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We are still some time away from the B777-X taking flight, let alone seeing it regularly at airports. However, Boeing has revealed a “typical” interior arrangement that could be seen on the B777-9 when it enters service in 2020.
In short, it looks like a fairly uninspired cabin, with 8 First class seats in a 1-2-1 layout, 49 Business class seats in a 2-3-2 layout and 292 Economy class seats in a 3-4-3 layout. Neither of the premium cabins appear up to current standards, and the Economy class cabin is structured in the PaxEx disaster that is 10-abreast.
Before we all run for our pitchforks, Boeing obviously has an interest in at least showing higher density layouts; these lend themselves to higher yields with costs spread over greater passengers, which in theory appear attractive to the potential operator.
Passengers who frequent premium cabins such as First and Business have little to worry about: carriers tend to pursue highly customised first and business class cabins, and won’t be deferring to a Boeing doodle for inspiration there.
I’m not sure the same comforts can be offered to customers further aft in Economy class. It does appear, through Zodiac’s own B777-9-ready seat measuring a tawdry 17.4” wide, that Boeing has not managed to make good on its promise of 18” seat width in a 3-4-3 layout. Given the enthusiasm with which carriers have moved their existing, narrower B777s to the 10-abreast arrangement, it looks fairly clear where things are heading in the future. What will be interesting is how premium carriers, such as Singapore Airlines, outfit the B777-Xs on order.
What does this mean?
What I’ve noticed, watching the coverage of the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, are seat manufacturers like Zodiac Seats continue to talk about Economy class improvements and metrics purely in the context of flight economics, with factors such as weight and space saving typifying the PR-manicured responses.
Passenger comfort and the competitive edge that would entice a passenger to choose one airline over another are either not entertained, or given a cursory but shallow nod. On this point, I believe carriers need to be very wary of the seat manufacturer’s overtures.
Passengers have experienced a certain awakening in recent times – mainstream media is picking up on densification announcements (such as those by British Airways and Cathay Pacific), and this blog and sister metrics website are also a by-product of this. Customers now have choice in who they fly with.
Seat manufacturers that continue to hold the view their customers are the airlines only, and not the passengers actually sat in their seats, will have to either face irrelevance or shift their focus to PaxEx – and fast.