A rendering of the Safran Unity Elite business class seat. The all white seat gives a luxurious feel with black trim and blue LED Lighting. Two seats with the middle privacy door down.

Safran teases Unity Elite front-row first-class/business-plus suites

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundCWMBRAN — Inside one of the factory buildings on Safran Seats GB’s semi-campus in the South Wales town of Cwmbran, design leaders at the seatmaker sat Runway Girl Network down with a VR headset to demonstrate the very latest suite product on offer: Unity Elite, a front-row business-plus seat for widebody aircraft using its popular new Unity staggered doored suite, now flying on Japan Airlines’ longhaul Airbus A350-1000s.

Unity is a popular choice for airlines, with carriers beyond JAL including Qantas selecting it for the forthcoming Project Sunrise A350-1000s and Air India choosing the seat for its passenger experience revitalisation programme

Unity Elite as shown via VR — and now with four new renders — features four suites at the front of a cabinful of Unity seats, as with most front-row business-plus seats. 

As usual for a front-row business-plus concept, the idea is that the lack of tessellation requirement in the front row means that the footwell can be enhanced and additional amenity options be installed.

Looking at two large IFE screens in a rendering of the Safran Unity Elite business class seat. Ample footwells are in view.

In this first concept implementation, our assessment is that Safran is aiming more for proof of concept than for anything else: this felt very much like a “it’s possible on the LOPA” (layout of passenger accommodations) document, essentially the professional-level seat map used for manufacturing, certification and production) level of maturity.

It was notable that the VR didn’t include click-to-change options to add additional front-row business-plus elements that have been seen on other competing products for some time.

As one example, in the centre pair, there was little to no change of the seat-side monument between the two passengers — no mahjong table à la Thompson Vantage XL+, say. The module at the front, too, is quite large, to contain the privacy barrier, but this leaves quite the chunky separator between the partner dining seats.

A rendering of the Safran Unity Elite business class seat. The all white seat gives a luxurious atmosphere with black trim. Tray tables are large.

Safran’s VR environment nor renders show noticeably higher suite walls for the front row, although the relatively high walls for Unity (in the trade show mockups and JAL implementation RGN has experienced, in any case) mean that this is less of a priority than for other products — for example, the Starlux first class offering manufactured by Collins Aerospace.

Nor were the upgraded colour, materials and finish (CMF) that Starlux uses to differentiate the front-row first-class from its business product evident. This was particularly surprising given the variety of CMF tacks that early adopter airlines are taking with this kind of seat product.

One of the benefits of Unity being a relatively late mover in the front-row business-plus games should be the opportunity to suggest improvements upon what are now known issues with the general idea of a front-row business-plus seat, specifically the proximity to the galley and lavatory areas at doors 1, and the resulting light and noise consequences that this location brings. 

Rotation

Absent any product upgrades, these seats would be the last in the cabin that many passengers would pick owing to just these consequences.

Indeed, the Safran Seats France sibling manufactures the Prime front-row business-plus seat model of its Skylounge Core for Condor in Issoudun, so it was surprising that little learning across the Safran silos was in evidence. One might have hoped, for example, for some sort of VR options showing a dark translucent shrouding, special additional curtain, or similar element to block out the noise and the light from the front galleys — even as a concept idea to get airlines thinking about the issues rather than a fully certified ready-to-go option.

While the front-row honeymoon semi-double bed looks decent, the lack of other changes feels very much a missed trick not to be showing airlines a wide variety of concepts, from lowest-cost to highest-premium here, in order to inform not just their seat selection but also their future cabin product structure — and the merchandising of these products.

A rendering of the Safran Unity Elite business class seats in bed mode. The all white seat gives a luxurious atmosphere with black trim and blue LED Lighting. Two seats are in bed mode here.

Related Articles:

All images credited to Safran