Features

Business class seat guide

16 Jan 2019 by BusinessTraveller
Polaris business class on United's B787-10

Every airline that flies long-haul regards its business class seats as its premium offering. Some of these airlines have first class, but this is increasingly rare, and business class is where the real money is made, not least because there are many more business class seats on the aircraft.

There are several different styles of business class seating, but once airlines had decided that passengers were demanding seats which reclined into fully-flat beds, the majority of manufacturers went to one of the major seat manufacturers and adapted their off-the-shelf products rather than designing a seat from scratch.

What that means is you will find versions of the same seat on many airlines. Some make major changes, some make minor ones, and of course the exact specifications change not only from one airline to another, but also from one aircraft type to another. In addition, some airlines will have one type of seat on one aircraft type, and a completely different type on another.

Nevertheless, here’s our guide to long-haul business class, and we’ll keep updating it as new developments occur. 

Apex seat

Originally designed by B/E Aerospace (later acquired by Rockwell Collins), the Apex seat has a staggered formation allowing it to be both fully-flat and give direct aisle access. This differs from the Thompson Vantage XL design because as you recline your feet do not disappear ‘under’ the table in front of you. It is thus a less dense configuration.

It’s used by Korean, Oman Air, and you can read a review of it (in the form of the SkySuite) on Japan Airlines here.

Cirrus seat

Originally made by Zodiac Aerospace, now acquired by Safran Seats, the Cirrus has become one of the best known (and liked) business class seats. There are different variations of it since it debuted with US Airways (remember them?) back in 2009,

All the versions offer fully-flat beds and direct aisle access, and are in a 1-2-1 configuration, though some offer more room than others as airlines choose to increase the density of the seating with small adjustments.

In addition, some have backward facing seats (see the American Airlines review below) while others have what is called Reverse Herringbone – which is when the window seats actually face the windows.

American Airlines -Business-Cabin-B777

Find it on:

  • Air France B777-300ER – The airline took a long time to go fully-flat in business class, and still hasn’t completed the retrofit. Where you do find the new seat, it is the Cirrus one in a forward-facing reverse herringbone formation. Our most recent review was in 2017
  • American Airlines  American has versions of the Cirrus seat on its B777-200, B777-300ER and even its A321 services (though these are termed First rather than business). We discussed some of the different configurations of the Cirrus seat across American’s fleet here
  • Cathay Pacific – Cathay has the Cirrus on its B777-300ER aircraft and its A350 fleet, though these have been plagued with reliability problems from launch. Note that there is a different regional business class. This review also has links through to the A350 flights
  • Delta – While Delta’s A350s and, increasingly, its 777s, feature the Delta One suite, we recently reviewed the Cirrus seat on its A330-200
Delta-One-Seats
  • Finnair – Finnair has the seat on its A350-900 fleet. You can read about the introduction if it here, and a review here
  • KLM – KLM has versions of the Cirrus seat on all its long haul fleet. We reported on the arrival of its new B787-9s back in 2015
  • Japan Airlines – JAL has the seat on its 777-200ERs and 787-9s is technically a Zodiac Aries, but provides all-but the same passenger experience
  • Vietnam Airlines – Vietnam Airlines offers a traditional herringbone configuration, with outside seats angled towards the window and middle seats positioned inwards. Note that Vietnam has two different designs for its new long haul aircraft – for the B787 it has gone for the Cirrus, and you can read a review here

Stelia Solstys seat

This seat, now manufactured by Stelia Aerospace, offers a fully-flat bed and direct aisle access but has some added quirks. It has a staggered design, so your feet are under the fully enclosed table of the seat in front of you when reclined.

Solstys seats

Find it on:

  • Emirates – Emirates has a number of different seats on its aircraft, but on its A380s it has a version of this seat. Read our thoughts from the launch here.
  • Etihad – Etihad is upgrading its business class seats, but to read about its version of the seat, which included both forward and backward facing configuration, see this review
  • Iberia – Iberia received its new A350s in 2018, which feature the Stelia Solstys in business class

Similarly…

Stelia also makes a seat called the Solstys III. You can find it on Singapore Airlines’ 787-10 Dreamliner, which we previewed here.

And Turkish Airlines is taking a tailored version of the Solstys III seat (under the name ‘Aurora’) for its forthcoming B787-9 and A350-900 aircraft.

Singapore Airlines' Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner regional business class

Super Diamond

Owned by Collins Aerospace, the Super Diamond seat has proved successful for airlines around the world, offering direct aisle access in a herringbone configuration. The seat features a comfortable 78-inch fully-flat bed (on most airlines) with fully customisable positions.

Find it on:

  • Air China – You can see some pictures here, though we haven’t reviewed the seat yet
  • British Airways – This is the seat chosen by British Airways for its new Club Suite, and it has been made “bespoke” by the addition of doors (the first time the Super Diamond has had doors attached, at least to our knowledge). Read about the launch here, our virtual reality experience of the seat here, or check out our Instagram video at @businesstravelleruk
  • China Airlines – A350-900, read our review here
China Airlines A350 business class
  • Hainan – You can read about it in this piece – Hainan Airlines unveils new A330-300
  • Hong Kong Airlines – If you want to see a great example of the Rockwell Collins Super Diamond seat, this is a good one First look: Hong Kong Airlines debuts new A350 business class seat
  • Qatar Airways – A majority of Qatar’s seats on its A350 and 787 aircraft are the Super Diamond seat, though not its new QSuite (which we reviewed here) and which is also Rockwell Collins
  • Westjet – Despite Westjet’s reputation as a Canadian budget carrier, its version is probably the best example of this seat. The cabin, designed by Priestmangoode, has only 16 of the seats laid out in the Super Diamond’s 1-2-1 configuration, with adjustable screens separating the two centre seats. 
Westjet B787-9 Dreamliner business class

Optima seat

The Optima is a clever concept by Acumen Design Associates and Priestmangoode, manufactured by Safran Seats. It can be found on United’s B777-300ER and B767-300 under the name Polaris. United is adding, on average, one aircraft with Polaris seating every ten days from now through to 2020. The business class cabin is laid out across two sections in a 1-2-1 formation. Odd-number rows have forward-facing seats separated from the aisle by a side table, affording more privacy, while even-number rows are angled towards the aisle in a herringbone formation.

To read a recent review of it, see:

Flight review: United Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Polaris business class

And to read about the thinking behind the new seat, and other new seats such as the QSuite, see this piece:

Business class: creating the perfect seat

Thompson Vantage XL seat

The Thompson Vantage seat (to give it its full name) is in a staggered formation allowing both direct aisle access but also fully-flat beds.

Some are marginally further from the aisle than others. It achieves this by having the footrest under the fully-enclosed table of the seat in front. This means that each passenger is either next to the aisle, or separated from the aisle by a side table. As a result, the cabin has quite a few quirks in its layout, not least the 1-2-1 and then 1-2-2 configuration of the rows.

Thompson-Vantage-XL-seats

You can see an example of how this works in a video we did on the Malaysia Airlines A350:

Find it on:

Other seats

Well, yes, there are a lot of other one-off seats, from the outstanding such as the Rockwell Collins-manufactured Qsuite through to…. well, let’s not end on a negative note.

But just as commercial aircraft manufacturing is dominated by just a few players (two, actually), so seat manufacturing has come to be consolidated. It doesn’t mean that in the future all business class seats will be the same, but it does mean they will increasingly look familiar.

We’ll be looking out for the following seats in the near future:

Aer Lingus will have Thompson Aero Vantage seats on its long-haul narrow-body aircraft arriving in 2019.

KLM will launch Jamco’s Venture business class seat on the eight B787-10 Dreamliners joining its fleet from June.

American Airlines will feature the Super Diamond on forthcoming retrofits and deliveries.

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