Thompson Aero Cozy Suite.

Thompson Aero Cozy Suite.

Thompson Aero Cozy Suite.

Thompson Aero Cozy Suite.

Thompson Aero Cozy Suite.

The Cozy Suite by independent seating manufacturer Thompson Aero Seating of Northern Ireland is a brilliant idea that rethinks economy seating without sacrificing the passenger experience for anyone — including the person stuck in the middle seat.

Because of its clever staggered design, airlines can fit more passengers in the Economy cabin while each passenger in a triple enjoys a greater sense of separation with room to stretch out in both directions. Getting in and out of a Cozy Suite is easier than in conventional triple economy seating—though it may not appear so until you get used to the idea that you’re not going in a straight line.

The retracting bottom makes getting in and out less awkward, whether you’re seated at the window, aisle or the middle. The seats have a hard back shell which prevent anyone behind you from upsetting your rest (think kids). When you recline you recline forward as much as you want and no one is likely to cast a beverage in your direction.

The tray table is twice folding, so you can use half of it for beverage and snack, or unfold it completely to enjoy a meal or get to work on that spreadsheet. It is designed to accommodate state-the-art Economy inflight-entertainment (IFE) with high-definition screens, handy controls and power outlets.

But it’s the middle seat we want to focus on, because that is where the Cozy really works its magic. The side headrests allow you to sleep leaning against a soft-surface instead of a stranger’s shoulder. It also comes with double “S” armrests in the middle, letting each passenger rest both arms without the awkwardness of figuring out the etiquette on sharing. The simple mesh under the lateral headrest enhances the sense of separation and lets through plenty of light. As a result, you feel cocooned but never trapped. All these features benefit the three people seated, but especially the person in the middle.

Thompson Aero Cozy Suite/FCMedia

Thompson Aero Cozy Suite/FCMedia

We’ve Seen and Heard This Before

The problem is that Thompson’s Cozy Suite has been around without taking off since 2008, unfortunate timing with the financial crisis. The Cozy then was too far ahead of its time—too different from everything else out there for airlines and passengers to wrap their minds around its promise. That might still be true.

This year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo brought promising innovations, like the Jazz seat with its high-tech distractions, and more predictable slim seating solutions. While slim seating seems the natural choice for risk-averse airlines, it increasingly irritates passengers. This aggression factor may not influence all airlines’ purchasing decisions, but maybe it should.

The Economy cabin is quickly reaching the limits of slim. Many would say it’s already passed that point. Maintaining profitable airlines to ensure continued service, while meeting the unprecedented demand for air travel over the coming decades–and avoiding a dangerously clogged-up airspace–requires larger planes with more seats in them. It’s that simple. The time to rethink cabin design is five years ago. Aviation has lots of catching up to do.

But the most convincing factor in favor of the Cozy is the market entry of similar competition. One wild idea could be ignored, but when others appear a whiff of change is in the air.

Thompson’s charming Executive Chairman, Sam Rusk, believes the time for Cozy is now. He says the Cozy Suite is very near taking flight. Very very near. Soon like. He won’t give more details, but he really is too nice a man to call him out on hot air and burst his balloon.

Besides, this balloon—in some form or other—could finally rise to the heights of its aspirations.

Photo Credit: Thompson Aeronautic's CozySuite Economy seating. FC Media