Orange seat covers and grey winged privacy headrests adorn Acro's new INNOVARES premium economy seat, as seen on the show floor of AIX 2024. Image: Acro

Acro marks premium economy segment entry with INNOVARES

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundFixed-shell premium economy seats garner mixed reactions. Some passengers love the privacy and feeling of control over their space. Others bemoan the lack of a traditional reclining mechanism, as these designs slide forward to ensure passengers don’t encroach on those behind them.

Breathing fresh innovation into the premium economy space, Acro Aircraft Seating’s new INNOVARES platform utilises a combination of recline mechanisms, blending an articulated seat pan with a pivoting seat back.

“This innovative design ensures a genuine pivoting recline experience for passengers, resulting in a ‘cradle’ effect that enhances overall comfort during extended flights,” explains Acro CEO Neil Cairns.

“This allows INNOVARES to get the best of both worlds through a high pivot point, resulting in passengers experiencing no reduction in living space around their knees and legs when the seat in front reclines.”

Marking Acro’s strategic market entry into the premium economy seating segment, INNOVARES can support a recline of up to 11 inches.

An initial iteration was shown at last year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, whilst Acro brought a more honed version of INNOVARES to AIX 2024, with thoughtful CMF (color, materials and finish) and branding elements.

Orange seat covers and grey winged privacy headrests adorn Acro's new INNOVARES premium economy seat, as seen on the show floor of AIX 2024. Image: Acro

“Generous recline, maximal foot space and contemporary design” are the key differentiators of INNOVARES, says Cairns. At the same time, the firm “remained true to our ‘Acro DNA’ and sought to bring simplicity and minimalist thinking” to the design. Image: Acro

INNOVARES’ footwell is also billed as offering a unique benefit, prioritising passenger comfort whilst addressing the challenge of limited living space in premium economy cabins on widebody aircraft.

“By reviewing other products in the market, it was clear that innovation in delivering footwell space was a key opportunity to move this segment forward,” says Cairns. “Widebody aircraft structures mean that the floor attachments are exactly in the position where the passengers’ feet are competing for this space, and we wanted to tackle this head on. With INNOVARES we’ve placed real priority on this — offering a generous car-style footwell regardless of aircraft type and unobstructed by seat structure.

“The technology that enables this is really about smart design decisions rather than new unique materials, but as always, we have ‘pushed the envelope’ in terms of structural optimisation to maintain competitive weight with a structure designed around the passenger rather than for pure structural efficiency.”

The Acro CEO reveals that the foot-space “was very positively received” during AIX 2023. So, in keeping with Acro’s philosophy to listen to its customers and develop products that meet their needs, its engineers developed that structure further “to ensure it’s a key attribute of the seat”. Some feedback from 2023 also suggested that the headrest wasn’t quite right in certain areas, “and we’ve been able to take a look at that and make positive improvements”. The UK-headquartered seatmaker also spent some time finessing the ergonomics of the seat, including the tray position and the clearance of the table, debuting the updated model at AIX 2024.

One of the unique things about a show like AIX is the diversity of people and airlines who get to see the product — we hear from airlines from all regions with a spectrum of business priorities, passenger demographics and cultures, and each brings something new to the seat development.

Discussions with several airlines about potential retrofit opportunities are progressing positively, with Cairns citing “significant enthusiasm” for the enhanced passenger experience and comfort INNOVARES offers.

Rotation

The seatmaker is also actively collaborating with an established IFE vendor to enhance the INNOVARES seat offering, with its teams working closely to ensure the integration exceeds airline and passenger expectations in terms of usability, reliability, and engagement. Additionally, Acro expects to engage in linefit with OEMs about including INNOVARES in their catalogues.

While some seatmakers design a recliner to address both premium economy and domestic first class needs, INNOVARES has been developed primarily for widebodies to meet the specific demands of long-haul premium economy class passengers.

To address the narrowbody market, Acro is focusing on its Series 7 seat, including a new version, which was launched at AIX 2024. “This updated version retains the robust substructure of its predecessors while introducing several enhancements. These include updated styling and an overall design refresh to align with current trends and industry requirements,” says Cairns.

Series 7 domestic business class seat by Acro on the AIX 2024 show floor in all cream.

Series 7 has been refreshed. Image: Acro

Acro is renowned for offering lightweight economy class seats that carve out plenty of room for knees and shins, even in snug seating configurations. During AIX 2024, the firm also showcased an expanded range of variants of its Series 9 family of economy seats.

“Word is spreading amongst airlines about the advantages Series 9 offers in living space, weight, robustness and comfort and we want to see those advantages available across a range of cabin segments,” says Cairns.

“With Series 9 now available in Fixed Back, Recline, Widebody, Regional and IFE variants, we’re confident that the design of Series 9 is versatile enough to be able to meet the diverse needs of today’s evolving aviation landscape, whilst retaining everything which is making this seat such a success with its launch customers.”

Series 9 economy class seats by Acro are displayed in purple and yellow on the AIX 2024 show floor

Acro recently secured two new customers for its Series 9 economy class seats: Volotea and Pegasus. Image: Acro

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All images credited to Acro Aircraft Seating