When people talk about ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ on a plane, they’re often referring to the upper deck versus the main deck on jets like the Airbus A380. But what if you could have a two-storey premium cabin on a single deck? That’s the goal of Spanish designer Alejandro Núñez Vicente and his company, Chaise Longue.

The brand has become infamous for its double-decker Economy Class seat design. But now, Chaise Longue wants to do the same in Business Class and First Class by maximising the vertical space available in the premium cabin too.

It’s a bold move. After all, the front of the plane is usually all about space and luxury. Especially in First Class, privacy is also paramount – and the brand’s design has these travellers seated in the same section as Business Class. But with floor-to-ceiling curtains for all, there’s a bit of a trade-off, regardless of whether you’re seated upstairs or downstairs.

For now, the design is still just a concept. It doesn’t have government approval to fly – and that process typically takes 2-3 years. But from observations at the recent Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, where a mock-up was on display, it’s already caught the attention of at least one major Middle Eastern airline CEO. (I’m sworn to secrecy, but you’d recognise the brand if you heard it).

On a recent trip to Germany, I stop by Chaise Longue’s AIX booth to try the concept out for myself – and to confirm that ‘Longue’ is indeed not a typo! While it’s a Spanish company, it’s a French name. ‘Chaise Longue’ literally translates to ‘long chair’. It was also interesting to see that Tapis – the company supplying fabrics for Qantas’ First Class Project Sunrise seat and others like JetBlue Mint – is doing the same for Chaise Longue.

Business Class lives downstairs

In this double-decker seating design, First Class sits upstairs while Business Class resides downstairs. In that sense, Business Class actually feels the roomiest because the entire vertical space forms part of the seat.

One of the biggest selling points is that Business Class passengers could change into their pyjamas at the seat itself. No more queueing for the restroom to get dressed before landing. With no overhead lockers, you also wouldn’t hit your head when doing so – there’s plenty of room.

Speaking of lockers, there’s no need for them with this design. Your bags slide underneath the flat bench that forms the tail end of your bed. I try it out. Vertically, it does look and feel a little tight. But the footwell is surprisingly wide – up to 97cm, to be exact. The furthest point of the bed is also 225cm from the tip of the headrest, making the bed over seven feet long. When lying flat as well, the ceiling of the cabin is very high above your face, adding to the sense of space.

This design only suits being positioned in the centre of the cabin. The idea is that more traditional seats would run alongside the windows. But it means that airlines could sell these suites at a higher price, promoting the greater privacy of having a full curtain at each seat.

It’s rare to have that level of privacy in any cabin. It’s currently seen only in Emirates’ newest Boeing 777 First Class suites which have floor-to-ceiling doors. Air France La Première First Class similarly has full-length curtains at each seat. But for now, that’s about it.

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First Class sits upstairs

With Business Class residing downstairs, First Class lives upstairs. In what I’ll call a ‘vertically staggered’ configuration, this design keeps those Business Class seats nearer to the aisle. The upper-level First Class seats are instead positioned in the centre.

It’s a generously sized chair, wide enough for two passengers to share the experience. In fact, the sofa measures 101cm from armrest to armrest. As for the bed, it stretches to 202cm – although that’s 23cm shorter than the Business Class bed downstairs. But comparatively, the bed in Qantas Airbus A380 First extends to 203cm, so Chaise Longue’s ‘Elevated Class’ seat remains in the same ballpark as other suites in this category.

It’s fair to highlight that this First Class layout has a couple of disadvantages. Getting in and out of the seat is only possible by climbing steps – not unlike a bunk bed. Along with having a shorter bed than Business Class downstairs, that bed is narrower, too. It measures 70cm at its widest point versus 97cm downstairs. If two passengers are indeed sharing the First Class seat as designed, it makes for a tight squeeze. It’d also be difficult to stand and get dressed. The cabin ceiling would only make that possible on the tight stairwell.

Maybe upstairs and downstairs are also really the same cabin…

Perhaps the upstairs doesn’t have to be sold as First Class. As always, it’s up to the airline as to how each seat on its aircraft is branded and sold. For those not wanting to sell a First Class seat with less bed space than Business Class, upstairs could instead be more of a ‘Business Class Plus’ experience.

Such a concept could either be sold as a separate cabin class – much like Malaysia Airlines does with its Business Suites – or just as a seat type with an extra fee. Those upstairs seats could have great appeal to travellers on daytime journeys where sharing a movie is a greater priority than getting some sleep. On nighttime flights, the seats downstairs with the larger beds – and greater space to change into pyjamas – would be the choice pick.

Again, this is only a concept for now. Conferences like the Aircraft Interiors Expo are all about showcasing what designers have in the works. It’s about offering a glance into the future – and showing airline CEOs what their cabins might look like in the years to come.

For those unfamiliar, most airlines purchase ‘off the shelf’ seats from specialised manufacturers. Sure, there’s some customisation done in the brand style and colours – but many airlines fly the same seats. For instance, Qantas’ Project Sunrise Economy seat is really the RECARO R3, which will also soon fly on Malaysia Airlines. Along the same lines, Etihad’s newest Business Class product is drawn from Elements by Collins Aerospace, which appears on STARLUX, too. You get the idea.

Would we one day see a major airline flying with Chaise Longue’s Elevated Class design? Time will tell.

Also read: Boeing’s new 787 Perch concept brings an inflight lounge to Economy

All photography by Chris Chamberlin for Point Hacks.

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This new seat puts Business Class downstairs and First Class upstairs… in the same cabin was last modified: June 18th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin