Continental Airlines is set to join the ranks of carriers offering fully-flat seating, with the launch of its new BusinessFirst product.
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 planes.
For more details, go to continental.com.
Report by Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker
Pictures of the new Continental fully-flat product