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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

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