Lie flat seating is on the rise in the premium cabin of single aisle airliners as new generation arrivals deliver improved comforts as well as a longer range

The number of airlines offering lie-flat seats on narrowbody aircraft is increasing rapidly, providing better options for corporates in a wide range of markets. The introduction of new generation narrowbody aircraft, including the Airbus A321neoLR and in future the recently launched A321neoXLR, is a game changer as it enables airlines to operate long haul narrowbody routes efficiently in low density premium-focused configurations.

An insight analysis on the subject by respected aviation intelligence provider CAPA – Centre for Aviation says that there are currently 13 airlines now operating narrowbody aircraft with lie-flat business class seats, compared to only eight airlines 15 months ago. Those five new airlines that have introduced lie-flat narrowbody aircraft since May-2018, are “kicking off a new trend,” says CAPA, which is expected to accelerate as more network airlines take delivery of A321neoLRs, A321neoXLRs, 737 MAX 8s, 737 MAX 9s and 737 MAX 10s.

The five recent adopters are Philippine Airlines (PAL), Panama’s Copa Airlines, Saudia, France’s La Compagnie and TAP Air Portugal. Kazakhstan’s Air Astana is also planning to put its first lie-flat narrowbody aircraft into service in Oct-2019, followed by Bahrain’s Gulf Air in early 2020.

The premium report highlights how these seven airlines are, or plan to deploy these single-aisle airliners fitted with a lie-flat business class product. It also acknowledges similar operations from Aer Lingus, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, flydubai, JetBlue Airways, Qatar Airways and United Airlines which already offer a lie-flat product in the premium cabin within their narrowbody fleets.

With the 737 MAX still grounded, it is the A321 that will facilitate the most significant strides in this growing market. CAPA acknowledges that American Airlines is “in line to become first A321neoXLR lie-flat operator”, and highlights that JetBlue could deliver interesting new competition across the Atlantic with its MINT premium product on narrowbodies, already successful in the US trans-Continental market.

JetBlue has 13 A321neoLRs on order for delivery from 2021 and 13 A321neoXLRs on order for delivery from 2023 and has already announced plans to begin using A321neoLRs on services to London from Boston and New York from summer 2021.

JetBlue’s A321ceo fleet’s lie-flat business class seats has already prompted American, Delta and United to improve there own premium products in the US trans-Continental market and CAPA notes that JetBlue’s launch of trans-Atlantic services “could have a similar impact on legacy competitors,” particularly given that JetBlue is planning further improvements to its lie-flat product as it introduces the A321neoLR (and later the A321neoXLR).

While the trans-Atlantic market will certainly be among the main markets to see this trend arriving, CAPA concludes that the recent proliferation of long haul narrowbody lie-flat products “is hardly limited to the trans-Atlantic market” and is ”clearly becoming a global trend”.

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