The latest airline to unveil a single-aisle long-haul business class mini-suite is flydubai, the low-cost arm of the Emirates Group, which will launch the Safran Vue outward-facing herringbone on the longer-haul routes operated by its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Ten of the suites will be found up front on the carrier’s Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
The seats — unveiled in their stock form almost a year ago — will appear on “a number of the carrier’s newest aircraft in the last quarter of 2023 and will be deployed on select flights around the carrier’s growing network,” says the airline.
Design partner JPA Design has done an excellent job with the colour, materials and finish for the suites. The most striking is the seat cover, which up close is a mixture of orange and brown that, under some lights, almost looks like a desert coral — very on brand for flydubai within its niche market. It’s very effective, unusual and looks attractive under the light wash of the onboard renderings, but even in the mockup version unveiled at stands at the Arabian Travel Market expo it looks attractive.
The 2023 trend alert of a small branded fabric tag on the headrest is also present, here with a long thin stripy affair in the airline’s signature colours.
Looking at the functionality, it appears that he door is a single piece structure extending forwards from the relatively chunky suite sidewall, featuring a small tab at the bottom end that inserts into a slot to secure it in the closed position.
Of note, the seat’s structure leaves a footwell carveout for feet to poke through to the sidewall, which adds inches and flexibility — a real plus for taller passengers.
It will be interesting, however, to see how the relatively large angled cut-out of the seat pan affects comfort on the medium haul routes to which these 737 MAXes will be assigned. The cutout, necessary (as RGN understands it from talking to seatmakers in the single-aisle herringbone space) to ensure adequate egress from the seat, cuts out roughly half of the seat depth, meaning that passengers’ inboard leg will be less supported than their outboard leg in seat and recline modes.
At the front of the cabin, the imagery suggests there’s also no business-plus front row with extra space, the option for which seatmakers have been flagging with some enthusiasm recently.
On the smaller detail side, the stretch webbing straps inside the side storage compartment are very clever, allowing passengers to corral their bits and pieces neatly, along the lines of the athleisure concepts from JPA’s Airtek seat.
More widely, it’s notable that there are a lot of different fit and finish elements and angled panels to this seat. This has previously been a major production quality stumbling block for Safran, and JPA has done a good job in reducing the number of interfaces where the same material butts up against each other, where production quality flaws look most noticeable.
That said, there are visible flaws in the mockup seat on view, with puckering around the top of the door, bulging in the seat pan and several pieces of questionable fit. These are by no means uncommon for mockup seating, but there’s a point at which Safran — which should by this point know better — and its design partners should perhaps have iterated a few more times, especially around the side shrouding in this customised version. Your author counts more than two dozen separate part pieces between the side table and the top of the shrouding alone, which feels a little like asking for quality control trouble.
Still, for a launch product this looks remarkably successful, and will be a gamechanger. As with the 2017 Thompson Vantage product, which will now be moved down to some of the airline’s more medium-length routes, this product competes very favourably with other seats on the market. Even mother Emirates, after all, doesn’t have doored suites in business class.
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All images credited to flydubai