PHOTOS: AirAsia X learns its lesson; unveils new seats

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Acknowledging that its 38″ premium economy seats “were neither suitable nor comfortable for long-haul flights”, AirAsia X has launched a refurbishment scheme that will see the carrier fit its aircraft with new ‘flatbed premium seats’ and reclinable economy class seats.

The carrier says the flatbed premium seats are standard business class specifications of 20″ width, 60″ pitch and stretch out to 77″ in full recline position. They include universal power sockets, adjustable headrests and built-in personal utilities such as tray table, drink holder, reading light and privacy screen.

“After reviewing all the feedback that we received from guests on our services, the need for better and comfortable seats tops the list. As frequent flyers ourselves, we understand the great need for comfort especially for long-haul flights. We are happy to tell our guests that their wishes are granted. We thank our guests for the feedbacks and they will definitely enjoy the new level of comfort on our flights from now on,” says AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani in a statement.

Business Traveller has an interesting forum thread that illustrates the type of feedback AirAsia X likely fielded.

Additionally, AirAsia X is revamping its unreclinable (is that a real word?) economy class seats with new reclineable seats at 31″ pitch equipped with adjustable headrests. It has also decided to move away from traditional black leather and opt for a mix of red and grey, which it says “contributes to brighter cabin ambiance”.

Key pars from AirAsia X’s February blog post on the matter:

Ever since the first new A330 aircraft delivery for AirAsia X came with the “non-reclining” black leather seats in November 2008, we knew this was going to be a big issue for us. Sure enough, the complaints started pouring in incessantly about these uncomfortable seats.

We’ve been tackling this for almost a year and a half, and now, finally, we believe we have a much better seat solution for our long-haul guests.

When we first ordered aircraft in 2007, the global aviation industry was very different. It was the boom time, and airlines were ordering new planes by the hundreds. Seat manufacturers were buzzing with more orders than they could fill. We were left with only one seat supplier who was willing to design seats for our aircraft, at a reasonable price, according to our required timeframe. We had no other choices.

They pitched to us a new design called ‘fixed-back shell’ seats. The idea was that the seat would not recline backwards, but would achieve the same recline-angle by the seat bottom gliding forward and the seat back moving along to get its ‘recline’ angle. The advantage was supposed to be better personal space management, so that you’re not bothered when the person in front leans back (especially when you’ve got the meal tray down trying to eat or work on your laptop, or when you need to get out to the aisle).

Lesson Learned. When the seats were manufactured, this design turned out to be very problematic, mainly because the cushion was too hard, the gliding mechanism too stiff, and edge of the seat bottom that was supposed to drop down to create ‘knee-space’ did not – which meant knees were banging on the seat in front. It was a disaster.

AirAsia X is currently upgrading its whole fleet with the new seats in stages for all long-haul flights to Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth, Taipei, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Chengdu, London, Mumbai and New Delhi. The refurbishment process is expected to be completed by June.

The refurbishment will allow AirAsia X’s A330 to have a seat configuration of 12 flatbed premium seats (28 currently) and 365 economy seats (355 currently). The new configuration for the airline’s A340 is 18 flatbed seats (30 currently) and 309 economy seats (256 currently).

Until all aircraft are fully furnished with the new seats, the term ‘flatbed’ will appear next to the flight information during booking process, to inform guests that premium seats are available on the particular flight.

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2 Responses to PHOTOS: AirAsia X learns its lesson; unveils new seats

  1. anon April 5, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    If you’re slim, you’ll be comfortable. What about the rest of us?

  2. kmz April 6, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    wow…expensive ‘lesson learned’…i wouldn’t be surprised if they had been warned before making those mistakes…

    would such an espensive refurbishment after such a short time influence the ticket prize?