Qatar Airways earlier placed an order for a mix of A320neos and A321neos which they then swapped for a order of up to 50 A321neos. Earlier this month, Qatar Airways swapped 10 A321neos for 10 A321LR. The A321neos will be delivered to Qatar Airways from this year and the A321LR will be delivered in 2020.
In a recently concluded CAPA Aviation Aeropolitical and Regulatory Summit which Ajay attended, Qatar Airways CEO, H.E. Akbar Al Baker hinted at adding staggered economy seats onboard the A321neos. Wait, Staggered Economy seats?
So what exactly is Staggered Economy seats?
The Staggered Economy Seat concept has been in the market for a few years now, but with no takers so far. Perhaps Qatar Airways will now make them mainstay, if they do.
Molon Labe, a start-up, has introduced three staggered seating arrangements, one for short haul (S1) and long haul (S2) each, and a Side Slip seating arrangement (S3). They essentially started working on a side-slip seating arrangement (S3). The staggered seats (S1 and S2) evolved from the S3. They partnered with BMW Design Works and Panasonic Avionics on this project.
The S1 and S2 staggered seat feature a wider middle seat. The middle seat is positioned slightly below and behind the two seats on either side. The arm-rests are also staggered, This will solve, “who gets the armrests?” problem a bit.
According to Hank Scott, CEO of Molon Labe,
For the short-haul seat, on the A320, the exact numbers are 18”, 20.8” on the middle, and 18”
While the S1 doesn’t feature an option for IFE according to Molon Labe, the S2 does. Panasonic has worked with Molon Labe for the IFE system. The middle seats can accommodate an off the shelf 18″ IFE screen while the other two seats can have the 13.5″-15″ IFE screen.
According to Apex Aero, Molon Labe plans to unveil the launch customer for S1 seats at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in April in Hamburg, so we will find out then if Qatar Airways is planning to go for these ones. With the S1 Short-haul seats, you can go with a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) system for IFE. So there will be USB ports and tablet holders.
If you are interested you can see how the side-slip seating arrangement works in this video. S1 and S2 are similar to S3. The difference is they are fixed and cannot be moved like S3. Just skip to 2:15.
There is also another concept from Thomson, however, the only reason I think this is more plausible is because no other product talking about a customer at the moment and no other airline talking about staggered seating at the moment.
Where will the A321neos operate?
A321neos will replace all narrowbody aircraft in Qatar Airways’ fleet gradually. So expect them on flights to India apart from other routes in Asia and Africa. The routes that the 10 A321LR will operate is a bit of a mystery since it is a small sub-fleet. The A321LR has a range of 4,000nm. Qatar Airways may use it for some new routes in Asia, Europe and Africa or adjust capacity on some wide-body routes or a combination of both.
An innovative concept indeed, which hopefully will make the dreaded middle-seat attractive. Airlines can now sell the middle-seat for a premium if they want. Qatar Airways might just be the launch customer of the staggered seat (S1) by Molon Labe.
Are you looking forward to the more comfortable middle-seat on Qatar Airways?