Airlines could recreate a supreme home comfort at 35,000 feet and cut the cost of flying business class in one fell swoop with the introduction of a new chair design.
Airbus revealed its plans for a sofa-style seat dubbed the "Settee Corner" concept at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, suggesting that its collaboration with Italian seating designer Geven could be the future of premium travel.
The sofa, which looks like three seats fused together with a slight curve, would be developed to fit inside Airbus' A320 aircraft. An updated version of the plane - the A320neo and its larger sibling, the A321neo - are being marketed as efficient aircraft for short and mid-haul travel.
"We've got all the features that you would find in a business class seat," Airbus's business line leader for tailored equipment Amalia Martinez Martin said, highlighting a TV screen, overhead locker, dining tray and opportunity to recline (as long as you measure below six foot).
A seat at one end of the sofa, which would accommodate two people sat upright, is fitted with a seatbelt for take-off and landing.
The key benefits of the Settee Corner are that it is up to 50 per cent lighter than a traditional business class seat - which in turn could reduce operating costs - and can be fitted into existing Airbus A320 family aircraft, the same models used by Easyjet on its short-haul flights.
Airbus would hope that airlines purchasing its updated versions of the A320 planes, which might be used on flights to the US east coast, might consider such lightweight business class seats.
"We need to have comfort in business class, a lie-flat surface, but with very competitive weight," Martinez Martin told CNN.
The length of the seats could stretch up to 195 cms; the mock-up at Hamburg was 185cm, the same lie-flat space offered in Airbus' traditional business class seat. To add additional privacy, a curtain could be installed between the seat and the aisle.
"You feel like being at home in your own lounge," said Martinez Martin. Some of the airlines are crazy about it because… they are always looking for how to make a better business of their aircraft."
Airbus said the seat will be available in its airline catalogue by 2021 but no carrier has yet committed to an order.
Another Airbus innovation to have its time in the spotlight in Hamburg this year was the concept of introducing bunk-bed compartments in the storage areas of aircraft.
The Telegraph, London