This year Farnborough Airshow returned with a vengeance after a long break due to Covid. While it may seem like a show for aircraft buyers and aviation enthusiasts, there was a lot of interest to luxury travellers this year.
Boeing’s new B777X aircraft
Boeing 777X Boeing’s new aircraft, the B777X, was on display and delivered an impressive performance at the airshow. The Boeing 777X was supposed to be already flying by 2022, but this has been pushed back several times. Although Boeing now expects to receive certification for the aircraft in late 2024 and the first delivery in early 2025, Qatar’s CEO was bullish on this date being brought forward. Currently, Qatar is due to receive the first 777X.
Many major airlines have also bought the new aircraft, including Lufthansa, which is scheduled to finally launch a new business class seat with the new aircraft. Other airlines where you may expect to find the B777X are British Airways, Etihad Airway, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, All Nippon Airways and Singapore Airlines. Emirates will be the most significant customer with an impressive 115 aircraft on order.
Most airlines are yet to announce what type of premium seats they plan to have on their Boeing 777X, probably due to the ever-changing time scales. Due to thinner cabin walls, the aircraft cabin is 10cm wider than previous Boeing 777s. Therefore airlines have a choice of whether to fit their existing seats or to go with a new design.
The Boeing 777X has a distinctive feature which will be fun to watch from your window seat. Due to the extra long wingspan of the aircraft, Boeing has added folding wingtips to allow the plane to manoeuvre at airports more easily. As the aircraft touches down on the ground, the wingtip automatically folds up, ready to taxi to the terminal.
Qatar’s new QSuite Lite, aka the Boeing 787 Premium Suite
Qatar Airways showed off its latest business class seat on its Boeing 787-9 aircraft at the show. However, the airline’s signature QSuite design which launched a wave of similar business class suite designs did not fit neatly into their B787s or A380s due to the cabin width. Therefore Qatar had to come up with a different suite design which still allowed for a 1-2-1 configuration and a closing door.
The new Premium Suite is based on the Adient Ascent herringbone suite seat. It feels smaller than the QSuite but, compared to other airline suites, feels very familiar in size. A new mobile charging and storage area has been introduced to keep devices secure while charging them wirelessly. Overall, there is less storage than the original QSuite, with the only storage bin in the suite being a head-height headphone-type cupboard with a mirror. The armrest goes down entirely, and the table swivels, allowing you to get up and access the aisle even during a meal.
The middle seats have a new feature with the dual consent privacy divider, which requires both passengers to press the button to drop the screen between the two middle seats. Once lowered, these make a great double suite for couples, but unlike the QSuite, it does not convert to a double bed, and there is no quad suite option either.
Champagne on demand at your seat
Boeing partnered with Adient Aerospace seat manufacturers and showed off a new potential suite design as well as the raw version of the Adient Ascent herringbone suite. Boeing’s EnCore offer front row additions to provide an ottoman, IFE, stowage, and other amenities designed to fit with seat manufacturers existing design. This allows airlines to creat bespoke larger suites in the front row. The more extensive suites could be suitable for first-class or perhaps business class plus, which is becoming more popular with the advent of JetBlue’s Mint Studio and the newly announced Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite.
The most noticeable feature was the champagne on-demand feature. This allows the passenger to have a bottle of champagne, and glasses appear at the touch of a button. The only issue is whether you will end up with warm champagne if you leave it too long into the flight before trying it! It’s a similar concept to Emirates in-suite mini-bar, which they have in first class.
Supersonic travel is not far away (again)
Finally, the ultimate in luxury travel, supersonic flight, was featured with Boom showing off renderings of their Ovation aircraft, which is expected to launch in seven years. Customers include United and JAL. Using four engines, the aircraft will fly at twice the speed of today’s commercial flights. The lower thrust due to it being spread out over more engines will mean less noise, also helped by the world’s first automated noise reduction system. So unlike Concorde, you won’t be able t hear it miles away!
Most interestingly, it is being built to fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Its range is 4,250nm with a full load of passengers, which equates to 65-80 people. That means it’s likely to appear on Europe -New York routes (and other US East coast cities) as before. Production is expected to start in 2024, with passengers on commercial flights in 2029.