The Future Of Narrowbody Flat Bed Business Class?

Filed Under: Travel

There are already a decent number of airlines that have flat beds on narrowbody aircraft. This is fairly common on 757s, since they’re used for transatlantic flights, though the newer trend is that we’re seeing flat beds on A321s.

For example, there’s Mint on JetBlue’s A321s, which features suites with doors.

Then there’s American’s A321 first class, featuring reverse herringbone seats.

Yesterday I wrote about how Malaysia Airlines plans on installing fully flat business class beds with direct aisle access from every seat on their 737 MAX 10 aircraft, which they’ll take delivery of starting in 2021. While that’s a long ways off, I think this is a trend that we’ll see a lot of in the coming years.

As A320s and 737s become longer range and replace widebody aircraft that previously operated similar routes, airlines will have to step up their games when it comes to narrowbody seats. While some airlines will no doubt introduce custom seat designs, there are a few major seat designers that introduce generic designs that end up being used by many airlines.

One of the biggest seat designers is Thomson, as they manufacture the seats that are already available on many planes, like the VantageXL seat, as well as the upcoming Delta One Suites.

So it’s always interesting to see what seat designs they’re working on.

AusBT writes about the next generation seat that Thomson Aero is working on — the VantageSolo seat. AusBT explains that an unnamed airline has already ordered this product for their A320s, and I suspect there will be many more. This product features direct aisle access from every seat. Here’s the brochure about the product:

What are the unique features of the VantageSolo seat?

  • It’s pretty compact, as it has 33″ of “pitch” (that’s only marginally more than economy pitch, meaning that one of these seats takes up as much space as three economy seats)
  • There’s a large storage compartment at every seat
  • The seats face inwards, so this is a herringbone configuration
  • There’s a privacy divider that can be raised or lowered, depending on whether you’re traveling with someone or not
  • The seat is 21″ wide

What do I make of this seat? For a narrowbody I think it’s fantastic and strikes a balance between efficiently utilizing space while also featuring direct aisle access from every seat.

At the same time, compared to the best business class seats out there, this isn’t really cutting edge. This is an evolved herringbone seat.

The downside to herringbone seats is that you face inwards, so you’re looking at others rather than out of the window. I don’t love that in terms of privacy. Reverse herringbone seats are an evolution of herringbone seats. It’s a similar design, except you face the window, which gives you more privacy.

At the same time, the seat seems to solve a problem that many herringbone seats have — namely, lack of storage. These seats have enclosed storage compartments.

So long story short I’d welcome this as a hard product on narrowbody aircraft, where using space efficiently is of utmost importance. At the same time, this isn’t really a cutting edge product. While herringbone seats have the advantage of featuring direct aisle access from every seat, the fact that they face inwards isn’t ideal.

What do you make of this VantageSolo seat for narrowbody aircraft?

  1. I think that looks amazing. I mainly travel through Europe from North america with the occasional trip to asia and the crappy business class on intra EU flights is such a let down compared to modern wide body business class seats.

  2. Didn’t the CEO of MH say that Thompson are currently working on the final design of their new C seats?

  3. Looks like a decent design, but at one inch narrower than Air New Zealand’s herringbone seats, I’m not sure how this would feel as far as elbow room is concerned.

  4. It seems like there’s opportunity for innovation in the “height” of the seats — i.e. if you stagger them vertically a little bit, maybe designers could further decrease their floor space. Obviously fully stacking seats on top of one another causes major egress challenges, but what if they alternated between 6″ lower and 6″ higher?

    Are there any seats in use that do anything like this?

  5. Not a chance in Europe, but I guess you don’t need lie flats for mostly 2-3 hour flights. The race to the bottom continues…

  6. 1. Other than enhancements in the seat itself, I don’t see additional routes in the U.S. where these seats make sense. They’re already kind of pointless on transcontinental flights, except for the red-eye from the West Coast.
    2. I do think it’s safe to assume that premium-economy in another 5-10 years will have some sort of lie-flat seat. Look at how British Airways does business-class. You could easily have a 2x3x2 or 2x4x2 configuration in premium-economy with each seat being lie-flat.
    3. I just wish Delta had improved the width of their new A350 seats. Let’s hope they make some adjustments after the first couple planes come into service.

  7. By cutting out the little nook next to the window/elbow area for storage, it also gives a bit of a view (probably) out the window, so I’d argue it’s solved yet another major drawback of herringbone seats.

  8. Recent CX J RH had sufficient underside storage for me, and I bring quite a bit to my seat.

    21 inch sounds narrow. I hope it’s wider than VS UC, b/c that was way too cramped for me…

  9. Time for BA to step up their Club World A318 service from LCW to JFK.

    That said I wish these were reverse herringbone. I flew this in Air Canada’s old business class and have to say I wish I could actually look out of my window then!

  10. I for one truly dislike the Herringbone style seating (VA, NZ, etc) and much prefer the Reverse. I want the privacy and I enjoy seeing a bit of the window, not the person across the aisle.

  11. MH is taking a great step introducing flat beds on narrow aircrafts. Its a pioneering step as well for other airlines operating smaller planes on regional flights.

  12. Why on earth do people make business seats face the aisle? No one wants to see other people on the aeroplane unless they’re together. Also, if you’re tall, your feet will stick out into the aisle and get knocked all the time. It’s ridiculous, and it looks ugly having seats face the aisle.

  13. I find it odd that this is titled “The Future Of Narrowbody Flat Bed Business Class?” but the comparison is made to AA’s Reverse Herringbone F-Transcon product, not the side-by-side J-Transcon product…?

  14. Martin, it looks like you have to lean over and twist yourself to see the window which will get uncomfortable after a while.

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