Premium economy has traditionally been housed in a separate area of the aircraft. The bespoke, small cabin is all part of the selling point of the upgraded experience, giving passengers a quieter, more exclusive ambiance. But is there a benefit to be had by combining premium into the economy cabin? Toyota Boshoku believes so; let’s take a look.
Toyota calls its cabin concept ‘Positively Economy’ and is designed to give a positive boost to the economy travel experience. It is based around housing premium economy passengers in the middle of the economy cabin, and allows airlines to offer a whole new fare level – premium economy plus.
The three-class cabin would see regular economy fliers occupying twin seats by the windows. Having seats in groups of two is seen to be a positive enhancement, with passengers being able to sit more privately with their travel companion.
In the center, premium economy is featured at two different levels. On the outside of the center section, premium economy passengers sit in a reverse facing configuration, pointed out towards the windows. The herringbone arrangement of these passengers allows for more legroom and a decent level of recline, such as is common in the standard premium economy cabin.
But the inner part of the central bank is where things really start to get interesting. Here, we find a brand new level of seat, which Toyota calls Premium+. These seats face forward, again in a staggered herringbone layout, with maximum privacy for every passenger. Being inward-facing, the legroom is almost endless, allowing for the installation of a lazy-Z-type reclining seat. From the cubicle, passengers can fly in ultimate privacy, with practically no other passenger’s face visible.
But with legs in the aisle and a very narrow space between the Premium+ seat units, inflight food and beverage service would be a problem. Toyota plans to solve this conundrum with the introduction of a robot serving machine that travels between the aisles. Trays of food and drink are loaded into the robot in the galley, and delivered to passenger seats via the mechanical server.
Would it fly?
The concept is interesting, but there are some clear hurdles to overcome before something like this is likely to be seen on a plane. For a start, those standard premium economy seats leave passengers staring directly at pairs of economy fliers across the aisle from them. Awkward much?
Although Premium+ comes with a clear upgrade from the usual premium economy seat, passengers will likely miss the window view, and it could feel a little claustrophobic in there. Added to this, the narrow aisle between the seats (sometimes occupied by a robot) and the need to walk the length of the bank of seats could pose problems with evacuation time regulations.
Finally, while the robot server is a good idea, both for novelty factor for the passenger and to reduce the workload of the flight attendants, it would be incorporated at what cost? The weight of such a machine would likely make it prohibitive to install, never mind the additional maintenance costs involved. Added to this, in the event of a breakdown, you’ve got a whole group of high fare-paying passengers with no simple means of being fed and watered.
The idea of combining premium economy into the economy cabin has been floated a few times now, and could be something that happens eventually. However, this particular solution seems overly complex and probably not one that will make it past the concept stage.
What do you think? Do you agree that Positively Economy is unlikely to fly, or is there some mileage in this concept?