Increasing passenger count is usually accompanied by decreasing passenger fares, something low-cost airlines are very good at doing. But in premium cabins, airlines are limited on just how squeezy they can make those business class seats. A concept from US designers, Formation Design, attempts to solve this problem through the use of vertical space.
How to get more people into the premium cabin
Lie-flat seats are great for long journeys, but with one big drawback – the cost. Unless you’ve got miles and points to burn, this level of comfort can come at an eye-watering price point, leaving the bulk of fliers struggling to sleep in economy.
But airlines have their hands tied. All the real estate necessary to accommodate lie-flat business class seats and spacious first class suites means they need to sell these at a premium price – but what if they could fit more in?
More passengers tend to equal lower costs for all, something that low-cost airlines embrace to the maximum. But with a certain amount of floor space required to fit in all that lie flat comfort, squeezing more passengers into the premium cabin is almost impossible. However, a US design house has come up with a solution that does just that, and could see fares reduced for all.
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The formation for success
Formation Design has presented the Formation Premium Cabin concept as a means of increasing capacity in the premium cabin, while simultaneously diversifying the product to create a business class combined with a more first class type of offering. It does this by using the vertical space in the cabin.
Throughout the cabin, lie-flat seats at ground level are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration, alternating forward and aft-facing, and reducing to 2-3-2 in the very front rows. Above these seats are a small number of elevated ‘suites,’ in a 1-2-1 layout.
The idea is that all passengers in the lower seats get a lie-flat experience that is perhaps not quite on par with true business class today, but a comfortable way to travel, nevertheless. Those in the raised suites get more of a first class experience, with a very wide bed and exceptional privacy.
Key to the benefits for airlines and passengers here is the ability to accommodate more people in the same overall space. Formation Design states that this concept achieves an overall gain of 17 lie-flat passenger seats when compared to a standard staggered or herringbone layout.
Runway Girl Network’s John Walton described the Formation Premium Cabin as offering something akin to a ‘super-throne’ seat. That seems a fair assessment. Although Formation Design likes to couch this as business plus first in the same cabin, the business class seats aren’t really up to scratch, and first, these days, tends to be at another level entirely.
Nevertheless, the end result is a very intriguing proposition. Other airlines are already selling two standards of business class in their cabins, such as JetBlue’s original Mint, or Finnair’s A330 ‘throne seat’. The elevation of the super-throne makes for a more spacious and private product even than these, and could be a winner for passengers looking for the very best.
But there are benefits for the lower passengers as well. Although several passengers in the cabin will not have direct aisle access, that remains a problem in a number of business class cabins today. For those who are not next to the aisle, having their sleeping partner situated much lower will make it far easier to step over them to get out.
What do you think of the Formation Premium Cabin concept? Let us know in the comments.