Stunning first-class airline suite revealed that offers a ‘VIP jet experience’

The death of the first-class airline seat, it seems, has been greatly exaggerated.  

Many airlines set about removing first-class seat capacity in the wake of the pandemic and the accompanying travel freeze – and as business-class seats became ever bigger and better.

But London-based aviation design studio Acumen – which pioneered the first ever ‘flying bed’ in 1995, for British Airways – believes first class does have a future, and has revealed eye-catching renderings of a first-class suite that it says is a rung above even the new ‘super business class’ seats, offering a ‘passenger experience reminiscent of a VIP jet’.

Behold ‘The First Place’, which contains a separate leather armchair, an ‘innovative’ chaise-longue and not one but two privacy doors – a single sliding suite door and a ‘rotating soft wall’. Why? ‘To give the passenger greater control of the level of privacy they desire,’ says Acumen.

Aviation design studio Acumen – which pioneered the first ever ‘flying bed’ in 1995, for British Airways – has revealed eye-catching renderings of a first-class suite, The First Place (above), that it says is a rung above even the new ‘super business class’ seat

The suite also has not one but two monitors – a large 32-inch LED screen for lounging/bed viewing from the chaise-longue, and also an 18-inch monitor for viewing whilst seated in the armchair.

The armchair, explains Acumen, ‘is styled to reflect high-end residential furniture, can rotate and recline to offer not only a suitable take-off position, but also a formal dining and comfortable work position, adjacent to the large one-piece desk/table’.

The chaise-longue, meanwhile, is ‘the centrepiece of the suite environment with a simple and lightweight mechanism to translate from the default “lounging” position into an uncompromised 6ft 6in flatbed with dedicated cushioning for optimised sleep and relaxation’.

The suite has not one but two monitors – a large 32-inch LED screen for lounging/bed viewing from the chaise-longue, and also an 18-inch monitor for viewing whilst seated in the armchair

The chaise-longue is ‘the centrepiece of the suite environment with a simple and lightweight mechanism to translate from the default “lounging” position into an uncompromised 6ft 6in flatbed’

Acumen says that The First Place offers a ‘VIP jet experience’

Further relaxation options come courtesy of an ottoman for guests and the table being able to ‘slide into any position within the suite’, whether for breakfast in bed or formal dining for two.

Acumen, which co-designed United Airlines’ business-class Polaris Suite, also reveals that there is ‘substantial’ stowage – a drawer in a bedside table, a large personal wardrobe ‘lined in a luxurious leather’ and space for luggage under the chaise-longue so generous ‘it’s possible airlines could remove the overhead bins entirely’.

There’s technology in abundance, too – ‘discreetly integrated as it would be in your own home’.

As well as the two monitors, Acumen reveals that ‘The First Place’ features surround sound and noise-cancelling technology built into the armchair wings, heating/cooling technology incorporated in the chaise-longue, and induction power charging embedded in table/side furniture’. What’s more, ‘the passenger would simply use a touch-screen tablet to control all in-suite powered functionality, including climatic control, lighting, and even hotel-style inflight service’.

Acumen concludes: ‘”The First Place” concept is a totally unique patented design which we believe perfectly meets the heightened needs of the future first-class passenger, as well as airlines’ desires to offer a consistent product across networks. Above all, it brings back exclusivity and differentiation to first class, creating a private space with greater flexibility to work, rest, and play, but also to enjoy time onboard without compromise.’

Rob Burgess, Editor of www.headforpoints.com, backs up Acumen’s confidence in a future for first class – but says it’s secure only if done properly.

He told MailOnline Travel: ‘Its future should be secure. Private jets are not practical beyond a certain distance, and there are plenty of other people who can afford a first-class ticket even if they wouldn’t pay for a private jet. So why have airlines been dropping it?

Acumen reveals that there is ‘substantial’ stowage – a drawer in a bedside table, a large personal wardrobe ‘lined in a luxurious leather’ and space for luggage under the chaise-longue

‘The First Place’ features surround sound and noise-cancelling technology built into the armchair wings, heating/cooling technology incorporated in the chaise-longue, and induction power charging embedded in table/side furniture

First Place passengers would use a touch-screen tablet to control all in-suite powered functionality, including climatic control, lighting, and even hotel-style inflight service

‘There are a number of reasons, but you can summarise it as “go big or go home”. Business-class seats have got so good in recent years that, in terms of space and comfort, they offer virtually everything that an average first-class seat offers. Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic now have fully closing doors on their business class “suites” on their newest aircraft, for example, plus the now-standard fully flat bed. On routes that don’t attract wealthy passengers, it is more than good enough – indeed, Virgin Atlantic has never offered first class.

‘How do you beat this? Not the British Airways way, which means a weak ground product (no car transfers to your plane, no separate terminal for check-in), a second-rate food and drink offering, no dedicated cabin crew (a crew member can work economy one day and first the next) and a seat little different to the latest business-class model. The cabin serves little purpose except to allow BA to occasionally offer guaranteed upgrades to business class passengers who buy full-fare tickets.

‘Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines make it work by offering a hugely impressive inflight product, with the new Singapore Airlines A380 and Emirates 777 fully private suites being the best in the sky (I’ve flown both). It’s a real first-class experience, topped up with caviar and genuinely fine wines – Emirates had an £800 bottle of cognac on offer last time I flew it in First Class. Not only are people prepared to pay for this but – more importantly – they give a halo to the entire airline.

‘The First Place’ contains not one but two privacy doors – a single sliding suite door and a ‘rotating soft wall’ 

Acumen says: ‘”The First Place” concept is a totally unique patented design which we believe perfectly meets the heightened needs of the future first-class passenger’

‘Look at how many YouTube videos and blog reviews cover Emirates first class. You’d never know that, for example, some of their aircraft are three abreast in business class, forcing someone into a middle seat between two strangers with no direct aisle access. When Etihad had Nicole Kidman advertising their A380 “Residence” suite [designed by Acumen] on TV they certainly weren’t intending to sell any tickets for it – but it did sell economy seats.

‘If you can’t get private cabins, you do what Air France and Lufthansa have done – build separate terminals at your main hub airport to allow first-class passengers to check in and enjoy a genuinely luxurious ground experience before being driven across the tarmac to their aircraft. The seats aren’t the greatest but, again, the caviar and fine wines flow and it makes the airlines stand out against their low-cost competitors.

‘On a handful of routes between key global cities, first class works. As a halo product to glamourise your entire airline, it works if done well. On routes such as Heathrow to Portland? No, it doesn’t work, which is why BA and other airlines are now replacing their older F-heavy aircraft with newer models with fewer or zero first-class seats.’



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