This new business class seat hits the single-aisle suite spot

The Vantage Solo will debut this year with fully-flat beds, direct aisle access and a sliding privacy door.

By David Flynn, February 5 2020
This new business class seat hits the single-aisle suite spot

Lie-flat beds and direct aisle access are the established norms for business class on the longest international flights, with sliding privacy doors are quickly becoming the feature de jour.

Now there's a business class seat which promises to delivery that premium travel triple-play to smaller jets such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families, which are more often seen on routes up to six hours – although longer-range versions of these jets, such as the Airbus A321LR and A321XLR, will push that envelope towards the nine-hour mark.

Dressed to impress: the elegant Vantage Solo has a launch customer lined up for this year.
Dressed to impress: the elegant Vantage Solo has a launch customer lined up for this year.

Irish seatmaker Thompson Aero's Vantage Solo is lined up on the runway for a 2020 debut with an as-yet-unrevealed airline, although other carriers are certain to sign on the dotted line for their own factory-fresh jets.

The Vantage Solo "has been developed and designed specifically in response to the rapidly emerging medium to long range market now being serviced by a new generation of narrow-body aircraft," Thompson says.

The Vantage Solo offers direct aisle access for every passenger.
The Vantage Solo offers direct aisle access for every passenger.

In addition to a fully flat bed and direct aisle access for every seat, there's plenty of personal space where passengers can spread out their work or simply spread out – especially if you're in the front row.

Flying Solo with plenty of space around the seat.
Flying Solo with plenty of space around the seat.

As with its popular Vantage and Vantage XL siblings, the Solo was designed, shaped and styled by London's Factorydesign in close collaboration with Thompson Aero, and the results of this ongoing partnership speak for themselves.

Airlines can order the Solo seat with either an open-aisle end, a fixed privacy screen or even a sliding suite door, says Andy Morris, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Thompson Aero Seating.

As shown here, the Vantage Solo is also available with sliding privacy doors.
As shown here, the Vantage Solo is also available with sliding privacy doors.

While Morris won't name the Solo's launch customer, he confirms to Executive Traveller that the airline has opted for sliding doors in order to provide "an exclusive business class seating experience."

Long-range jets like the A321LR are driving demand for a more premium business class seat.
Long-range jets like the A321LR are driving demand for a more premium business class seat.

"JetBlue started the trend with its Airbus A321," Morris says of the US airline's Mint premium cabin, which popularised the original Vantage, "and for our launch customer they've also selected it. But it's not going to suit everyone," he adds, acknowledging that some airlines and their passengers prefer a more open cabin environment.

JetBlue's Mint premium cabin first introduced a door to some Vantage seats.
JetBlue's Mint premium cabin first introduced a door to some Vantage seats.

That launch customer will have a short exclusivity edge to the Solo for a short period, although Morris explains this is mainly due to the necessary process of certifying the seat for safety.

"There's a natural break because we weren't going to take on any second or third customers until we had gone through the certification phase, so there was always going to be a 12-16 month time lag between customer one and customer two."

The Solo includes creature comforts such as conveniently-placed AC and USB power sockets.
The Solo includes creature comforts such as conveniently-placed AC and USB power sockets.

The Airbus A321LR and A321XLR are fuelling the appetite for a better business class experience on single-aisle jets, Morris says.

"The range of those aircraft now is incredible, its seven to eight hours and up, it's getting up there with wide bodied aircraft. That's great for airlines wanting to introduce new routes that don't warrant a wide-body to start with, or even to increase frequency."

"Flying across the pond from Europe to the east coast of the US is now possible," Morris adds, citing TAP Air Portugal's A321LR, which sports the Vantage in business class and is flying trans-Atlantic routes from Lisbon to Boston, Montreal and Brazil.

Lie flat for the long haul

JetBlue is tipped to have the Vantage Solo at the pointy end of its own A321LR fleet, which will take wing from 2021 from New York and Boston to London and which the airline says it "is developing a reimagined transatlantic version of its premium Mint product."

JetBlue is expected to add the Solo to its European-bound A321LR and A321XLR fleet.
JetBlue is expected to add the Solo to its European-bound A321LR and A321XLR fleet.

The US challenger will begin flying the even longer-legged A321XLR in 2023 "to implement further expansion to additional European destinations from Boston and New York."

“The incredible extended range of the A321XLR allows us to evaluate even more overseas destinations as we think about JetBlue’s expansion into European markets plagued by high premium fares and subpar service,” says JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes.

The Vantage Solo's staggered layout can accommodate up to 16 lie-flat seats in a business class cabin.
The Vantage Solo's staggered layout can accommodate up to 16 lie-flat seats in a business class cabin.

The Solo's efficient staggered design should mean that airlines won't take too much of a hit on how many premium passengers they can carry. "The typical cabin size we are looking at in a two-class configuration is 14, 16 or even 18 seats, depending what the airline thinks demand is for that premium seat."

A Boeing-stylised image of the Vantage seat on a Boeing 737.
A Boeing-stylised image of the Vantage seat on a Boeing 737.

As previously reported by Executive TravellerSingapore Airlines' regional arm SilkAir will begin adding the classic Vantage to its Boeing 737 fleet later this year, ahead of the airline being folded into the superbrand of its parent, adopting SQ's iconic colours and Kris logo and complementing the Star Alliance member's push to offer business class flat-beds on every route, from the shortest hop to the long-haul.

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.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 654

As these narrow-body planes fly longer sectors, this is a natural evolution. I guess the issue for the airlines will be when these same planes fly shorter sectors particularly during daytime. Will passengers be prepared to pay a premium for these extra features and space on flights when they won't really use them?

By my calculations, 16 of these seats will use about the same amount of space as you can currently fit in 24 recliner business class seats. To be revenue neutral, there needs to be a 50% increase in average J class fares on these shorter routes; is that achievable?

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 26

I don't see the justification for your calculations. Flydubai J didn't increase in fares by 50% when they switched.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 654

AIrcraft have limited real estate. Airlines have to maximise revenue across the available floorspace. Some airlines do this by squeezing in as many economy seats as possible and charge low fares but get good total revenue because they manage to sell lots of those tiny seats. Other airlines do it by giving a premium experience and charging a premium fare. An airline cannot logically suddenly have their business cabin seating 1/3 less people but use the same amount of space and not earn more revenue per pax to offset the loss of seats.

This conundrum is behind VA's rethink of what it is going to do with J class on their MAX 737s. The previous CEO talked about a new luxury lie-flat offering but, given most 737 sectors are under 3 hours, it is hard to see how they could justify charging the premium fare needed in excess of what QF would charge for recliner J class over the same route.

Think of it another way, VA currently has 8 J class seats on its 737s. To maintain 8 seats in J class with a lie-flat seat it will have to sacrifice between 1 and 2 rows of economy seats depending on the seat chosen. This means the 8 J class seats now have to make up the revenue of the 6 to 12 Y seats sacrificed to gain the new J product.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 64

Business class like this will need to be offered on planes like the a321xlr as you won't be able to fill up the plane to the maximum passenger capacity as the payload and range will be reduced below the long range threshold. The 8,700km range on the a321xlr requires less than 200 passengers, so adding a larger business class is probably not going to be a problem.

Another seat that would probably be good on a single aisle is the Apex Suite. It would probably be quite space efficient and offer a good level of comfort.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 26

The Vantage Solo pics above are a dead ringer for a SQ cabin. It has to be them.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2375

SQ is ordering the Vantage, not the Vantage Solo (see final paragraph) – the Vantage is the same as on JetBlue Mint and Aer Lingus, and it's got an alternating arrangement of double seats and single seats, eg one row might be 2-1 and the next row is 1-2. Still a great seat though, as it means that the majority of passengers have direct aisle access (eg a five-row cabin config would deliver 15 seats, of which 10 would have direct aisle access, although five of those would be at the aisle-side of two seats and so they'd potentially have a neighbour pushing past / clambering over them).

07 Feb 2020

Total posts 1

SQ don't fly narrow body aircraft

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 143

SilkAir has A320s, A319s and 737s, and 737 MAXs are going to be transferred to SQ following the SilkAir merger, so they kinda do now, and they will in future.

UA

09 Mar 2016

Total posts 31

But it will when Silk Air has been absorbed and rebranded as SQ

JKH
JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 141

It appears quite an impressive offering but I do wonder just how many airlines could justify the reduced yield/capacity for such offerings on their NB aircraft. I wonder if an APEX Aero type business class suite couldn't be modified for NB aircraft, perhaps less boxy (as on JL) but affording everyone direct aisle access in a slightly staggered 2 + 2 across config.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Feb 2017

Total posts 19

Please let it be VA for their transcon 737 fleet :) not likely at the moment though unfortunately.

JKH
JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 141

I think the railway man canceled that plan, didn't he?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 191

What the 'Railway Man' hasn't yet seemed to grasp (and his longevity or otherwise will depend on this) is that informed travellers - such as those reading these pages - tend to be, shall we just say, 'fiscally promiscuous' and will quickly fly to a better offering. But your point is a good one.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 54

"

"Fiscally promiscuous". That's my new motto. Thanks!

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

06 Nov 2015

Total posts 11

I am surprised no one is complaining about the seats being the same angle as the Air NZ Business Premier seats that many on here love to hate!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 143

This was exactly my thoughts. Unless this is significantly wider than those seats, they are going to suck, and any sensible business traveller would choose an alternate airline on the same route with a bigger plane.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 54

I really don't understand the reluctance to include sliding doors on a suite. Because if you want a more open environment, simply don't close the door.

"airlines and their passengers prefer a more open cabin environment.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 143

Weight

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 54

Okay, I get that. And it's a legitimate problem. But don't claim that the passengers don't want it.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 143

Well, I don't, and I can't be the only one. The only thing worse than being locked in metal tube for 14 hours is being locked in a small plastic container inside a metal tube for 14 hours. Putting the doors in will make the suite far more enclosed than without them. And this has to be a realistic consideration, otherwise we'd probably have seen them sooner.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 54

Again. Just don't close the doors if you prefer a more open environment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2017

Total posts 14

The orientation towards the aisle means that pax who love to stare out the window at the pretty clouds (me) will have to go to the nearest chiropractor on landing. I wonder if the seat could be switched so that its back is on the aisle with the orientation towards the window? Sounds like there would be more privacy that way too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 54

I am a window person. And I like to take geeky photos en route, although landings give you the best shots. If the seats were orientated towards the window, wouldn't that give that you a smidgen of more privacy?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 May 2017

Total posts 2

Love the concept of this, especially when flying more than 3 hours on a 738 or equivalent. If these were to become reality, wouldn't an airline spread the cost across all seats, both business and economy? This way there would be no loss in revenue per sector. Perhaps less Red-Edeals or smaller buckets to yield the same as today.

For a small bump in Business $, full flat bed while the remainder can be spread across 150+ seats

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2012

Total posts 45

I find it interesting with the move away from reverse herringbone to forward angled on widebodies, for the narrow bodies they are going reverse again!

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 64

I think part of the issue here is that an a320 single aisle is 3.7m wide whereas a single aisle of a 77w is 2.93m wide, so on the a320 there will be a lot of wasted space if they don't have a tighter angle and this tighter angle blocks off the access to the seat which is not a problem in herringbone layout.

Although on American airlines they do use the reverse herringbone on their a321Ts, a lot of space is wasted with an enormous aisle. Now they probably get enough revenue to make it worth while but I'd imagine it would be hard to justify for most carriers.

27 Aug 2017

Total posts 21

What is the bed length?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 114

Perfect seat for BA1 I would think...

Etihad - Etihad Guest

27 Jun 2019

Total posts 9

I am also with those here and on other forums that would not enjoy flying this type of business seat due to the direction it is facing. It's basically Air NZ business (which many dislike) with a few extras and granted it is nice looking overall, I would want to be facing the window rather than the aisle as well as the nuisance of having to turn the tv away anytime you wish to get up out of the seat. Will be interesting to see which airlines adopt this seat going forward

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 92

I'm with many of the other reviewers on this page, I like the window. I do often take photos, both in flight and take off and landing. I agree with the others above, that this mimics the Air New Zealand J class. I hate that layout. It was uncomfortable, disconcerting and had the distinct feeling of being in a coffin.

Besides all that, the seats look rockhard. I doubt I'd be able to sleep in one.


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