Zodiac Aerospace created what for a long time was the best business class seat in the world, the Cirrus seat which was a reverse herringbone fully flat bed with direct aisle access. Airlines from US Airways to Cathay Pacific, American (on the 777-300ER), EVA Air and Air France made great use of the product.
Cathay Pacific Business Class
The seat maker’s biggest challenge in recent years has been delivering product on time. They blew it with American, lost their contract and were even sued over delays. They fell behind delivering seats for United Polaris, despite earlier assurances that what had happened elsewhere wouldn’t happen to United because of a dedicated product line.
And other seat makers have been delivering quality products. The suites with doors on Delta’s Airbus A350s will be Thompson Vantage XL seats. Virgin Australia uses B/E Aerospace’s Super Diamond seat. So does American now on their 787-9 aircraft and on some Boeing 777-200s. This can be a better seat than Zodiac’s Cirrus product although American blew it by failing to include privacy dividers between their middle seats.
American Airlines Boeing 787-9 B/E Aerospace Super Diamond Seat
Qatar’s new QSuite is probably the best business class product in the world.
Meanwhile Singapore Airlines has a unique business class seat that’s fantastic as a bed, less good for lounging, and that some people complain about having to angle their legs (I recommend bulkhead seats to avoid this issue).
Against that backdrop John Walton talked to Zodiac’s Vice President for Product Strategy about their new Cirrus NG seat.
The seat provides more passenger space than the original version: 15% more ottoman space and 8% more bed space. NG includes an option for a “reversed angle Cirrus Seat” so that the center seats face outwards for more privacy rather than towards each other for passengers traveling together.
It also features two new seating positions, “a ‘body-neutral’ relax position and a ‘meridian sofa’ position.” It has a 15% larger tray table that “folds down and extends from the seatback.”
It’s an evolution on their excellent top end seat, but not a revolution, and they do not appear to be offering a version with doors like Qatar now has and Delta will be introducing.
I just don’t understand how it’s so hard for these companies to manufacture and deliver on these seats?! It’s not like they are producing thousands and thousands of economy seats, we are talking about like 40 biz seats times like 40 planes for one airline (ex. AA).
They are in the business of manufacturing these seats so how can it be so difficult to deliver on 2,000 seats?
@ORD Flyer, manufacturing in A&D can’t be generalized or easily compared to other industries. Issues are not about volume, or lack there of, but of supporting dozens, if not hundreds of bespoke configurations and customizations, and of long, complex supply chains, where most nodes involve human-touch assembly. There is no automated assembly line.
Business class seats are also incredibly complex… comparing them to economy seats is comparing a cheap, canvas beach chair bought at Target with a $10,000 king size bed, complete with frame, box spring, head board, and associated night tables…
An economy seat is, typically, one component (or two perhaps, if equipped with seat back IFE.) A business class seat consists of the seat, the shell around the seat (manufactured separately,) the motors and actuators which power the seats mechanics, plus the control mechanism for those mechanics, plus the IFE (and these are the major components only.)
For the cost of a single seat, one could go out and buy a high end BMW or Mercedes… were talking $50-$100K depending on model and configuration.
This is all not to say that your point isn’t valid. A company whose business is to produce aircraft seats should be able to produce on time as a basic function of their business, and while I won’t go into detail on this forum, there are indeed issues specific to Zodiac which got them into their current mess…
Nevertheless, the design, certification, and manufacturing of these high end seats is complex and costly, and the arms-race pace of innovation we’ve seen in the industry over the last 10 years, while wonderful for the passenger, has put a strain on all manufacturing companies. Rockwell Collins’ B/E Aero may be in a good spot now, but it wasn’t too long ago where they had delays of their own, and while Zodiac has taken the most heat (deservingly) for their problems, they aren’t alone with their issues…