Wouldn’t it be great to board a plane and have your business class seat remember the perfect position for your inflight comfort? It would be even better if it could also remember how warm or cool you like your space, and the lighting you enjoy at different stages of the journey. That’s exactly what the Waterfront seat from Panasonic intends to do. Let’s take a look.
The next generation of business class
Business class seats have come a long way since the first herringbone configuration debuted on British Airways. Modern business class not only lets fliers lie fully flat for their trip; it also brings new standards of entertainment, space and privacy. But Panasonic, in partnership with Teague and Formation Design Group, wants to kick things up a notch from here.
Debuted at the Consumer Electronic Show no less than five years ago, Waterfront is designed to be everything a business class seat should be, and a whole lot more besides. This next-generation seat takes technological integration to the next level, bringing everything from smartphone control to unprecedented personalization for a more unique travel experience.
From an airline perspective, it’s an easy design to accommodate, as it relies on the reverse herringbone layout that is so familiar to premium cabins. For passengers, it ticks all the boxes of direct aisle access, a door for privacy and copious amounts of personal space. But let’s take a look at what makes this seat a little bit different.
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What’s good about Waterfront?
For starters, Waterfront has been built for optimal passenger comfort. The shape and position of the back and base cushions have been developed through an extensive study of user behavior. Building on research, real-life analysis was conducted with users of the Jazz seat, allowing Panasonic and its partners to develop a supportive, ergonomic shape for the seat.
Back, leg and headrests are all infinitely repositionable, letting users choose their favorite position. Not only that, but heating, cooling and airflow is supplied in localized zones, with passengers able to choose what temperatures and ventilation they get, and where. Full control of the LED lighting color and intensity will let passengers create their own bespoke ambiance while occupying the seat.
All the settings can be controlled from the passenger’s own smartphone. Here, they can also control what content they view on the massive 24 inch UHD 4K TV screen, as well as ordering snacks and drinks direct from the IFE. They can even take a selfie during the flight using the built-in camera on the IFE monitor, and then share it to their social media using the onboard WiFi!
But the icing on the cake is the next-level personalization of the Waterfront seat. As soon as a passenger boards, they are prompted to link their smartphone to the IFE system. At this point, the system will remember them from their former flights, and will make suggestions for entertainment, food and drink based on their previous choices.
They can even save seat positions and heat/light options in the app, so the seat immediately returns to their favorite position on boarding. And if that smartphone battery runs low, wireless charging surfaces in the pod will keep it topped up.
When will we see it on planes?
The Waterfront was revealed in 2016, but was not intended to be ready for airlines until around last year. Given the slowdown in aviation and the world in general over the past 18 months, it’s no surprise that it hasn’t been taken up by any airlines yet.
There’s also something of a challenge to overcome before we see Waterfront in the premium cabin of our favorite airline. For the most part, seats are designed in isolation of all the other perks of premium cabins. To offer a fully rolled-up product like this is a challenging concept for airlines, who are more used to selecting IFE screens and providers themselves.
Nevertheless, investing in a fully equipped product could well be beneficial for airlines, having only one supplier to deal with in the event of a problem. But it’s still a relatively new concept, and not one that has been fully embraced to date.