The next generation in Airbus, Boeing single-aisle business class

By David Flynn, July 31 2017

Is this seat the next generation in business class for single-aisle jets like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 series?

It's the Vantage Solo, from Thompson Aero Seating, and will bring lie-flat beds and direct aisle access – traits typically associated with the best business class of large long-range jets – into the world of smaller single-aisle aircraft which often make up the domestic and short-range backbone of many airline fleets.

Thompson's Vantage Solo is breaking cover as several airlines begin to plan ahead for a game-changing business class experience on the likes of the Boeing 737-800 and 737 MAX families, and the Airbus A320neo and A321neo.

That includes Virgin Australia and Malaysia Airlines, although only Malaysia Airlines is confirmed as a Thompson Aero customer and could end up rolling out yet another Vantage-branded design on its forthcoming Boeing 737 MAX 10 fleet.

For its part, Virgin plans an all-new business class seat for transcontinental Boeing 737s flying Australia's east-west routes, which CEO John Borghetti says will represent a “quantum leap in domestic business class”.

Airbus customer preparing to fly Solo

Thompson is understood to have an Airbus A320-based launch customer lined up for the Solo, although company spokesman Andy Morris tells Australian Business Traveller "as usual, I cannot comment on any specific customer details."

The Solo adopts an angled herringbone-style layout...

... with each seat converting into a fully flat bed.

Each passenger also gets a small side console table and storage cubby (the door of which contains a small vanity mirror) and an inbuilt flat-screen monitor.

With the seats raked side by side, a privacy divider prevents peek-a-boo from the neighbours – although this can be retracted for sociability if you're travelling with a partner or colleague.

Other creature comforts include handy AC and USB power sockets and a stowage hook for headphones.

The seats themselves start as 21 inches (53.3cm) wide with a 33 inch (83.8cm) pitch.

There's obvious design DNA shared with other members of the Vantage family, although its siblings – including the Vantage XL, upon which Qantas based its Boeing 787 business class (below) – have a forward-facing orientation.

In some ways the Solo could remind travellers of Cathay Pacific's earlier high-walled business class seats (below), which Cathay codenamed FB1 or Hercules – although less-kind travellers referred to them as 'cubicle class' or even 'coffin class'.

Thompson's cred stretches back to the innovative Vantage chosen by US airline JetBlue for its transcontinental Airbus A321 Mint class, which sees each pair of business class seats followed by a single seat with sliding suite-like privacy doors...

... and more recently, the Vantage XL Suite used for Delta Air Line's new Airbus A350 Delta One business class suites.

Boeing is also spruiking Mint-style business class seating in promotional material for its 737 MAX jets, shown below.

While many airlines will continue to play it safe by installing conventional reclining business class seats in their single-aisle jets, it's clear that some are gearing up for a new dogfight for the hearts, bums and wallets of business travellers.

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.

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

The only downside to this product is that inward-facing herringbone does feel a bit weird/awkward. But the product still looks great. You could even put suite doors on it too, which would help the privacy a bit. 

Virgin Australia may be looking at this, absolutely. That said, BE/Rockwell Collins are apparently making a new version of the Super Diamond seat designed for direct-aisle-access/fully-flat-bed in a narrowbody. Since BE did their 777 The Business suite, I wouldn't be surprised if VA works with them rather than Thompson.

Either way its great to see how single-aisle premium product is evolving.

I wonder... if more products like this are created, will American Airlines change their A321 Transcon First product? I mean the Cirrus seats they use aren't very space efficient in a narrowbody aircraft...

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

Also I hate to double post but I wonder if this product would be able to fit in the Bombardier C-Series. Its clearly fine in the A320 and B737 but the CS is 10" narrower than the 737... I guess you could adjust the angle but that would increase the necessary pitch if one wanted to keep the bed with the same...

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

"..wonder if this product would be able to fit in the Bombardier C-Series.."

Even if it technically would fit, the biz case to justify investment to develop/customize such product to fit into  CSeries cabin diameter is iffy @ best.

Total firm orders today for each family:

320Neo family=5,100+

737Max family=3,800+

CSeries family=360

If customers for 10% of these total firm orders choose to adopt luxurious horizontal flat bed with direct aisle access in J for their narrowbody fleets, maximum mkt demand for such product in each family:

320Neo family=510 cabins

737Max family=380 cabins

CSeries family=36 cabins

Easy to foresee why such premium seat product for CSeries will fail minimum development+production scale requirement.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@StudiodeKadent:

" its great to see how single-aisle premium product is evolving."

Agree.  Notice this kinda product is evolving/gaining mkt traction on narrowbody types recently because narrowbody types are also evolving in terms of mission range capabilities.

When Norwegian already flies Max8 in hi-density 1-class cabin config(i.e. heavier than the std 2-class config payload) on the 7h45m EDI->SWF/New York sector(Longer than AKL->PER and the same as PER->HKG) on a regular basis, we're going to see more of these latest gen narrowbody types configured in lower density 2-class config being deployed on very long routes within Asia-Pcf that were previously exclusive for widebodies.

highflyer

highflyer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 302

The problem with the old Cathay business "Coffin" class was that while seated and while laying flat, there was no where for your elbow and shoulders to go except right up against the wall, making it very coffin like and claustrophobic.  It looks like from the diagrams above, that the Thompson Vantage Solo design has put that into consideration with arm resting area, and also the side console table area, will also open up the space to one side while you are laying flat. 

julius-grafton

julius-grafton

23 May 2012

Total posts 36

I love this. Interesting the commentary when VA first announced 'something new' in 737 J transcon, with a solid minority saying lie-flat it was 'unnecessary'. More likely these people don't actually fly transon for business reasons!

Joe

Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 387

Despite being a terrible carrier, Delta has it down pat. Privacy door, direct isle access and forward facing. Say no more.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

I expect to see this on a Qantas A321neo within 5 years.

Possibly PER base to allow it to do Asian routes and some East Coast routes where needed. Would also work for SYD-DPS.

Don't think we will see it on the 737s.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

moa999:

"I expect to see this on a Qantas A321neo within 5 years."

For this theory to turn into reality in 5yrs, 2 things must happen beforehand:

1)  QF Group decide to transfer some of their firm orders for 320Neo fm JQ brand to QF brand upon delivery.  As of today, QF brand has zero 320Ceo/Neo in op or on order.

2).  After 1) is done, QF brand convert some 320Neo on order into 321Neo.

"Don't think we will see it on the 737s."

Why?  VA is planning precisely that for some domestic trunks.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Yes some assumptions, but they are group orders and I believe for the 320/321neo family - so it's very easy to do. (Indeed JQ already has a small number of 321s)

Why? The numbers on order are too many for the JQ airlines (both fully and partially owned), and QFs 737s are getting on (first deliveries 2002).

A 321 enables you to fit a fully-flat less dense business product without impacting the number of Y seats, which remain important for yield.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@moa999:

"The numbers on order are too many for the JQ airlines."

Across all 4 JetStar brands(i.e. under 4 separate AOCs in AU, SG, VN and JP) wholly or partly owned by QF Group, there're 320Ceo family x117 in op today(Plus JetStar Pacific is still awaiting delivery for a few more).

If U recall, QF Group has 320Neo family x100 on firm order(though that contract likely include some options/purchase rights on top)....clearly a bit short in quantity to replace the existing 320Ceo fleet @ JetStar brands, let alone sharing with QF brand.

"QFs 737s are getting on (first deliveries 2002)"

That makes the oldest 737NG frame(i.e. a 738) still flying in QF fleet today 15yrs old....just about middle-age by the historic QF 737 fleet cycle planning std.  e.g. when the last 737Classic(i.e. a 734) left the QF fleet last yr, it was 26yrs old.   Unless QF brand suddenly decide to shorten their narrowbody fleet planning cycle(Can't think of any motivation for QF to do that though), still plenty of time for QF to study/commit to a replacement for 737NG fleet.

"A 321 enables you to fit a fully-flat less dense business product without impacting the number of Y seats"

Very true....but so does a Max10 which is exactly the strategy being planned by Peter Bellew for MH right now.   Besides, VA doesn't seem to be deterred by the consequences of seat count reduction in Y in exchange for larger J seats on their 738 fleet.

It's popular for folks to write-off the Max10 as a compromised design relative to the 321Neo.  However, many seems to forget that the Max10 is still designed to fly further/@ a higher payload than a 321Ceo or a 738....

Meridiengroup

Meridiengroup

26 Aug 2012

Total posts 33

Some of this looks like the CX coffins that were not popular at all

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

Its the same basic type of seat. But there's adjustable privacy (so you aren't necessarily "coffined in"). Not to mention amenity on par with contemporary expectations. 

It looks to me like a great improvement over Coffin Class, even if its still a herringbone layout. 

desafinado74

desafinado74

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 23

Forward facing seats are still the best, in my personal opinion.

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

IMHO it makes very subtle difference during take off and landing. Personally I have no problem. Plus face it - pax have far greater chances to receive less injuries in case of hard landing. Of course in case of very hard landing it irrelevant :-))))

daf40

daf40

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 May 2016

Total posts 7

Problem with these designs (VA, Finn Air) have similar is for tall flyers 6"6 who generally have feet sizes to match, is your feet will be locked into these little areas, which constrict movement and are under the TV so get very warm... They are a pain to deal with, but the new QF business is my personal favourite.

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

It is cool, but I am curious how it will feel when all pax from rear of the plane will go through aisle during boarding.

crosscourt

crosscourt

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 351

Absolutely hated the Cathay coffins and think I'll feel same about these. Hated the window behind and felt claustrophobic. 

parishiltons

parishiltons

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 62

Bring it on! The current domestic-standard J seats are only good for daytime short haul. We need something better now that narrow bodies are doing transcon and regional flights over seven hours, including overnighters. Remember when the domestic J class fare was unrestricted economy +15%? With J fares now as high relative to Y as they are we deserve better!

Kentown45

Kentown45

25 Feb 2017

Total posts 26

This Herringbone configuration is the Worst of 3 Worlds, No Double seats for Couples... Poor Window Vision... Herringbone Coffins. 

BMI [RIP] Had it right 6 years ago,  and JetBlue Mint have followed.As in last pic.  Early Paying Booking Solo Passengers get The Seat they want, Couples usually get The Type of Seat they Prefer, and Last Minute Upgrades get whats remaining. Both result in 16 seats in the same space.

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

"No Double seats for Couples"

The retractable privacy divider, along with the ability of the seat pan to slide forward, makes paired travel possible if the person in the "behind" seat has their seat set as far forward as possible. So this is better for couples than the original herringbone seats.

Mdm Milton

Mdm Milton

Malaysia Airlines - Enrich

01 Jun 2015

Total posts 22

Well, why not just install the "APEX SUITE" Business Class seat for all A320/A321Neo or B737/8/9/10Max, since both aircraft are big enough to fit in an LFB. That's it. It will makes everyone happy. ;)

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