Is This The Worst (& Strangest) New Business Class Seat?

It’s amazing the amount of innovation we’ve seen the past decade with international business class seats. Some international business class seats today look a lot like top international first class products did a decade ago.

Perhaps the most reliable and consistent new business class hard product is a reverse herringbone seat, where each seat has direct aisle access.

American-Business-Class

However, we’ve seen some innovative other new products as well. Earlier in the year I flew in an Apex Suite for the first time, a product that’s available on select Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and Oman Air planes.

Oman-Air-787-Business-Class - 5

The window seats in this configuration are probably the all round best business class hard product, as they feature unrivaled privacy and personal space.

Oman-Air-787-Business-Class - 12

Well, this morning I flew Royal Air Maroc from Doha to Casablanca, a flight that was operated by a 787 with their new business class product. I’ll have more thoughts on the actual flight shortly, but in the meantime I want to talk about the seat as such.

As far as I know, Royal Air Maroc is one of only two airlines with this type of seat. The other airline is Philippine Airlines, which has this seat on select A330 aircraft.

I’d like to nominate this seat as the worst new business class seat out there. Don’t get me wrong, I still felt very fortunate to have a flat bed, and it wasn’t actively uncomfortable. However, it was such a unique seat, so it’s clear a lot of effort was put into its production… but it’s just so poorly executed.

The cabin is in a 2-2-2 configuration, with a total of 18 business class seats between doors one and two.

Royal-Air-Maroc-Business-Class - 1

Royal-Air-Maroc-Business-Class - 2

Up until now the seats may look pretty standard, but this is where things get bizarre.

Royal-Air-Maroc-Business-Class - 3

Take a look at the footrests. Notice anything unusual?

Royal-Air-Maroc-Business-Class - 4

Here’s a closer look:

Royal-Air-Maroc-Business-Class - 5

The seats recline to different levels, so the window seat in bed mode is about a foot higher than the aisle seat.

Royal-Air-Maroc-Business-Class - 6

Royal-Air-Maroc-Business-Class - 7

What’s wrong with the seat?

  • The second you start reclining, the aisle seat lowers and the window seat raises, meaning you can’t recline the seat at all while using the tray table
  • For the “top” seats, you can’t place your feet on the ottoman unless you’re fully flat, given how high the ottoman is; while slightly better in the “bottom” seats, it’s still not very comfortable to put your feet up unless you’re reclined
  • There’s no place you can just place a beverage, aside from the leather armrest
  • The seats lack padding
  • If you’re in the window seat and reclined, it’s almost impossible to get out if the aisle seat is reclined as well, since there’s no gap between seats in bed mode
  • While the tray table slides, there’s only one position it can be in where it’s “secured” (otherwise it’s flimsy and not stable)
  • It would be really awkward to sleep next to a stranger in this configuration, given that your legs are so close together, and the person in the window is almost looking down at the person in the aisle seat
  • You have to angle your legs in order to fit them into the foot area, and the seat overall is very narrow

Bottom line

This seat is so unique, yet one of the least functional seats I’ve seen. It seems to take the worst of existing seats, rather than the best. I don’t know what the seat designed was thinking when they designed this seat. I guess I’m not surprised that only two airlines have ordered this seat (as far as I know).

I believe this is intended to be an efficient and high density configuration, but I’m not sure that’s the case in practice.

Oman Air has the same number of Apex Suites in the same area on their 787s…

Oman-Air-787-Business-Class - 3

Avianca even manages to fit 20 reverse herringbone seats in the same space on their 787s…

Avianca-787-Business-Class - 9

Stay tuned for more on Royal Air Maroc, which I was pleasantly surprised by overall. But this seat… well, not so much.

Comments

  1. Well Japan Airlines’ Sky Suite III available on retrofitted B777-200ER got the same concept but in your favourite reverse herringbone layout. This applies to centre pair seats only. By doing this, JAL was able to squeeze one more row into their Business Class cabin, being the aircraft is mainly used for medium haul flights. They have direct aisle access for everyone and with sufficient storage space.

  2. Look at the newly configured JAL 777-200s.
    On the surface they look like 1-2-1 reverse herringbone seats but the two seats in centre recline to different levels.
    As JAL has superior business class products on 77W etc I don’t know why they even bother to introduce a sixth(?) type of business class seats.

  3. Its seems like one of those things where they’ve done it because they can without it having any use at all.

  4. Given the choice which seat would you select? The lower or the higher one? I’d think the lower one would be more affected by the foot traffic than the higher one so my preference would be for the higher one.

  5. This the time when you just want to go up to
    person who designed and allowed this and hit him/her so hard that their head spins. As persident Trump just said it.

    Same when I used to fly the northwest’s A330 business seat that flattened out but reclined only partially. You slowly found yourself sliding down to foot area. Every time on that seat, i was imagening myself just asking the person designed /allowed that seat to be used “wtf were you thinking” ?

  6. Perhaps the difference in height is somewhat done on purpose? So that the window person can climb over the aisle person a little easier.

    But I agree, it does seem pretty poorly designed, and whoever designed it clearly have never tried it out themselves

  7. It is fascinating that these designs are created. You would imagine that there must be some amount of focus-grouping or testing done before these things get mass-produced. I’d love to see the feedback that come out along the way.

    Of course even the “big” airlines (looking at you LH, and UA) are still installing head-scratching business class products.

  8. I’d guess that the design was an attempt to avoid infringing someone else’s patent. Anyone’s guess why AT and PR bought the seat, but I’d imagine price was a factor. Any idea who manufactured it?

  9. It’s certainly unique! Quick question — you wrote “The second you start reclining, the aisle seat lowers and the window seat raises, meaning you can’t recline the seat at all while using the tray table.”
    Does that mean it’s not possible to have the window seat in upright position while the aisle seat is in flatbed position?
    The only pro I can think of for this seat configuration is that it’ll be easier for the window passenger to go to the bathroom without waking up the aisle passenger.
    Also, can you move the TV/IFE screen up or down? Would it be possible to watch a movie while the seat is in flatbed position?

  10. Does Royal Air Maroc have lavs ahead of door 2? If so, it’s not really a like-for-like use of space vs Avianca and Oman Air, which don’t.

    That said I do agree it doesn’t seem to be worth the awkwardness of this seat even if it does fit a few more seats on the plane. Thai manages to fit 24 BE Diamond (not Super Diamond) seats in the same space, which offers a similar functional experience as this seat (forward facing, non direct aisle access flat bed) but with much less awkwardness.

  11. Philippine Airlines have these seats on select A330’s but without the PTV’s. Just a barebone basically but will soon change once they upgrade their seats with PTV’s.. Their 777’s a regular 2-3-2 seating with PTV’s, and their A32X’s have 2-2 seats.

  12. I think it comes down to cost as other types of configuration cost too much for the two airlines to afford especially PH airlines where most of its planes are high density and anything with a business class seats are a luxury to their flyers

  13. You can see in the second picture from the Maroc 787 that they do indeed have both lavatories and storage / galley space between the business cabin and door 2, meaning business class occupies a smaller space than on Oman Air’s Dreamliner, so 18 Apex Suites definitely would not fit.

    Completely agree with Bgriff though, fitting more conventional Diamond seats seems like it would have been a more sensible option. Perhaps these seats were cheaper? More readily available? Or perhaps they really do make getting out of a window seat much easier?

  14. That seat looks unique, let’s just say. That said, I flew royal air matic a few years ago from cmn to ams and got an op-up while boarding. Pleasantly surprised by the quality of service. Good meal and attentive device all the way. No complaints.

  15. I assume they both bought the seats for a cheap price and have no intentions to be the best airline in the region. They are probably happy with their place in the market and aren’t fussed with what their competitors are doing. They’re still able to offer fully flat seats on a dreamliner.

  16. The seats are designed that way that when you roll off lucky from window bed your dik will land directly inside a hersey highway

  17. I guess the question is whether if you are a “top” or “bottom” kind of person. Hmmm 🙂

  18. Weird. How would you get back into bed in the aisle seat if you had gone to the loo in the middle of the night? Come to that – you’d take your life in your hands trying to go in the first place. This is even more cumbersome that Club World.

  19. One wonders if Royal Air Maroc opted for this seat because it was an epic design fail and, consequently, really, really, cheap. I’m always amazed when these expensive seats–even the bad ones cost money to design and make–have significant design flaws. It’s as if they never have real travelers test them out. Like on Delta’s otherwise decent seats on the 767s. The pockets are totally useless–you can’t fit a laptop or magazine in them.

    I think this also illustrates that with a couple of exceptions it’s generally impossible to have a good 2x2x2 business-class product.

  20. For those that are curious, the type of seat is called “Equinox 3D”, manufactured by Stelia Aerospace (formerly Sogerma).

  21. Hi, rumor in Manila has it that PAL (Philippine airlines) was given a fantastic discount for them. The different between the royal air Maroc version and pal’s versions is the IFE l. When I flew their 330s last month, all of pal’s new 330s have no IFE. J passengers are given an iPad pre loaded with movies. So I’d say the Royal Air Maroc version isn’t the worst out there

  22. No, Lufthansa’s current business class product is manufactured by Pearson Lloyd. In any case, LH’s business class setup has the two foot rests on same level as each other. You could think of it as a variant of the B/E Aerospace Parallel Diamond setup.

    Seems like the Equinox 3D setup is merely to increase foot rest space by stacking one above the other.

  23. I had pretty much the same problem traveling on JAL’s newest business class seat the Sky Suite III. Had thr misfortune on sitting on the ‘higher recline’ seat and which recline in such a high position that it’s impossible to have the traytable out without putting the seat on near complete upright position 🙁 the space between my leg on full recline and the ceiling of the legrest is so small that i can’t even bend my knees even a little. Sheesh, what a design fail… I get the airline’s quest to maximize profit, but it shouldn’t at the expense of a quarter of the passengers in the C class which is supposed to be superior offering…

  24. I actually just flew on the PR (Philippine Airlines) version of this and it was the most awkward airline seat I have ever been on. Seated in a window seat, when I adjusted it to recline I felt like I could be seen by the entire cabin. There was absolutely no storage, no drinks tray, and to top it all off no IFE. I’d love to see Lucky do a review on this one as I’m sure it will be a laugh.

    This product is way worse than their 777-300ER ones which are angle-flat (and believe me I hate those), and was commissioned by their previous owner when he tried to complete with 5J (Cebu Pacific) which is an ULC airline for domestic and regional routes. But with new ownership (who was actually the owner who sold the airline to the one he bought it back from), they are planning on replacing this product with a new one to coincide with their A350-900 debuts, so fingers crossed.

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