Qantas is in the market for a new domestic business class seat to be fitted to its Airbus A320neo-family of jets due from late 2024, and the innovative Vantage Duo design from Thompson Aero Seating might be just the ticket.
Revealed overnight ahead of its debut at next week's 2022 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, the Vantage Duo retains the beancounter-friendly two-across layout favoured for domestic and short-range international routes – essentially, flights up to five or six hours, where there’s less demand or justification for a fully lie-flat bed and the significant amount of real estate it requires.
However, the Vantage Duo goes beyond the current conventions of domestic business class with a deep ‘zero-gravity principle’ recline which Thompson describes as an “immersive relaxed position… where research into the relationship between posture and pressure has established the most comfortable position possible, other than lying flat.”
“Suspending the passenger in a neutral posture increases the feeling of weightlessness, allowing deep relaxation and comfort, taking pressure off the heart and allowing a stress-free position,” Thompson maintains.
“The seat kinematics have been carefully designed to ensure that the body is supported at all angles of recline.”
This includes a recline to 130 degrees, compared to a typical maximum of 110 degrees for your average business class seat – although the Vantage Duo demands a seat pitch of 41 inches, which is quite a bump from the current norms of 37” adopted by most airlines (including Qantas, on its workhorse Boeing 737 fleet).
The Vantage Duo is a counterpoint to Thompson’s more beguiling Vantage Solo, which sees just one lie-flat seat either side of the aisle with the option of sliding privacy doors; the Vantage Solo is already flying as JetBlue’s A321LR Mint business class.
“The fast-emerging mid-to-long-range single-aisle market means that passengers want greater comfort and privacy but not necessarily a fully flat seat such as the Vantage Solo,” explains Andy Morris, Vice-President Commercial for Thompson Aero Seating.
“The Vantage Duo offers exceptional comfort and a very marketable seating option, with the same number of passengers as traditional business class seating.”
The fixed back of each Vantage Duo seat ensures that travellers don’t recline into the personal space of the passenger behind them.
Thompson says the Vantage Duo’s development began with the passenger “placed in the most comfortable position possible, and the seat was then designed and engineered around them.”
The long list of creature comforts built into the Vantage Duo includes handy storage areas dotted around the seat, wireless device charging and a 16” video screen.
But the window seat is the place to be, with those Vantage Duo seats gaining a convenient benchtop area.
“Our aim was simple,” Morris states: “Greater comfort in the same space, which we have achieved through our many years of experience in design and engineering innovation. The result: no loss of density, no increase in weight, just greater comfort, space, and recline for the passenger.”
Qantas’ current Business Suite for the Airbus A330, Boeing 787 and now the Airbus A380 is based on Thompson’s Vantage XL platform.
A spokesperson for Thompson confirmed to Executive Traveller the company has already begun “initial discussions” with some airlines, with the aim of seeing the Vantage Duo take wing by the end of 2024.
Qantas has already revealed that its first wave of Airbus A320neo-series jets – the A321XLR – will feature 20 business class seats, which is more likely to arrive as five rows of 2-2- seating than ten rows of 1-1 seats.
However, it’s expected Qantas will end up with two versions of its Airbus A320neo-family fleet: one for domestic routes and short-range overseas routes such as New Zealand, and another with fully flat beds in business class for the medium-range international routes to Asia – such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila – which are within the scope of the surprisingly long-legged single-aisle Airbus jet.