It may seem odd to write a column about a business class seat that we cannot yet show you in pictures. But come with us to a secluded, closed-doors Rendez-Vous. That’s the name of the new premium staggered seat from Stelia, the seating brand of Airbus Atlantic, which impressed so much at the Aircraft Interiors Expo that it feels like a key part of the puzzle showing the way that seatmakers are thinking about the upmarket positioning of business class in the first real generation of seats designed without first class cabins.
Stelia’s vice president for cabin interior Thierry Kanengieser and vice president for sales and marketing Alain Bordeau showed Rendez-Vous off to Runway Girl Network under the condition that we not take pictures of the product.
Rendez-Vous is a staggered seat product with heritage. Stelia is one of the companies that arguably invented the modern staggered seat with its Solstys product over a decade ago, as predecessor company Sogerma. Even in recent years, Solstys still feels decent, especially in its most recent implementations like Iberia’s A350.
But Rendez-Vous’ similarities to Solstys move beyond just the idea of a spacious stagger. Instead, Rendez-Vous seeks to eclipse the rest of the market with the very residential, luxury interiors nature of its design.
In the ‘honeymoon’ central pair of seats right next to each other, there is of course a full set of central and aisle-side privacy doors, in the event that the two passengers seated there are not travelling together.
But when they are travelling together — and the couples’ premium leisure travel market is growing in importance — the design of the seat shines through. The seatbacks are almost sculpted out of the upholstered back of the seat shell, meeting at the top to give a real two-seater loveseat sofa feel when the seats are upright.
The upholstery is a key part of the premiumisation of this business class seat: it feels really luxurious, akin to a semi-private space like you might find in a five-star hotel bar, not quite a booth but also beyond a booth. The structural cues of the seat, too, are très design, with curves and swoops that feel measured and planned.
A rendez-vous, in the wider French language context for this very French seatmaker, can refer to a number of different kinds of meeting, everything from a business appointment to a romantic date. And that, in the passenger experience context — where “business class” can mean anything from “I need eight hours of sleep before my meeting” to “this is the start of our honeymoon” — is what Stelia’s Rendez-Vous is all about.
It’s clear that, for much of the aviation world at this point in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, premium leisure travel is buoying business class demand. That might well be why so many seatmakers were so keen at the Aircraft Interiors Expo to show off — behind closed doors in some cases — their latest seat models, mockups and concepts.
Many of these new seats are evolving business class into a new generation. It’s not just around updating the colour, material and finish of the seats to take away the sea of greige thermoplastics and hard surfaces, although this is certainly an element of many of the latest evolutions at AIX.
Beyond the CMF, the real visionaries in the space are taking premium leisure travel into account when designing seat product, and some of the results — like Rendez-Vous — are truly impressive.
- The 14 different kinds of business class seats in 2022
- Stelia learns design lessons from previous herringbone generations
- Stelia seat brand remains within new Airbus Atlantic operation
- Condor’s new staggered business class sets premium leisure standard
Featured image credited to Stelia