Is Modular Seating The Future Of Air Travel?

With increasing demand for premium economy, airlines are now looking at ways to differentiate their offering from the many other products out there. Toyota Boshoku has presented one solution, which would see more space, privacy and direct aisle access for premium economy travelers. Let’s take a look at the Layered Rhombus.

Layered Rhombus premium economy concept
Could premium economy become a modular solution in the middle of the economy cabin? Photo: Toyota Boshoku

Differentiating premium economy

In the majority of airliners with a separate premium economy and economy class, the division is made from front to back. Premium economy fliers will usually sit further forward in the plane, while economy takes up the cabins towards the back.

This works well for airlines who want to give premium economy fliers a bit more exclusivity. On Virgin’s A350, for example, just seven rows of premium economy occupy a cabin that is adjacent to the aircraft door. With eight passengers per row, it’s a relatively discreet, separate cabin of 56 passengers, offering more peace and tranquility than the large economy cabins.

Most solutions currently rely on creating wider seats, with more pitch and a greater recline than economy. Add in some upgraded meals and a wider selection of drinks, and the passengers can see the value in this upgrade from the cheapest economy ticket.

Emirates, Airbus A380, Delivery
Most premium economy products focus on a small cabin, bigger seats and an upgraded soft product offering. Photo: Emirates

But the question remains, how to make premium economy even better? While airlines don’t want to pull passengers down from business class, where offered, the premium economy market is becoming increasingly competitive. Having something a bit different that ticks more passenger experience boxes would be a winner for an innovative airline.

The Layered Rhombus

Toyota Boshoku Corporation has unveiled a concept that does just that. Its cabin concept promises to provide more personal space, more privacy and more comfort, without sacrificing passenger capacity. Not only that, but it also provides for that all-important direct aisle access for every premium economy flier.

Layered Rhombus premium economy concept
Groups of four seats are arranged to give more space and privacy. Photo: Toyota Boshoku

The Layered Rhombus is a flexible premium economy solution that sees groups of four premium seats arranged in a diagonal configuration in the center of the economy cabin. To either side of the Rhombus, groups of three economy passengers are accommodated. The solution is flexible, allowing airlines to create very private or companion flying to accommodate different needs.

It also adds two levels of premium economy comfort. The passengers in the middle, diagonally located seats will have less legroom and recline than the passengers on the forward and back facing outside seats. This means those seats could be sold at a premium, as premium economy ‘plus’ seats.

Layered Rhombus premium economy concept
More space on the outside seats means they could be an upgraded premium economy product. Photo: Toyota Boshoku

But for families traveling together, or with a  companion, the diagonal seats have another advantage. Screens between the seats can be folded back, to allow conversation during flight. In large groups, the screens can be fully opened, to allow up to four people to interact.

Layered Rhombus premium economy concept
Screens can be removed for two or all four passengers. Photo: Toyota Boshoku

The larger, outer seats also have the option to install a bassinette for passengers traveling with infants. Those not traveling with infants can use the space for storage or to rest their legs.

Layered Rhombus premium economy concept
Outside seats offer additional space that can be used in a variety of ways. Photo: Toyota Boshoku

Will it fly?

The Layered Rhombus solution has been submitted for a Crystal Cabin Award, and has made it as far as the final. While it remains to be seen if the design will win an award this year, it’s an interesting concept to contemplate.

Although the concept does add more privacy and direct aisle access than current premium economy products, there are some downsides to this design. Most notably, integrating it into the center of the aircraft’s cabin removes all the notion of peace and quiet otherwise afforded by a smaller, separate premium economy cabin.

Would you fly the Rhombus? Let us know in the comments.