The industry has been mooting the possibility of growth in the long-haul single-aisle market across the past couple of years, however 2020’s pandemic has rapidly escalated this conversation. These narrow body ultra-long-haul aircraft are perfectly suited for a subdued travel market across the next few years, with fewer seats and the ability to connect point-to-point to smaller, more regionalised airports.
But with the narrow-body aircraft comes less space and historically a perception of less comfort. As we covered in our previous article, the Thompson Vantage Solo is one of two new contenders to offer similar propositions of space and hard product benefits that airlines’ traditional wide-body aircraft provide.
Thanks to these new photos and images, we’re able to see some greater detail of the benefits that this particular seat concept provides. Historically herringbone seats like Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class, Jet Airways’ Business Class, and Cathay Pacific’s previous incarnation got mixed reviews, either because of the lack of privacy, lack of a view, or coffin-like proportions. The Vantage Solo does well in fixing these issues, giving back space to the passenger, a window view and privacy thanks to the customisable design features the seat offers.
Every Vantage Solo can also feature suite doors. Right at the front, London-based Factorydesign who originally designed the product used its learnings from its work for China Eastern Airlines to create a ‘First Class for Free’ product, where the very front seats benefit from additional space without loss of cabin capacity.
This mini-cabin of just two seats can be utilised by airlines to either treat top flyers, create a ‘Business Suite’ cabin class offering or even a separate First Class product, which could benefit from differentiated soft products and dining.
Interestingly, while bassinet fixtures can be included in the front row, there’s the possibility of bringing those features to the rear of the business class cabin instead.
These latest designs also feature larger work and table surfaces, something that historically has been missing in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class and Jet Airways’ models. The seats also allow for a larger TV screen, which is now up to 20”, a vast visual real estate considering how far the TV is positioned from the passenger.
While the logical question for most carriers now stands between Stelia’s Opera and Thompson’s Vantage Solo, airlines can squeeze in more seats with Thompson Vantage thanks to its 33inch seat pitch, and this product’s front and rear rows allow for more customization as well. This means that cupboards, walk-up self-service bars and additional bassinet options could all create a real point of difference from their competitors without impacting seat count. After all, spaces to stretch legs, move around the cabin and congregate will still be expected passenger habits on long-haul flights, whether on a wide or narrow-body.
Factorydesign are understandably proud of their concept. “Solo is the first bespoke, optimised business class seat for narrow body aircraft, that offers both lie-flat beds and direct aisle access for every passenger which is the minimum requirement for any contemporary and competitive business class cabin. In 2014, we saw the potential impact of long-range single-aisle aircraft, and the need for airlines to provide passengers with a long-haul business class experience that matched that of a wide-body aircraft.
There are very few ways to achieve this in a tube with one aisle, so we created and designed a bespoke inward facing angled seat, with window furniture, knowing that this would achieve the most-efficient density and the optimal passenger experience and living space. We are thrilled that Thompson Aero shared our belief, and had the vision to develop and market Solo.”
While no airlines have truly released a long-haul narrow body all-aisle-access product so far, the next few years will see a potential explosion in this field, with the early adopters winning valuable market share. After all, post-Covid the forward-facing side-by-side LOPA in business could subconsciously increase anxiety as passengers seek a more private flight experience. In that regard the Vantage Solo certainly ticks all the right boxes.