I’m currently in AvGeek heaven at the Aircraft Interior Expo in Hamburg, Germany, where aerospace manufacturers from all over the world convene to show off their latest creations. Today, I took a look at–and sat in–Collins Aerospace’s newly-announced Aurora seat, their first-ever business class suite designed for narrow-body aircraft. The seat pictured in this article is a demo version but will be more or less the same, aside from trim and finishes, as the ones that make it into commercial service over the coming years.
My general takeaway is Aurora feels very tight thanks to a space-saving herringbone layout. Compared to the reverse-herringbone VUE narrow-body suite built by Safran, Collins’ competitor, it feels downright claustrophobic, especially with the door closed.
The rise of long-haul air travel using single-aisle planes, most notably the A321XLR, has necessitated the development of lie-flat business class seats for planes that have previously only been equipped with domestic business class recliner seats.
Aurora is Collins’ entrée into this young market and a response to Safran, who released their narrow body business class suite called VUE last year. That product will debut on FlyDubai later this year.
Seat details and pictures
Aurora is a herringbone seat with 36 inches of pitch. As opposed to reverse-herringbone seats, passengers are angled sharply away from the windows. That’s obviously not ideal from a privacy perspective, but it allows airlines to squeeze in a lot–around 70%–more seats in a given space because, unlike with reverse-herringbone configurations, less space is needed to allow passengers to get into their seats.
The suite can be equipped with or without doors, and the demo here had doors.
The seat reclines 180 degrees and measures 78 inches long when fully flat.
On the outside of the seat, near the window, is a small surface about big enough for a glass of wine and a small plate.
On the inside of the seat, near the aisle, is a larger surface, above which is a lamp.
Each seat is equipped with an 18-inch monitor that can be unlatched and swung outwards.
A tray table, hinged against the wall of the pod, can also be unlatched and swung downwards.
It’s relatively large even when folded in half but can be unfolded for more room.
At the end of the seat, near the aisle, is a shallow footwell.
On the right side of the seat are backlit seat control buttons.
When will Aurora debut?
Though we don’t know which airline will debut the Aurora (that’ll be announced later this year), Collins says that it will begin delivering the seat to its first customers beginning in 2024.
The seat will initially be installed on the A321XLR but will likely make its way to the 737 after.
The rise of “long and thin” routes (that is, relatively less-popular routes between far-apart cities) has fueled the rise of this interesting category of business class seats. It’s awesome that more destinations will become accessible in greater comfort than before, and I think the competition between seat manufacturers will lead to more interesting products down the line.
On the other hand, this product definitely contributes to the growing gulf between business and economy class–previously widest on wide-body jets–where premium cabins have become increasingly luxurious and economy cabins have become tighter and more uncomfortable. Generally, that seems bad–I don’t want a future in which cheap travel becomes so uncomfortable that only young, able-bodied people can do it.