Business Class seats are notoriously weighty – especially if you compose a sturdy privacy door into the score. Cue a cabin full of TVs serving up a symphony of entertainment and motors at every seat to help each traveller recline during their bars of rest, and the fuel consumption alone can cost airlines an O Fortuna. But Stelia’s new ‘Opera Essential’ seat strips away hidden frills in a language we can all understand – flying flat.

The seat’s revolutionary new design goes beyond Collins Aerospace’s famed Business Class seat that doesn’t recline. This seat reclines to any angle you like—and still transforms into a bed. But there’s no motor buzzing you up and down. Instead, pull a lever tight, slide yourself forward, and their chair comes with you.

Haven’t heard of Stelia before? It’s not an airline – it’s Airbus Atlantic’s cabin design brand. Stelia develops and manufactures a range of premium seats that airlines can choose to buy and install. For instance, if you’ve flown Singapore Airlines’ medium-haul Business Class, that’s Stelia’s ‘Symphony’ seat. (Yes, there’s a pattern in the naming – or perhaps, a method to the melody…)

But unlike the Symphony, Opera Essential isn’t designed for a large space. It’s for cosier, single-aisle cabins like those of the Airbus A320 family. In fact, despite the attachment to Airbus, the seat is certified to fly on Boeing 737 jets as well.

Attendees at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg are the first to experience a private performance of Opera Essential. I take my seat just as it’s time for the curtain to rise.

New Stelia Opera Essential seat
Stelia’s new Opera Essential seat already has its first standing ovation.
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Opera Essential rethinks single-aisle flatbed flying

Stelia is kicking two goals with its new Opera Essential seat. It wants Business Class flying to be greener – and for airlines to save some green in the process.

For one thing, Opera Essential is 30% lighter than its predecessor, Stelia’s full ‘Opera’ seat. This means less weight being carried onto the aircraft, translating into significant fuel savings over the life of a plane. Burning less fuel means reducing emissions and saving money in the process. The design of Opera Essential also focuses on sustainability, with bio-leather headrests, lighter thermoplastic composite shells, and minimal cabling, given the absence of a motor.

Pulling out the motor also reduces airline maintenance costs. It decreases the chance of a seat being marked ‘inoperable’ due to a failure, which means it must then fly empty until repaired.

At STELIA Aerospace, we are not only engineers but also stewards of the environment. Our ambition with OPERA® ESSENTIAL is to offer a sustainable Premium seating solution that exceeds both passenger expectations and industry standards. By prioritising environmental responsibility and passenger comfort, we are redefining the future of air travel.

– Thierry Kanengieser, Vice President of Cabin Interior at Stelia Aerospace

It’s clear why airlines will love this seat. But there’s plenty for passengers to enjoy, too. For one thing, the seat faces the window. Even though there’s no door, it makes for quite a private experience – not to mention being able to enjoy the view. There’s also a sturdy tablet stand in lieu of a fixed screen. Airlines can opt to provide tablets for entertainment, but this also makes it easy for a traveller to attach their own.

This clever design even makes room for an ottoman. When the tablet holder is folded away, another passenger could come by for a chat during the flight. As for reclining, the bed indeed goes flat, and yes, it’s comfortable. It’s a bit fiddly at first, and you really have to squeeze in the lever to unlock the seat. But once you’ve worked it out, you’re free to glide to any angle you like.

It’s early days, but I wouldn’t be disappointed to see this seat when boarding a single-aisle aircraft. Wouldn’t it be nice to find this on a Boeing 737 from the East Coast to Perth? The ball is now in the airlines’ court.

Also read: American Airlines previews new Airbus A321XLR cabin for LAX-JFK flights

Photography by Chris Chamberlin for Point Hacks.

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Stelia’s new ‘Opera Essential’ seat helps airlines improve their own performance in Business Class was last modified: July 1st, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin