seat will officially launch in early 2021.

The Opera goes hand-in-glove with the trend towards efficient single-aisle jets such as Airbus’ popular A321 family, from the A321neo to the long-range (LR) and extended long range (XLR) versions. 

The A321LR can fly non-stop from Sydney to Singapore, while the A321XLR stretches that from Sydney to Tokyo.

Airbus sees increased demand for premium travel on its long-range A321 jets,.
Airbus sees increased demand for premium travel on its long-range A321 jets,.

In that context, it’s worth noting that the Qantas Group is among the airlines to have signed up for the A321XLR, with 36 aircraft delivered from 2024 which could end up shared between Qantas and Jetstar.

Qantas' A321XLR fleet will be capable of non-stop flights from Sydney to Singapore and even Tokyo.
Qantas' A321XLR fleet will be capable of non-stop flights from Sydney to Singapore and even Tokyo.

“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the Group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar,” CEO Alan Joyce has noted.

Stelia’s intent, then, is to ensure that Opera delivers a passenger experience that’s on par with what you might expect from the likes of a bigger twin-aisle Airbus A350: hence Opera’s marketing mantra of “full flat, full access, full privacy.”

Stelia chose to angle its Opera seats towards the window.
Stelia chose to angle its Opera seats towards the window.

This includes giving passengers a welcome view to the outside, with seats angled towards the window rather than the aisle.

Sliding doors complete the Opera's first class feature list.
Sliding doors complete the Opera's first class feature list.

That affords Opera an edge over Thompson Aero's Vantage Solo design, which is arguably its leading rival – and has been tipped as the seat of choice for JetBlue's  forthcoming Airbus A321LR flights from New York and Boston to London in 2021 – where passengers face the aisle.

Thompson Aero's Vantage Solo should also debut in 2021.
Thompson Aero's Vantage Solo should also debut in 2021.

Another challenger will be the Aspect seat from Adient Aerospace, which is a joint venture between Boeing and automotive seatmaker Adient.

Adient Aerospace's Aspect business class seat for single-aisle jets.
Adient Aerospace's Aspect business class seat for single-aisle jets.

Aspect sports a roughly similar feature set, including the option of sliding privacy doors: Adient Aerospace says it's already in "advanced discussions with a number of potential customers," although no orders have been inked and the product likely wouldn't take wing until late 2021 or early 2022.

As for Opera, Stelia expects to officially launch the seat in the first quarter of 2021. There’s no launch customer as yet, Stelia’s Head of Sales and Marketing Emmanuel Regnier tells Executive Traveller, “although several have expressed great interest and discussions are ongoing.”

David

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 113

The seat itself on the opera looks less than appealing - more like an economy seat dropped into the shell of a business one... in comparison the Thompson looks much more comfortable 

The Thompson Aero pic has been styled to show how the seat could look depending on the work an airline put into it, if you check out earlier images of the Vantage Solo it's more bare-bones. Stelia's PR photos here are more basic but an airline could really give the seat an overhaul to improve its looks, use fabric to reduce noise etc. I agree that the Vantage Solo looks more appealing in these photos, but the Opera could be done up in the same way.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 403

Similar to the F seats on American Airlines' A321T (Transcontinental) - except for the doors.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Mar 2018

Total posts 11

Same comment came to my mind...

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 74

it looks like the have increased the angle of the seat, compared to the regular reverse herringbone probably due to the issue on the AA A321T having too large of an aisle and not using space wisely. This would also explain the small entrance to the seat compared to the other reverse herringbones. 

Other than that look like a good seat.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 May 2014

Total posts 45

Increased angle could have certification impacts/challenges (as VA discovered when they increased the angle of 'The Business' on their B777s)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 281

All that plastic and walls should sort out all the pax who struggle now to get their oversized carry on down to the back of the aircraft without smashing into seats and banging people’s heads with their shoulder bags as they squeeze through, should be fun to watch.

The Stelia Opera is beautiful but the seat pitch is 38" whereas the Vantage Solo is 33." The Vantage Solo also has the ability to provide 2 First Class suites with no LOPA penalty.

Not to mention most First and Business guests want to work or sleep, not look out the window. Also, Opera makes paired seats impossible whereas the Vantage Solo allows seats immediately in front/behind each other to talk.

As I see it, Stelia Opera may be used as a First Class product on the A321neo but I don't this its viable as a business class simply for how much space it takes up. Its a gorgeous product and I'd be happy to fly it, but I think Vantage Solo with doors will be more popular among airlines.  

Tav
Tav

20 Oct 2020

Total posts 4

We’ve been so lucky to enjoy some of the world’s best domestic business class products here in Australia due to the competition between Qantas and Virgin. But I think unfortunately - and I hope I’m wrong - we won’t see that continue and so we’re unlikely to see seats like these on narrow bodies here any time soon. With Virgin repositioning in the market, Qantas is more likely to take cost out of J class rather than invest...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 369

Tav, totally agree with your opening remarks - 100%.  But just want to remind that Virgin offering a lower cost, value driven fare in Economy is not mutually exclusive with continuing to offer Australia's leading premium service in Business (both seat and inflight service).  Currently, most domestic aircraft in Virgin's fleet have 2 or 3 rows of pairs either side of the aisle for J-Class, with another 2-3 rows behind for EconomyX.  It would not at all surprise me if the 'Value-economy' fare comes right down, and the Business fares all go Fully Flexible, with discounting restricted to advance bookings (i.e. at least 14 days out).

RATIONALE:  It's not uncommon in the 5-star hotel market for the Reservation desk to offer a complimentary upgrade to certain (qualifying) guests for them to experience the superior offering - all in the hope that once enjoyed they'll use it more often on future stays and with the same chain.  Whilst airlines can do the same, they have a BIG advantage over hotels - those of us in Economy have to walk past business class seats TWICE on every sector (unless entering/exiting by the rear doors).  

It's a big 'IF', but if there's truly any clever Bain-bods in Virgin 2.0 from November, they could easily ensure Economy travelers get to see and crave for the superior service in Business, ensuring 100% occupancy on every flight.  This should involve Cabin crew at gate and door - like the Reservation Desk staff at a hotel - having Economy Guest lists that identify the top-6 Eco fare passengers who should be upgraded at the door if there's an unsold J-Class seat that would otherwise go empty.  

Can you imagine how you'd feel stepping inside the door and when presenting your Board Pass to Seat 27B the Attendant replies "Mr/Ms Tav, can we offer you Seat 3B on this flight - full service at no extra charge?".  If this strategy is implemented properly, over time Virgin 2.0 might well need to cannibalize some Economy rows for J-Class seating, but that's a problem for later on.  

SQ

23 Oct 2015

Total posts 22

This is not ‘first class’ seating, unless you are referring to domestic US First class, surely??

To me First Class is defined by SQ’s A380s, EY’s A380s and EK’s A380s (particularly the showers)

If this is the ‘new’ post-Covid firstclass .... it better be not much more expensive than biz or (forgive the pun) it’s not gunna fly - that is a tiny box attempting to masquerade as luxury?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Aug 2014

Total posts 6

EY are ditching A380, EK not having first on new planes so I guess SQ the only airline likely to fulfill that dream. This seat has same size as Thompson Vantage and has much more practical workspaces. I and many others don't like facing the aisle (Air NZ!). It is touted for transcontinental but could be used on routes to Asia, NZ etc.

PG1
PG1

17 May 2017

Total posts 11

For someone who enjoys the actual flying experience, it's Adient for me ... you can actually see out of the window, not staring at the carpet in the aisle from your little cocoon !

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Mar 2018

Total posts 17

Lot of hyperbole here: "business class seat with just about everything you’d expect from a first class suite".  Really?  Maybe if the majority of First trips are on America's airlines. What's missing here is space and windows, a value consideration for First-ticket buyers.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 84

Comparing the photos of the three seats, Opera vs Vantage Solo vs Aspect, the greater angle of Opera and Vantage Solo against the centreline makes for a wider shelf next to the seat, so these are probably better for longer flights, but the shallower angle of Aspect puts it closer to the window so you can enjoy more of the view. I'd probably like that more than the restricted view of Opera or the aisle view of the Vantage Solo, but the longer the flight the more I might want greater shelf space for spreading out my stuff.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 152

Those Stelia's might be "fully flat" but they are not "fully straight" unless you are a child. Check the chaps legs in the top photo, his knees are bent sideways. Terrible.

The Stelia reminds me of flying MAS from Melb to KL 2 years ago--it felt like going into an MRIm scanner when I put the seat flat.

JKH
JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 147

What are the likely seat dimensions of this product when on an A320-neo?


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