Let’s face it, airline cabins are becoming more and more familiar, the day of being surprised when walking onboard is almost over. The era of innovation that saw all-aisle access, private suites, and fully flat beds in business class – which first blossomed some twenty years ago – has seemingly settled into a plateau that designers, passengers and airlines seem reluctant to climb away from.

Stelia Aerospace’s latest product, Rendez-vouz, is the last of a small chain of recent seat designs that all reflect this evident ceiling. Designers opting to refine existing LOPAs and seat constructions, squeezing out the last few inches through smarter technology and engineering. We’re left in Business Class with a sea of options from each seat manufacturer ranging from herringbone to forward facing, staggered, and rear/forward facing seat pairs.

Ironically the race for innovation from seat manufacturers and design firms to win market share has meant airline’s catalogues are filled with very similar products. The only real differences to airlines can now be seen in price and supply chains, and for passengers, it’s just about trim and finish. But is this a bad thing? Well, not for the moment. If we’re honest, all of us have seen posts on social media from passengers who are still navigating and starting to understand these products, some of which have been in the market for longer than a decade. It will come as a shock to many that the QSuite was launched over 5 years ago now. The truth is, that as passenger demographics are changing post-pandemic, and because there’s an influx of premium leisure passengers, there’s less need to innovate to delight and win over high fare paying business travellers in the short term.

So instead of highly expensive new seat types, it’s easier to reskin, rebrand and remodel existing products – and while Stelia haven’t alluded to it – it’s clear to see the lineage from the original Solstys seats that were one of the first all-aisle access products on the market.

In fact, from these renders, you could say there’s little difference from Qatar Airways’ QSuites, albeit that these are a staggered forward-facing product rather than the forward/rear facing product that QSuite offers. There’s also similarity to LATAM’s Business Class product, or going back further, Asiana, Thai Airways, Iberia or even Etihad’s older products, but what Stelia have done here, is maximise on personal space by removing some of the bulky seat architecture.

In fact, Stelia is hoping to follow the paired back approach Finnair took with its latest Business Class product. Integrating the backrest into the back shell, Rendez-vous provides passengers with a sofa-like feel with no constraints in terms of position due to headrest or armrests.

What is interesting is that the seat manufacturer has utilised the same naming architecture that popular culture, bloggers and journalists (including myself) have dubbed the different seating pairs. “Available in both a ‘Solo’ and ‘Honeymoon’ configuration to meet the needs of all types of passenger experience – high level business trip or luxury leisure travel – Rendez-vous offers many other features that optimise comfort,” states Stelia’s media release.

“When you’re travelling far, thousands of miles from home, all you desire is to feel like you would at home. With Rendez-vous, our brand new Business Class staggered seat presenting a unique sofa seating comfort, airlines can offer their passengers an outstanding travel experience with a perfect ‘at home’ feeling while flying” said Thierry Kanengieser, VP Cabin Interior Stelia Aerospace. 

It’s clear to see that Stelia isn’t re-writing the rule book when it comes to Business Class, but what it is doing, is learning on its previous products and offering a very competitive product for the future. After all, it ticks every box, and delivers more for passengers than it’s been able to do in the past.  

Posted by:Jonny Clark

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