As mentioned last week, and first revealed by Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, Emirates Airline is finally ready to make its move revolutionising the passenger experience. It’s obviously used its time well to come up with a whopper of a wallop. But what does it mean for the industry going forward? Is it really a game changer?

Falling into the new seat category which AII has appropriately dubbed ‘super business class’, Emirates says the design of the new Business Class seat is “inspired by the interior of a modern sports car, captured in the diamond stick pattern of a light grey full leather cover, ergonomically designed headrest, and its sleek overall look and feel.”

Well, that just sounds lovely. I don’t know about you, but I can hear Ricardo Montalbán speaking those words.

While the seat will be formally unveiled at ITB Berlin on March 9-13, and there are no pictures to get our hands on yet (I’ve asked), Emirates has worked to create anticipation by revealing quite a lot about the new executive throne.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • It will fly on Emirates’ new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, with scheduled delivery in November 2016
  • It will have a pitch (legroom) of 72″ and can be converted with electrical controls to an 180º fully-flat bed.
  • It retains “most popular features” of the current Business Class seat on Emirates Boeing 777s
  • Updated seat lay-out (this is particularly important)
  • Minibar
  • One of the industry’s largest personal TV screens: 23″ with latest touch-screen controller system which also controls seat and the airline’s exceptional ice In-Flight Entertainment
  • USB ports for charging devices
  • HDMI port to stream content from personal devices direct to large screen
  • Adjustable lighting for reading and relaxing
  • Custom privacy panel between seats, literature pocket, foot rest, shoe stowage area, and expanded personal meal table.

Emirates also tells us that the seat will be trimmed in “colour tones of dark and light grey, accentuated with burled walnut veneers around the personal inflight flight entertainment screen, centre console, mini-bar and privacy panel, in keeping with the airline’s distinctive cabin interior colour palette.”

I’ve written my take on this palette before. But who am I to tell Emirates what their customers like best? If they’re staying true to this look, I know the airline  well enough to know that they’ve done their homework. Interiors are subjective, tastes vary, and we can’t all be right.

The cabin will retain the 2-3-2 across layout of the current 777 Business class, with 42 seats.

All Emirates’ new 777 aircraft will have these seats installed in future.

They are manufactured by B/E Aerospace at their facilities in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, and North Carolina, U.S..

These are state of the art facilities with very talented designers, engineers, technicians and program managers. I speak from my own experience in this.

“It’s evolution as well as revolution,” said Sir Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airline.

“We are always working towards the next big leap, but at the same time we continually look at the little ways we can enhance what we already offer. We believe this new Business Class seat further strengthens the experience and value proposition for our premium customers. We are very excited about the arrival of our first Boeing 777 later this year with the new seats, and to see how our customers will respond to it, which I’m optimistic will be positive,” he added.

Whatever it looks like, live and in person, we should expect a leap forward in design and a ratcheting-up of what has already been a dizzying escalation in this part of the aircraft over the past 20 years.

TheDesignair says that Qatar Airways is also contemplating a future super business class seat. So it’s on.

What does this all mean? Where is this premium space war headed?

This Business Class boost has implications for First class. That is not news. The evolution of Business class has caught up to First to the point where both terms are meaningless. But I expect a backlash, based on feedback from designers. I don’t mean a backlash from the Economy cabin (though that too, giving birth to the Premium Economy boom).

I mean that First class must get First-ier. There will always be a sector of the flying public in different markets which will hunger for that separation and elite status.

I’ll be writing more about that very, very, very soon.

What to Expect

From here to Wednesday, we are free to speculate. That’s always fun. I’m not suggesting the new Emirates Business Class seat will look like the B/E Aerospace Breakout seat which earned a CORE77 design award nomination (video below). But I do believe that some of the descriptions Emirates has given of its revolutionary seat describe elements of the Breakout design. The mention of an alternative seat lay out and the dining table, for example.

We may indeed see elements of this ambitious seat concept transfer to the new seat on Wednesday.

After all, the designers behind this seat are contributing to the project. So are Emirates’ own expert interiors team. It will be a blending of ideas  will not be a literal transfer of the Breakout by any means.

The 2-3-2 layout might make fitting this seat difficult. It seems more appropriate to a 2-2-2 layout. Still, surprises are the spice of life!

Regrettably, I cannot be both at CAPA Airlines in Transition in Dublin on Wednesday and at ITB Berlin. So I will have to find out just what the seat looks like the rest of the world: when the pictures come out. I will update as soon as I can, not just with pictures but with analysis.

Meanwhile, let’s dream a little. Even if Emirates isn’t the airline to breakout the Breakout, I suspect another airline will get very close soon.

I know based on insight from experts working on projects right now that the front of the plane will never be the same again.

Watch this space!

 


If you will be in Berlin at ITB this coming week from 9-13 March, you can see for yourself what magic Emirates and B/E Aerospace have cooked-up at the at the Emirates exhibition stand in Hall 22a.

 

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