How lighting can transform Business Class Seating
Air passengers demand more from their in-flight experience, pushing airlines to differentiate onboard offering. Enhancements in Business class seating must weave in wow factor without compromise on functionality, leaving customers happy, comfortable and safe with a positive perception of the brand.
What has changed in business class seating?
More than ever, airlines find ways to set themselves apart, apply their own look and feel to the in-flight experience. Premium seat booking has recovered strongly despite corporate travel being down compared to pre-pandemic traffic. This is mostly driven by high yield leisure travelers - this segment of the plane is especially in focus for airlines to make their mark.
First class seating has evolved into a more exclusive experience since Etihad introduced The Residence in 2014, with unique designs for a unique experience. For business class seats, airlines have the challenge of providing a premium experience in a much smaller space.
When he introduced the Allegris First class cabin earlier this year, Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa CEO, expected a “permanent shift” towards holidaymakers filling business and first-class seats.
Airlines are reflecting these trends by adding a more homely feeling to the cabin. To achieve this, they usually start from the seat they have chosen from a manufacturer and look at ways to use colours, materials and other resources to embed their brand ethos. It’s more than just positioning a logo on the head rest!
To make these decisions, airlines storyboard the entire journey from onboarding to disembarking. For business or first class the storyboard will also include galley/bar areas and social spaces. Onboard activities such as yoga or exercise to supplement the in-seat experience on ultra long-haul flights, pioneered by Singapore Airlines or Qantas.
In the limited space available, it is the small details that make an impact. People are waking up to the major part that lighting plays in creating onboard ambiance and that unique brand impression.
What lighting solutions can enhance the business travel experience?
STG has invested in new technology to support the growing demand for business class ‘with a difference’. With our products there are other opportunities as well, such as saving on weight, maintenance and running costs. There must always be a focus on functionality and safety, but there is still plenty of scope for creative brand representation, where our clients want to inject it.
Our Universal Lighting product The Curve™ is particularly suited to enhancing business class seats. Current seating trends bring more compound curves. Our LED flexible light has the tightest bend radius in the market. Its individually addressable segments (every 4 inches) can vary in intensity and colour. Lighting designers can create animated effects such as dappled lighting in parts of the cabin. This is very useful to have brand colours around the exterior of the seat shells or running along the headboard, as a standout feature during onboarding (Northern Lights or sunrise effect). A whitewash along the toe kick is functional and also gives a sense that the seat is lifted from the floor. By using the section addressability, the light output could be adjusted to remain constant, regardless of the mounting surface’s varying geometry.
Small details can make a big difference and the versatile nature of The Curve™ makes it ideal for tailoring per passenger experience. The Curve™ can be used throughout the cabin, not just the seats. By qualifying and certifying the product once and then using it for multiple applications and geometries, airlines and OEMs can save on scarce Engineering and Supply Chain resource.
This brings me to our Photoluminescent range which has various glow in the dark options and the premium signage material we use has a fantastic glazed effect. This can be used for seat number identifier plaques and also logos, privacy screens, and decorative panels. It could also be inlayed into handles as a visual highlight or used to mark edges.
This range can be highly customised for business seating purposes and is more lightweight than back-lit LED alternatives. This is because the technology functions by absorbing light energy from the wider cabin lighting, meaning that these signs comprise of single units with a self-adhesive backing. There is no need for a power supply, controllers or wiring through the seat. They are much lighter, more versatile and easier to maintain and install than traditional LED signage.
How does a business class seating project come together?
The process for designing, building and delivering business class seating is the result of airline needs and technology. We adapt our support as necessary. Ideally, we love to be part of the whole process from the beginning, especially where an ‘off the shelf’ seat is being developed. We can advise on all the lighting options available from the outset, which may not be apparent to seating specialists, and help package the lights within the seat efficiently.
Working together, we can create innovative and bespoke installations in and around business class seating areas and throughout the cabin, which are both functional as well as decorative. Ultimately, if the lighting is right, it can serve to make the interior of a cabin appear newer, cleaner and exclusive. Nonetheless, our aim is not for the lighting to stand out to passengers per se, our passion is for passengers to feel like the lighting is an integral part of the environment and not overpowering it. We want to design products that enable that holistic experience and accentuate the cabin design.
Rhian Bache is Product Manager at STG Aerospace. With a product and industrial design background, she collaborates with customers to translate their design intent into best-in class lighting solutions.