Satu Dahl explores the latest developments in the aircraft seating sector, including a personal protection window designed by RAS Completions, Emirates’ premium economy seat and JetBlue’s VantageSOLO by Thompson Aero Seating 

    [This feature first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of Aircraft Cabin Management, which you can read in full here.]

    Research by the University of Edinburgh and the city’s Heriot-Watt University has revealed using airline seat shields and face masks together is a smart way to fly during the coronavirus crisis. Individually, face masks and shields allow leakage of fluid particles, particularly if worn incorrectly, or if the user is breathing heavily or coughing. However, when face masks are used in addition to personal protection seat shields, the risk of Covid-19 contamination falls significantly.

    RAS Completions’ Personal Protection Windows (PPWs) – biosecurity shields that allow airlines to keep the middle seat available for passengers – are generating industry buzz. PPWs are made from transparent polycarbonate and fix to the back and sides of seats to protect passengers from lateral person-to-person droplet transmission.

    Roger Patron, business development manager at the London Biggin Hill Airport-based company, explains more about the PPW design process. “We were inspired to create a solution for airlines by the work we were doing early in the pandemic, converting aircraft for medevac use.”

    Patron believes PPWs – already flying with Germany’s Private Wings on 10 Dornier 328 aircraft and being trialled by other airlines – could become a common sight. 

    “Critically, PPWs do not interfere with seat access, even during an emergency,” says Patron. “There’s no need to block or remove the middle seat and there’s no need to modify any seat type or configuration for installation.

    “We’re delighted our PPW has received official certification with our European Union Aviation Safety Agency Part 21J Design Organisation Approval partner GDC Technics.”

    RAS Completions director Russell Pitt adds: “Passenger confidence is key to the recovery of air travel. Protective seat shields will keep people safe and go a long way in encouraging a return to the skies.”

    Andy Patsalides, head of marketing at London Biggin Hill Airport, says: “We’re proud of the work RAS Completions and many of our resident companies have been doing to help get the aviation industry moving again.”

    Emirates’ first premium economy seat

    Emirates luxury seat for Emirates’ first premium economy cabin (pictured above) is a result of a collaboration between Recaro and the airline. Recaro says that trim- and finish-wise, the ergonomic PL3530 seat sets a new standard in premium economy. 

    With the airline’s origins in mind, the PL3530 design team has prioritised state-of-the-art features and combined it with the spirit of Dubai. The seat, complete with a one-of-a-kind stitching, features a bronze trim, a distinct finish and a cream-coloured leather dress cover.

    “I am very honoured that we have been selected to equip the long-range aircraft of Emirates with our premium economy seat,” said Dr Mark Hiller, CEO and shareholder at Recaro Aircraft Seating. “We set out to build a seat with a premium touch and feel, and it has been a great pleasure for the whole Recaro team. We are grateful for the trust Emirates has put into our knowhow and look forward to continuing our successful partnership.”

    Deliveries of the seats began in late 2020 and at least 250 shipsets will ultimately be installed on Emirates’ fleet. The new seat pulls from its automotive German heritage by offering a wider backrest with side support and its ergonomics offers comfort with its recline and movable calf rest enabling a highly relaxed lazy position. The seat was designed with a focus on functionality, ergonomics and aesthetics, with additional storage compartments and six-way adjustable headrests also maximising sleeping comfort.

    “It was a delight to partner with Recaro on our premium economy seats,” Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates noted. “Emirates’ specifications are always bespoke and of the highest quality, and the team at Recaro did a remarkable job in bringing to life our requirements.”

    Marvellous mint

    JetBlue unveiled a refreshed version of its Mint experience in early February. The new Mint business class cabin onboard the carrier’s A321neo features a bespoke version of VantageSOLO by Thompson Aero Seating – the world’s first fully flat bed for single-aisle aircraft according to the company. 

    JetBlue will be launching its highly anticipated London flights this summer, with passengers getting to experience the overhauled Mint onboard. A smaller layout will also debut on a limited number of flights between New York and Los Angeles this year. 

    “Mint was an idea to make premium travel across the US less stuffy and more affordable, and its performance has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations of going beyond New York, LA and San Francisco,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue. “It’s remarkable how Mint’s thoughtful design has resonated with customers as we successfully grew it to more than 30 routes. We put our heart into this redesign and were inspired by our vision of offering customers an exceptional experience at a lower fare – which is what JetBlue is all about.”

    Thompson Aero Seating says the VantageSOLO was developed in response to the rapidly emerging medium- to long-range market now being serviced by new-generation single-aisle aircraft. JetBlue awarded the programme to Thompson Aero Seating at the end of 2016 and the company has been working with the JetBlue team since then to realise a fully bespoke version of the VantageSOLO seat – including suite doors for all seats, resulting in the first all-suite-door business-class cabin on an A321. 

    Driving a sustainable cabin 

    Last year was a tough year for every industry, but one airline has decided to not let the quietness bring them down. Instead, Wizz Air focused on sourcing the most environmentally friendly solutions for its new fleet to be able to offer their passengers the most sustainable option when life restarts again. 

    The carrier’s aim is to be the greenest choice in air travel. It has reduced its carbon footprint by utilising efficient Airbus aircraft and prioritising sustainable, lightweight products for its cabins among all Airbus 320 family operators. Selecting new economy class seat with recycled leather upholstery from ELeather was the obvious choice.  

    The seat is extremely light, weighing approximately eight kilograms. The design is efficient and durable, and it’s the cost-effective solution for airlines interested in minimising fuel and maintenance costs. ELeather materials are lightweight, extremely durable and inherently easy to maintain, making the combination of seat and cover a perfect match for Wizz Air. “ELeather is proud to be part of this project, helping Wizz Air achieve its sustainability ambitions,” said John Kennedy, CEO, ELeather.

    The airline started flying with ELeather covers almost ten years ago as it was looking for ways to save weight. ELeather’s engineered leather has been the material of choice as Wizz Air’s fleet grew, and during the company’s rebrand in 2015 introduced a fresh, new look. By 2018, Wizz Air had 100 aircraft within its fleet. In 2019, it was hailed as the airline with the smallest environmental footprint per passenger in Europe. 

    “Wizz Air is one of our longest-standing customers. This new deal marks almost a decade working together. We’ve always been proud to partner with brands that have strong environmental agendas and Wizz Air is a great example of an airline that takes a more holistic approach selecting sustainable suppliers and their products,” said Kennedy.

    ELeather seat material is made using recycled leather content and designed to increase performance while achieving a significantly lower environmental footprint. It’s fully customisable and engineered to deliver better experiences while reducing maintenance needs. 

    In line with increased sanitisation requirements, ELeather materials have been UVC certified and evaluated against compatibility of commonly used sanitising products. 

    The company is launching its next generation material, Essence, in the coming weeks. Essence is said to be a game changer – a material made to protect and perform. 

    Lightweight innovation

    Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC has selected the French aircraft seat manu-facturer Expliseat to develop a family of lightweight economy seats for COMAC’s new ARJ21 aircraft. 

    Expliseat, co-founded in 2011, specialises in the manufacturing of ultralight aircraft seats. It’s TiSeat has been widely adopted by airlines and manufacturers, including Air Tahiti, Air Caraïbes, Dassault, ATR and Bombardier.

     The new seat is based on the latest TiSeat E2 seat platform in carbon fiber composite and titanium. Due to its unique patented modular design and Expliseat leading-edge development process, Expliseat has been successful in certifying the seat on various aircraft platforms in record time. COMAC will benefit from an ultralight custom seat adjusted to the ARJ21 dimensions to offer best space and comfort for passengers, even in the most densified configurations.

     An Expliseat spokesperson provided more insight on the deal. “On the ARJ21, we help COMAC to save more than 500kg on the aircraft. This gain is directly translated into additional range, more passengers and cargo capacity, less refuelling or better operational margin on West China secondary airports that have short runways or hot and high conditions – a key advantage for the most popular regional jet with 40 aircraft flying and more than 200 aircraft on order.”

    The spokesperson continued: “COMAC also benefits from Expliseat’s leading expertise in the regional market. TiSeats have already convinced popular regional aircraft OEMs like ATR or De Havilland Canada in their ambitious plan to deliver high-revenue cabins that can offer more pax with best passenger comfort and optimum aircraft performance. The success and great customer feedback of the 90 pax Dash 8-400 cabin with SpiceJet is a great example and, today, more than 15 customers have already been converted to Expliseat’s technology.”

    Besides weight and aircraft performance, by selecting TiSeat E2, the company spokesperson says its latest seat model will enable COMAC to offer the best passenger experience to its customers. “It includes a generous quantity of high resilience foams and extra support for flights up to 7h, extra legroom with +2’’ at knee level, 5’’ recline mechanism or extra features such as USB ports on the seat – the same level of comfort and features that are already available on TiSeat E2 seats for narrowbody aircraft such as the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 family.”

    In this project, COMAC is also acting green. TiSeats are made of high-performance materials to reduce weight and therefore carbon emissions. “With no corrosion, fewer parts and no plastic, we also increase life cycle and reduce maintenance cost by 90 per cent. 

    “To finish, Expliseat is the only aerospace supplier to use recycled carbon fiber on an aircraft. This unique patented technology is helping Expliseat to keep the technology competitive and reduce waste and carbon footprint,” the spokesperson sums up.

    MRO Americas 2021