Malaysia Airlines plans lie-flat Boeing 737 business class seats

Malaysia Airlines plans lie-flat Boeing 737 business class seats

Malaysia Airlines will launch a radical upgrade to its Boeing 737 business class, adopting lie-flat suites with direct aisle access for all passengers.

The airline will debut the seats on its new Boeing 737 MAX 10 fleet, due for delivery from 2021, with CEO Peter Bellew indicating to Australian Business Traveller they could use an all-new staggered design from Thompson Aero Seating

Thompson provided the new business class seats for Malaysian flag-carrier's Airbus A330 fleet as well as first class and business class for the forthcoming Airbus A350s

The Irish company also developed the revolutionary Vantage design chosen by US airline JetBlue for its transcontinental Airbus A321 Mint class, which sees each pair of business class seats followed by a single seat with sliding suite-like privacy doors...

... a version of which has also featured in Boeing's promotional material for its 737 MAX jets, shown below.

“I’m shamelessly copying what JetBlue have done with Mint, which is a fantastically innovative transcontinental product in the US,” Bellew tells Australian Business Traveller with an ebullient laugh. “I’m shamelessly ripping off their ideas!”

That could include Mint’s suite-like approach, which sees some seats sport “a privacy panel you can pull across so it’s like a private cabin,” Bellew hints.

However, whereas only three out of every five Mint passengers have direct access to the aisle, Bellew aims to see all travellers at the pointy end of Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX 10 fleet just one ginger step away from the aisle.

“That’s what we’re going to try and do. We may have to use a bit more real estate on the aircraft,” he admits, adding that the new seat will likely adopt a “staggered” design similar to that of the Thompson Vantage XL seats used by Qantas for its Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 Business Suites (below).

“Thompson are working on the final design at the moment, but we’ll have 16 business class seats in the Boeing 737 MAX 10s... we have the space to do that (although) we’ll probably have to go a bit further back in the aircraft.”

The seat manufacturer has already revealed an angled herringbone-style Vantage Solo lie-flat seat for single-aisle jets (below), with a launch airline flying an Airbus A320-series jet expected to be announced later this year. 

Read more: The next generation in Airbus, Boeing single-aisle business class seats

Paying a premium for sleep

Very few airlines are currently flying lie-flat business class seats on single-aisle jets like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 series, but Bellew believes there’s pent-up and profitable demand for sleep even on Malaysia Airlines’ regional flights of four to five hours “to secondary cities in China, maybe to Perth overnight.” 

“If you ask business travellers what’s the number one thing they want from their flying, it’s sleep. (Above) food and inflight entertainment, this, that and the other, the most important thing for them is to get some sleep, even  on a short flight, and  people will pay a good premium for that.”

“There’s a lot of wealthy people in Asia, a lot of people who lead extraordinarily busy lives, and to be able to get three to four hours’ sleep on a flight is worth a lot of money to a lot of those people.”

Bellew will aim the Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft at "secondary and tertiary markets in China", which he sees as premium regional routes primed for growth due to the explosion of a moneyed middle-class with an appetite for travel.

As previously reported, Virgin Australia is also planning to fit an all-new business class seat to Boeing 737s flying east-west routes – referred to as "the Perth product" and which CEO John Borghetti says will represent a “quantum leap in domestic business class” – and it's been speculated that this seat could also come from Thompson Aero.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

9 comments

  • Strvdv86 Cop

    Copland

    31 Jul, 2017 04:54 pm

    Shame they are not arriving next month.  Perth flight has been downgraded to a 737 - currently offering a recliner in business class.  Very disappointing when you've booked business expecting an a330 flat bed (as was sold at the time).  In fact, i think Air Asia offers better business class seats on the Perth - KL route now.  Very disappointing for a full fare airline - not looking forward to my overnight 6 hour flight with Malaysia Airlines now!
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  • chewkc65

    chewkc65

    1 Aug, 2017 12:04 am

    Are you sure on this? I just checked and found that KUL-PER direct flight is A330. They use B737 for BKI-PER. At times the fare might be cheaper if you fly KUL-BKI-PER though it takes a hell lot longer. 
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  • Shenos

    Shenos

    31 Jul, 2017 05:13 pm

    I completely agree. I had the recliners into Perth last month and was such a let down after experiencing a reasonably good product on the A330 earlier in the day. 
    It'll be interesting to see how an all 'direct isle access' layout will work in a narrow body. Good on them for giving it a go though, hope it works out. 
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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    31 Jul, 2017 05:21 pm

    Thompson already offer a product that can do this; the "Vantage Solo". Its in their catalog on their website. Given they explicitly name Thompson I think its pretty obvious they're going to use the Vantage Solo (which looks a lot like an old-school aisle-facing herringbone design). 

    But "staggered" sounds a bit like a red herring. Vantage Solo is angled, not staggered. Unless Thompson are designing something entirely new for MH... and why would MH want to spend that kind of money? 
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  • John Odlum

    John Odlum

    31 Jul, 2017 05:27 pm

    I can't see anything on the Thompson Aero website about a "Vantage Solo" and nothing turns up on Google, do you have a specific weblink with more info on this? Anyway Bellew clearly says the seat is still in development and there is a lot of time between now and 2021, even if the seat needed to be ready by 2020.

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    31 Jul, 2017 05:53 pm

    John,

    Go to the Vantage or Vantage XL pages and click on the button marked "view brochure". You should then get a document that discusses the Vantage, Vantage XL, Vantage First, and also Vantage Solo. 
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  • David Flynn

    David

    31 Jul, 2017 06:16 pm

    John, it's not on the Thompson website but is in the online brochure (and FWIW, we will have a story on this tomorrow as it feeds into the whole 'new wave of Boeing 737 business class' angle).

    Edirt: story up now at https://www.ausbt.com.au/the-next-generation-in-airbus-boeing-single-aisle-business-class

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  • pclifto

    pclifto

    1 Aug, 2017 08:18 pm

    Sorry, is this article saying these MH business class seats will be in operation from 2021?  Mmm... a long time to wait, will MH be even flying in 2021??
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  • Worldflyer90

    Worldflyer90

    4 Aug, 2017 06:39 am

    The recliners themselves don't bother me so much, so much as the soft product onboard. I'm not a booze hound by any means, but MH's removal of alcohol in both the J and Y cabins on flights under 3hrs is annoying. It's one of life's little pleasures being able to relax with a glass of wine in the air after a long day's work.
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22 Jan, 2019 03:36 am

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