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British Airways has filed a patent application for a number of seating innovations which could revolutionize the design of aircraft cabins.
The airline known for establishing new standards in comfort — the first to introduce full lie-flat seats in First class and Business class cabins — has of late fallen a bit behind its peers, particularly in its Business class product. But, as we’ve learned, the airline has only been biding its time and working behind the scenes not just to catch up but to leap far ahead.
Forget the Tetris-style lay-flat seating patent filed last year by British Airways, and accredited to inventor Nigel Goode of Priestmangoode Design, London. That attractive and innovative design may fly, but neither British Airways nor Nigel Goode have yet confirmed it as the airline’s future Business class.
A more recent patent application, accredited to Peter Cooke, Design Lead at British Airways, points in several very different directions.
A complex set of cabin innovations presented in the patent application include a revolutionary seat fastening system for the cabin floor which allows for more flexible cabin configurations. This is far more exciting for those of us who geek-out on cabin certification than it is for passengers, but it hints at British Airway’s willingness to think beyond a cabin strictly divided by class. With these unique flooring fasteners, a variety of seat structures could be placed together in the same cabin space.
The design of new reclining economy seats illustrated in the patent feel more like modern Scandinavian design chaises than any of the number of similar economy seats in the market.
Forward-aft facing seat pairs could be offered as an attractive Premium economy product.
Both promise privacy screens incorporated into the headrest.
Family and meeting private cabins feature in the patent proposal, allowing passengers traveling in groups to sit on opposite sides of a table either to be entertained together, or to hash-out strategy in preparation for that critical meeting.
The Business class suites in this concept are forward/aft facing, resulting in a denser cabin which still offers generous personal space. Passengers could enjoy the full privacy afforded by the screen between suites, or enjoy conversation with travel companions by lowering this divider.
All of the concepts presented by British Airways in this latest patent application show the airline is willing to think differently about the on-board experience, balancing personal space with a sense of community.
Whenever new cabin concepts appear on our radar, we must warn that the final product might differ and that the product presented may not even fly. But we sure hope these do.
If British Airways introduces even one of these proposed cabin products to its fleet, it will once again have set a high bar, just as it did in the 1990s. Competitors will have to put a spring in their step to catch up.