Image: Zodiac

APEX Insight: Yesterday at AIX, Zodiac Seats unveiled the Optima solution, a new business-class seating configuration created by London-based Acumen Design Associates.

Just when it seemed that every possible business-class seating configuration had been done, the creative wizards at London-based Acumen Design Associates came up with a new one that ticked all the boxes. On Tuesday at AIX, Zodiac Seat unveiled the Optima solution, based on Acumen’s new layout. This concept builds on Acumen’s decades-long innovative design work, which includes the world’s first lie-flat seat for British Airways in 1996.

“We’ve always known that there’s a Holy Grail of a layout,” said Anthony Harcup, associate director, Acumen. “This is when you can get a flat-bed seat that gives every passenger aisle access, and gives them privacy, a lot of personal space, and maintains seat count.”

Existing business-class cabins have staggered inline, or inward- or outward-facing herringbone seats. In many configurations, a passenger must step over the adjacent seat to access the aisle.

We’ve always known that there’s a Holy Grail of a layout.” — Anthony Harcup,  Acumen

“We call the new layout the ‘herring-line,’” said Harcup. “There are inline seats on the outboard windows. Everything that faces into the aisle is a herringbone, and the two inboard seats are also inline. It’s four abreast.”

“If you match it against other all-aisle access layouts, you generally get a 10 to 15 percent increase in the number of seats in the cabin,” said Richard Nicholas, senior designer, Acumen.

United Airlines’ recently introduced Polaris seat is also based on Acumen’s patented layout, and is manufactured by Zodiac. “It was serendipitous. We knocked on United’s door at just the right time when they needed something,” said Harcup. United has exclusive North American rights to the layout, while the new Zodiac Optima will be available to airlines in the rest of the world.

Airlines will have the ability to tailor Optima to mesh with their specific brand identity. The product’s modular architecture has all the features that business-class passengers now expect, including large surface areas, personal item stowage and configurable privacy screens. Optima also provides for an optional centerline double bed while still maintaining aisle access for passengers who are traveling and, perhaps, sleeping together.

Howard has been passionate about aviation since he was a little kid, and is a pilot who loves to fly gliders and just about anything else with wings. He's a frequent contributor to aviation magazines and blogs.