LAS VEGAS: For the second year in a row, Panasonic has used the occasion of International CES to unveil a new aircraft seat concept in collaboration with B/E Aerospace. Last year, the company showcased Jazz, an integrated IFE/seat for economy that constitutes a major step change improvement in the passenger experience (#PaxEx). This week, when the doors opened to CES in Las Vegas, Panasonic revealed a premium seat that seeks to do for high-density business class what Jazz is expected to do for economy – revolutionize it.
Dubbed Waterfront, and designed in collaboration with Formation Design Group and TEAGUE, the seat’s comfort as well as the shape of the back and bottom cushion were informed by the anthropomorphic data study previously conducted on Jazz, as well as extensive research activity into user behavior involving strategic airline customers.
Using the reverse-herringbone configuration of B/E’s popular Super Diamond seat as its core – meaning it can be easily implemented into a familiar aircraft LOPA – Waterfront boasts a full privacy door while still allowing direct aisle access, giving a first-class feel within the confines of a business class footprint.
Independent articulation of the head, back, and leg rests – as well as independently adjustable, localized heat zones – allow a high level of customizability for the passenger, “so the shell, footwell and seating surfaces will have heating in it. Passengers are able to control the temperature, as well as the overall ambiance of their seat environment through full spectrum LED lighting while in different seating positions, which enables different scenes for different activities,” Panasonic Avionics executive director corporate sales and product management Neil James told RGN in Las Vegas. A side storage compartment can be independently heated or chilled based on the needs of the passenger.
The entertainment has been taken up a serious notch, with a 24” 4K touchscreen monitor positioned in a seamless edge-to-edge glass structure. A 7” premium wireless controller is located within easy reach and is stored so that relevant flight information is viewable. And a simple, ultra-compact handset is also accessible, even when the seat is in bed position. Charging solutions are fully integrated into the design with AC power, inductive charging, and multiple USB power ports. And PED connectivity is supported by Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC for a personalized passenger experience.
“By elevating the technological sophistication of the seating environment, airlines are able to offer features normally only seen in first class products to the higher-density environment of business class,” says Panasonic.
For Routehappy data research manager Jason Rabinowitz, who received a sneak peek of the seat before its public unveiling at CES, the extras packed into Waterfront “like inductive charging and that 4K screen make it a cut above”, though they obviously do not create more actual bed space, as the high-density business class footprint remains the same.
Even so, Panasonic believes subtle but important tweaks will provide passengers with a feeling of more space. Waterfront is 79” when fully flat but is designed to offer more vertical living space in the foot well. It features a large, single piece tray table, which when used in conjunction with a large fixed side table, becomes a productive work suite. And because Waterfront is positioned farther aft relative to its bed position, it increases the living space in the seated position, says the firm.
But while Waterfront features clear #PaxEx improvements, it also eases the typical tasks of the flight attendant. Communication with cabin crew is achieved through various IFE elements, from the handset to the premium controller.
An OLED display in the exterior seat shell provides additional visual indication through custom messages and iconography. And a dedicated beverage holder and flip down bar table provides a staging area for the flight crew for drinks, snacks, and other amenities, eliminating the need to reach into the passenger personal space and disrupt passenger activities or IFE visibility.
From an upgrade standpoint, the replaceable texture panels combined with dynamic LED lighting on multiple surfaces allows airlines to change the overall seat appearance without installing new hardware or putting an aircraft out of service for MRO activities. “And while the main objective was to improve and enhance passenger comforts, Waterfront was able to achieve a 12% weight savings and a 15% reduction of part count over existing business class seats on the market,” says Panasonic. Waterfront will be available to airlines in the 2019 timeframe.
See Waterfront in action in the video below.