Continental joins flat-bed brigade

29 Jul 2008 by Mark Caswell

Continental Airlines is set to join the ranks of
carriers offering fully-flat seating, with the launch of its new BusinessFirst

Unveiled at the NBTA Convention in Los Angeles
yesterday, the new seat extends to 78 inches in length and has a maximum width
of 25 inches (with the armrests lowered). Other features include a privacy shell
and dividing screen, enhanced storage space and upgraded IFE, including a
15.4-inch seatback screen and iPod dock.

The seat has been two years in development and was
designed by BE Aerospace with input from Continental customers. Larry Kellner,
the carrier’s chairman and CEO, said: “We didn’t
just take US-based frequent flyers, we looked at this globally, because we do a
lot of our business offshore. We redesigned this seat four or five times as we
went through the cycles.”

Continental had intended to launch the product on
its fleet of 787 Dreamliners (25 firm orders, several more optioned), but due to
production delays at Boeing it will now start by retrofitting its 777s. The
first aircraft with the flat-beds will be in service by autumn 2009, and the
product will then be rapidly rolled out across Continental’s 777 and 757 fleets.
(The beds on the 757s will be a couple of inches
shorter than those on the 777s.)

Airline executives stressed that, thanks to the
innovative design of the new product, the number of BusinessFirst seats on its
aircraft would remain constant despite the switch to fully-flat and there would
be no jump in seat prices. Kellner said: “Beyond lie-flat, the biggest thing that came up from our corporate
customers was you’ve got to make sure you stay price-competitive.”

Continental operates 777s from Heathrow to its hubs
in Houston and Newark, and 757s on the Gatwick-Newark route. Some of these
routes are also served by 767s, configured 2-1-2, and here the wait for
fully-flat will be longer, as the new seat can’t be fitted on these

For more details, go to

Report by Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker

Pictures of the new Continental fully-flat product






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