The next generation of business class seats will come with doors and dividing walls, helping coronavirus-wary passengers cocoon themselves from other travelers as they return to the skies.
An all-new design, which manufacturer Recaro Aircraft Seating will unveil in June, will also give passengers more shoulder and legroom, Chief Executive Officer Mark Hiller said in an interview at the Singapore Airshow.
With the door closed and the wall extended, the seat effectively becomes an enclosed booth inside the cabin.
Hiller said the pandemic has accelerated a preference among airlines and passengers for seats that provide greater isolation. Even Recaro’s newest premium economy seat tries to achieve that goal with a headrest that wraps more around the head, he said.
“The challenge is really to design something that gives you privacy but doesn’t create a claustrophobic feeling,” Hiller said.
Recaro, whose customers include Emirates, Air France-KLM and Air China, has already received orders for the new business-class seat, which cost more than €100,000 each.
Fitting the door, which is made from lightweight carbon-fiber honeycomb, presented a challenge because it added weight, and must open even after a hard landing, Hiller said.
Airlines resuming services after the pandemic have seen surging demand for seats in premium cabins, where travelers are less densely packed. That’s pushed airlines to put a greater focus on these sections, which are typically more profitable.
Hiller said the comfort gap between economy and premium cabins is getting wider. “There’s a polarization. People either want to go from A to B for the lowest price, or they want something extraordinary.”
That ‘lowest price’ segment means the cheapest seats are getting simpler in their design and build, with some airlines are asking Recaro to deliver them without in-flight entertainment systems in order to save space and weight.
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