Optima centre Seats top view

Acumen and Zodiac’s Optima seat at first glance, might seem familiar. There’s good reason. It was actually developed in tandem with United’s Polaris product. The seats are basically non-identical twin brothers in the seat manufacturing world. The product has been designed as a logical response to the demands and needs of airlines and passengers alike.

Optima close up

The seat boasts that it is between 10% and 15% more efficient than other leading super business class seats, due to its unique angled and forward-facing interlaced seat configuration. This allows passengers increased egress to the aisle, while bringing seat pitch closer together.


Talking exclusively to TheDesignAir, Ian Dryburgh, founder of Acumen talked on how the seat came about. “We wanted to create a seat that was super efficient for airlines. The timing was impeccable with United, as they wanted a seat at the same time we were developing this product.” It was the first bite of the cherry that got the seat on the road.

Optima sketch

United created a product that worked specifically for themselves, however Acumen saw the product had wider appeal and continued to develop the core product to bring it to market. While United received the exclusive rights to the product in the North American market, the rest of the world is up for grabs.

Optima side view with person

The seats certainly have an automotive touch and Acumen has brought sweeping curved lines to the seat architecture that help break up the visual impression of the imposing ‘sea of seats’. While there are basically two seats here, and they act as a pair, each one has its own unique characteristics that can appeal to differing passengers. Larger passengers will enjoy the aisle facing seats that offer easier access. However, those wanting more privacy can slip into a seat that sits away from the aisle and acts as a pair for those travelling together.

Optima double-bed NIGHT

The seats themselves have impressive statistics considering how the LOPA works out. Each seat features a minimum 26″ width when extended, and a usable bed length of up to 80″ – elements such as the folding arm rest allows for more space when reclined. Airlines utilising Optima can offer a product that is similar to a ‘Super Business Class’ seat, with large side table furniture and storage. In response to Qatar Airways’ recent QSuite product, the middle seat pairs can be reclined into a fully flat bed, with the divider being dropped to below the seat height.

Optima show seat 3

The product also allows for customisation of the seat pitch. By stretching out the seats, passengers can enjoy longer bed lengths, however airlines driven by the bottom line can condense the seat pitch to add an extra row of seats in the cabin.

Optima IFE

It’s future-proofed as well as fully customisable, two things that are important to airlines trying to make their own stamp on the passenger experience. The product was designed beyond the current passenger expectations in order to survive the years ahead on the market. The seats have been designed with 18″ monitors in mind, above the current industry standards. This was key to Acumen’s priorities, for a product to stand the test of time.

Optima cabin view

We are pleased to see that Acumen, like other London design firms are continuing to spearhead the passenger experience and looking at innovative ways to address both passenger and airlines’ requirements to deliver lightweight, well appointed seats that can improve passenger satisfaction, without sacrificing such large real estates on the aircraft layout.

This seems to confirm an emerging trend for the latest waves of passenger seat designs to be interlocking forward facing seats. Qatar Airways, Etihad, United, Delta – all of which have launched products in the last few years – are now steering towards this seat configuration, which allows for more intimacy for travelling partners, and increased privacy for solo travellers. Optima seems well positioned to be a success in the market, and we look forward to seeing the orders flow in over the years to come.


Posted by:Jonny Clark

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