US Airways Announces an Impressive New International Business Class Seat

US Airways announced this morning that they will be rolling out a nicer, more attractive version of the business class seat that was rumored to be coming back in June. Let’s be honest. You don’t think of luxury product innovation when you think of US Airways, but they appear to have really come through on this one.

The new seat is called the Envoy Suite, and it will first go on the A330-200s that just started coming into the fleet recently. This makes sense because those are the ones deployed on the longest-haul flights to places like Tel Aviv and, eventually, Tokyo. By Fall of 2010, the existing A330-200s will be refitted with the new seat, designed by SICMA, and all future deliveries will have it as well.

New US Airways Business Class Seat

The seat itself is in a reverse herringbone style with a 1-2-1 layout. So instead of your back against the wall looking toward the aisle like in a herringbone, your back is against the aisle looking toward the window or middle. So if you’re sitting in the window, it provides a fantastic view. If you’re sitting in the middle (what you see in the photo above), there still seems to be enough blocking so that you don’t have to deal with the person next to you.

Now that picture above doesn’t look completely flat to me, but according to US Airways, the seat will go down into a 6’4″ or 6’8″ 180 degree flat bed depending upon which seat you have in the cabin. The seat width is 20.5″ with the armrests up, but when they go down, the width is 25″ for sleeping.

I asked about storage since that is a big problem with many business class seats, and this one doesn’t look much better. There is a bunch of room under the ottoman when you’re in flight, but I believe that won’t be allowed to be used during takeoff and landing. So you’ll need your bin space on this one. I have confirmed that storage underneath the seat will be allowed during takeoff and landing. That’s great.

I was particularly interested in the weight of this seat. My understanding is that the herringbone design is very heavy, because it requires pallets to be secured properly. I have been told, however, that this seat does not require pallets and will only weigh 20 to 30 pounds more than the existing seat.

There are also all the standard amenities. Yes, there is a 110V power outlet, a USB port, and a 12.1″ screen with audio/video on demand. Sounds very good, so why is US Airways doing this? Good question. They’re going to have to lose seats on this plane, because the reverse herringbone takes up more space than the current seats. My guess is that if you think about US Airways and their traffic mix, this may actually make sense.

How many of those business class seats is US Airways selling today? My guess is that there are an overwhelming number of upgrades there. So even though there will be fewer seats going forward, they will probably be able to sell them since they are now competitive on the world stage. That’s really the only reason I can imagine that this would make sense for US Airways to do.

When will we get to see this on the rest of the international fleet? Well you’ll never see it on the 767s. Those will be retired soon enough. The A330-300s, however, will get a new seat but not exactly this one. Apparently it doesn’t quite fit perfectly on the A330 so some tweaking will be required. Once they figure that out, they’ll announce it.

It’s a very big step forward for US Airways, and it should certainly make flying the airline internationally a much nicer experience.

See a video and interactive demo on the new seat

Edited 9/18 @ 327p to change info about storage space


27 Responses to US Airways Announces an Impressive New International Business Class Seat

  1. David SFeastbay says:

    Looks like something you would lay back on at the Dentist office. Where’s the spit bowl?

  2. Trent880 says:

    Requires pallets to be secured properly? Cargo pallets? Or are the seats loaded as pallets?

  3. Rob says:

    Glad to see US finally stepping up their game. Hopefully we’ll see some of this rub off elsewhere in the airline (although I highly doubt it).

    It also looks to be a lot like the new Delta 767 business class seats, except that the controls look to be located in a more convenient position for when you are lying down or in a reclined state.

  4. Erik says:

    I think you might be right about US Air not selling a lot of business class seats. I’ve gotten upgraded automatically on my last few flights (one in May and one coming up on Sunday) and was able to bring a friend up with me on a reasonably crowded Friday afternoon flight.

  5. MS says:

    Dissapointing really. Take a good look. Seat width 20.5 is the about the typical Y/C seat width Ther up and down arm rest really has nothing to do with providing additional width for you when you are in the reclined position, your width restriction is still 20.5. Seat looks very uncomfortable and uninviting. Their loosing seats, decreasing passanger comfort with a narrow seat and the flat beds comfort looks marginal at best. Really looks like a better design and more thought would have produced a better solution. US Airways does seem to be behind the curve on their seating.

    • Steve says:

      The seats are very comfortable and I really enjoy them over anyone else’s seats except Emirates. They are much better than first class and business class on both AA and BA. Good job USAirways

  6. It is refreshing to see a US carrier going for a new and complex business seat. A case of too little too late. if anything, the current crisis has shown us how fickle the darlings (FC and BC passengers) of the Legacy airlines are.All the expenses in certification, installation, maintenance and of course the branding went down the drain as the recession took hold. This left almost 40% of an aircraft practically unmodifiable in terms of seating configurations and arrangements. Legacy airlines have to rethink their First and Business strategies, while the rewards were great when times were good the risks are horrendous now, whole revenue streams dried out and losses mounting.

    What we need as an industry is a more rational approach to comfortable travel that allows airlines a reasonable time to reconfigure aircraft

  7. Nate says:

    So these will work in the A330-200 but NOT the -300??? (( user scratches head ))

  8. Trent880 says:

    MS

    20.5″ is about 2″+ wider than your average Y seat. And coincidentally 2″ wider than EK’s J seat on their A380;-).

  9. Julian says:

    Why do they need a different seat for the 330-300. Both are 330 models so the cabin width is exactly the same.

    Overall US shrinks the premium cabin once again, their standard M.O.

    I’m willing to bet they shrank the cabin just enough to cover paid business as their standard view is that elites are cabin filler and seats should not be added to acoomodate them.

    Delta went out of its way to find a product that added more room and minimally reduced the quantity of seats.

    767 24 to 18
    333 42 to 30 to ?, They might add an extra row since it is a larger aircraft overall, lets go with 24, since the trend is to shrink 28 seats so they can pat themselves on the back for the higher yield.

    My prediction is that US will be the first US based legacy carrier to have a premium cabin under 12 seats for widebody service.

    To those fewer who do fly in this cabin US better offer decent service otherwise my prediction will come to fruition even sooner.

  10. Julian wrote:

    Overall US shrinks the premium cabin once again, their standard M.O.
    I’m willing to bet they shrank the cabin just enough to cover paid business as their standard view is that elites are cabin filler and seats should not be added to acoomodate them.

    Why shouldn’t they sell these seats? Giving it away as an upgrade devalues the price premium for this seat, and makes it harder to sell..

  11. The other thing I think is really interesting is that they put “A Star Alliance Partner” at the end of the video. Perhaps they’re actually going to be part of the Alliance, than just nominally hanging around in it?

  12. I’m not a huge fan of US Airways, but i’ll be interested at what this plane will look like with these new seats! It would be a huge step up from what they’ve got right now! Thanks for the update!

  13. Stephen says:

    Cranky fyi, herringbone seats I’m familiar with don’t have the storage issue you mention for two reasons. 1.) On takeoff/landing/upright position, you can always throw things behind your seat. I put my laptop and stuff there I reach back and use it immediately after takeoff. 2.) There is tons of overhead space, period. All premium cabins (long-haul) have less a problem due to less pax/overhead bin ratio. But I’ve found the herringbone design even more convenient for some reason, it seems like every time I fly I get an overhead bin to myself. This is at least my experience on CX’s herringbone, where they have 4 across for 4 bins (which they have deployed in A330s/340s, plus 777s and 747s), and I am in their long-haul J class usually a few times a month. F is even better (no overhead bins, you have a closet), but that’s another story…

  14. Brendan says:

    (@ Trent880:

    A lot of these suites are attached to what is sort of like a floorboard for the seat. Another way to look at it would be to equate it to attaching the seat to a piece of plywood and then bolting the plywood to the floor. That “second floorboard” (pallet) then attaches to the seat tracks in the actual aircraft structure. It’s used to spread the load and ensure crashworthiness.

  15. CF says:

    Rob wrote:

    It also looks to be a lot like the new Delta 767 business class seats, except that the controls look to be located in a more convenient position for when you are lying down or in a reclined state.

    I assume you’re talking about the Delta herringbone seats on the 777 LR? They have so many different ones around that I just needed to clarify. That does seem very similar though the seats point in a different direction. I’d need to see the two seats up close and personal to really see the subtle differences.

    MS wrote:

    Dissapointing really. Take a good look. Seat width 20.5 is the about the typical Y/C seat width

    This doesn’t seem to be worse than the norm to me – why is that disappointing?

    Nate wrote:

    So these will work in the A330-200 but NOT the -300??? (( user scratches head ))

    My guess is that is has to do with cabin monuments so it’s more about length than width. That could be the issue.

    Julian wrote:

    Delta went out of its way to find a product that added more room and minimally reduced the quantity of seats.
    767 24 to 18
    333 42 to 30 to ?, They might add an extra row since it is a larger aircraft overall, lets go with 24, since the trend is to shrink 28 seats so they can pat themselves on the back for the higher yield.
    My prediction is that US will be the first US based legacy carrier to have a premium cabin under 12 seats for widebody service.
    To those fewer who do fly in this cabin US better offer decent service otherwise my prediction will come to fruition even sooner.

    The A330-200s seem to have 24 seats and they’re only going down to 20.

    Stephen wrote:

    Cranky fyi, herringbone seats I’m familiar with don’t have the storage issue you mention for two reasons.

    Thanks, Stephen. I’ve flown it once but I forgot how the storage works.

  16. 250k flier says:

    Brett, you allowed yourself to drinl the US Airways PR Kool-Aid.

    Take another look at the seat. See something missing — like an adjustable headrest? You get that on AA, UA, VS and others.

    As noted, the seat width is narrow. CO’s seats will be up to 25″ wide, plus up to 2″ more if you lower the arm rest. Even though you can lower the arm rest on the US seat, it doesn’t look like that will be practical for extra “sleeping width.”

    Also, the US video screen will be measurably smaller than what you find on UA with its new 744/763 IPTE configuration (15.4″).

    Once again, US does nothing to distinguish itself. They don’t lead, they don’t set new standards for quality — they don’t even play catch-up well.

  17. frank says:

    @ 250k flier:

    Interesting, because on their 777, I found this:

    BusinessFirst Class: 55.0″ pitch 22.0″ width

    50 Lie-flat seats with 170 degrees of recline More Info

    Economy Class: 31.0″ 17.9″ 235 seats with 5″ recline

    http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Continental_Airlines/Continental_Airlines_Boeing_777-200_B.php

    And, on the 767-200 TO EUROPE:
    This is an international configured plane for flights to both Europe and Asia, but it is also used domestically on occasion. Economy seats A and L have limited underseat space due to the entertainment equipment.

    BusinessFirst Class: 55.0″ Pitch 21.0″ width

    25 Standard seats with lumbar supports and foot rests More Info
    Economy Class: 32.0″ 17.9″ 149 seats

  18. CF says:

    250k flier wrote:

    Brett, you allowed yourself to drinl the US Airways PR Kool-Aid.

    Ah come on, 250k – this is US Airways here. I think the seat certainly plays on the world stage – is it the best ever? No, but it’s a very credible entry.

    The adjustable headrest and screen size don’t bother me personally, but I would have to actually try to seat before knowing if it’s comfortable enough or not. Regarding seat width, Continental is abnormal in the scheme of things. US Airways’ seat width is pretty much in the normal range when you look across most carriers.

    For US Airways, I think this is a very strong entry into the business class market.

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  20. 250k flier says:

    @ frank:
    That’s CO’s current “BusinessFirst” product. I was referencing what CO plans with its new lie-flat seats.

  21. 250k flier says:

    @ CF:
    Brett, I fly around 250,000 miles a year. I’m not a particularly tall guy, in fact, I may even be a tad shorter than average. Nonetheless, I find that adjustable headrests make a difference in improving comfort.

    US is cutting corners in the one area it should be investing. As I said, US is not leading. It doesn’t even do a good job of playing catch-up. US will end up wondering why it doesn’t get more premium cabin business, why it has to discount, why it’s still giving away upgrades. The airline is, at best, second-rate. It should just go away.

  22. Dragonheartxp says:

    I’ll be flying to Germany on Monday Sept. 28,09 and if I have one of these seats then I’ll write a review.

  23. CF says:

    Dragonheartxp wrote:

    I’ll be flying to Germany on Monday Sept. 28,09 and if I have one of these seats then I’ll write a review.

    You won’t. These seats haven’t been installed yet, and they’ll only be on A330-200 aircraft – those do not fly on that route.

  24. Ron says:

    Yesterday I flew on the single plane with the new Envoy Suite, PHL–TLV. I was in coach and they were boarding and deplaning through the 2nd door so I didn’t really get to walk through the cabin, I just got a little peek from behind as I was getting off. I spoke to a flight attendant who confirmed this was the only plane with the new product, and the second plane wasn’t due for another month or two. Since a daily PHL–TLV requires more than one plane, they must be operating at least every other flight with the old configuration for now.

    Regarding storage, there was a PA announcement (before both takeoff and landing) that envoy class passengers had to store everything in the overhead bins.

    Incidentally, the coach product was fairly good, though one should bring their own headset (I did).

  25. Bill Atkins says:

    Flew on the new seat last week – it is very nice indeed. Like a small version of the BA First seat if you have the single window seat. The center pairs are nice, too, though could use a privacy screen. Only drawback I could see is that the table is tiny. Good storage and flat area. Quality of fit and finish very good. Only 20 seats in the cabin now, so US should be able to sell them at apremium rather than giving them away as upgrades.

  26. CF says:

    Bill Atkins wrote:

    Flew on the new seat last week – it is very nice indeed.

    Excellent, our first report. Thanks Bill. I’m glad to hear they really put enough storage in there. That seems to be the weakness of a lot of these seats.

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