The continued evolution of Business Class sees it inheriting features that used to be the domain of First Class, beginning with daybeds and now including sliding privacy doors.
A growing number of airlines – including Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines and JetBlue – have raised the bar with spacious and better-appointed “Business Plus” suites at the front of the cabin.
But that doesn’t mean the end of first class – it just puts pressure on airlines to continue refining the first experience, even in the post-superjumbo world that lacks the extravagance offered by the floor space of the double-decker Airbus 380 is made possible.
That’s the thinking behind a new premium concept developed by London design agency Acumen.
Dubbed “First Place,” it reintroduces the first suite as “an interior space reminiscent of a private home, with a more residential design approach.”
At the heart of Acumen’s newest first class vision is an innovative chaise longue that allows passengers to remain during the taxi, takeoff and landing phases of a flight.
Pampered passengers can relax over their meals thanks to a sliding table in the 28-inch wide lounge or watch it transform into an 80-inch wide lounger at the touch of a button on the 80-inch (2 meter) bed.
There is also a sliding ottoman so you and a companion can share dinner for two.
Complementing the lounge is a leather armchair, reminiscent of premium residential furniture, which swivels and reclines “to provide not only a convenient starting position, but also a formal dining and comfortable working position,” notes Acumen.
With a separate armchair and bed, Acumen shares the philosophy that characterized Etihad and Singapore Airlines’ first suites on the A380, “but designed to be more space efficient to fit all widebody aircraft, not just the A380.”
(Notably, this is also the same model used by Qantas for its forthcoming “Project Sunrise” Airbus A350 First Class.)
“Our experience from many interior programs has shown that first-class seats have become more complex, heavier and more expensive to manufacture,” reflects Acumen, saying that the design of first-class seats that need to be converted into a flat bed , “is inherently compromised as it is to perform too many functions.”
Acumen says that the primary focus at First Space “was to create a more exclusive and differentiated experience over the ‘super business class’ seats.”
Adjacent to the lounge are subtle “bedroom” elements such as a leather-lined wardrobe and a bedside table with two drawers for various personal items, while carry-on luggage and flight bedding fit inside among the living room.
High-tech flourishes include surround sound and noise-canceling technology built into the armchair’s wings, “heating/cooling” technology built into the lounge, and wireless charging on the side table.
“The passenger would simply use a touchscreen tablet to control all powered functions in the suite, including climate control, lighting, and even hotel-style inflight service,” says Acumen.
There is even two Video screens with a 32″ display facing the lounge and a smaller 18″ panel facing the armchair.
The chair and bed area and streamlined layout “create a room-like cabin with a perfect balance of privacy and openness” – of course you can use a sliding door to shut off the outside world, with the welcome exception of the cabin crew to stock up on their bubbly.
Acumen – which developed British Airways’ original first-class flatbed, Etihad’s superb A380 and other first-class projects from Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways – envisions the First Place suite as a single-tier 1-1-1- Layout suggests that “in a three, six or nine seat layout” although “it can also be configured for four suites side-by-side if a higher seating density is required, allowing for a double suite option in the middle .”
Acumen believes that its patented first-place concept “perfectly meets the increased needs of future first-class passengers and airlines’ desire to offer a consistent product across their network.”
“Most importantly, it brings back exclusivity and differentiation to First Class, creating a private space with greater flexibility to work, rest and play, but also to uncompromisingly enjoy time on board.”