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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
This includes giving passengers a welcome view to the outside, with seats angled towards the window rather than the aisle.
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.
Another challenger will be the Aspect seat from Adient Aerospace, which is a joint venture between Boeing and automotive seatmaker Adient.
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.”