Wondering what the new Polaris business class seat will look like on United Airlines‘ single-aisle aircraft? A recently approved patent shows several key details, including unique design elements which increase cabin density.
It has been recognized that in an arrangement in which the seating elements are orientated at an acute angle to the longitudinal direction, some space can be shared between seated passengers in adjacent seat units to achieve a relatively high PAX density…– Summary section of patent US11691736B2
Shared shoulder room
The designs show a herringbone layout for seats, set at a 49° angle from the direction of travel. That offset, similar to the recently launched Collins Aerospace Aurora design, allows for a higher cabin density while still delivering a lie-flat bed for passengers.
The newly patented design adds a “space-sharing region” where one passenger gets space at shoulder level and the adjacent passenger gets a bit of extra space for their lower arm, further increasing cabin density.
The patent describes it thusly:
In the space-sharing region, the upper part of the screen may overhang the seat pan of the first seat unit, when the seat units are in the seating configuration. Such an arrangement may provide shoulder space for the second seating unit, without substantially impacting on the useable space for the passenger in the first seat unit (because that overhang may be above the arm space of the passenger in the first seat unit). The lower part of the screen preferably does not overhang the seat pan of the first seat unit when the seat units are in the seating configuration.
The patent document lists several possible dimensions for the seats, but one rendering shows them pitched at 28″ while still providing a 75-78″ bed length. That’s an incredible seating density while delivering direct aisle access for every passenger on board.
The patent renderings also show 14 rows of the seat, which is a large premium cabin. While it could be installed in a smaller layout, this would be in line with the older p.s. cabins that operated premium transcon markets for United in the past. It also aligns with an application submitted in 2019 to allow for higher offset angle seats on the 737 MAX 10. That type has long been expected to have a premium configuration subfleet for transcon ops.
Similarly, the A321XLR is confirmed to have a lie-flat bed option on board for its long-haul mission profile. That is a seat previously described by Patrick Quayle as taking top features of the twin-aisle Polaris design and adapting them to the single-aisle market.
Based on the measurements included in the documents the seats should be viable for both aircraft types. Both the MAX 10 and A321XLR are anticipated to enter the United Fleet in the next couple years, though certification and production timelines remain in flux for both types.
Notably absent from the seat descriptions in both patents is any mention of privacy doors. Perhaps that is an option in the design and would not affect either patent so it was excluded. And it seems unlikely that United would go to market at this point without them given the competitive landscape. But that would not be a unique feature to patent at this time, so it is somewhat understandable.
Also notably absent in the design is any sort of extra premium layout for the bulkhead row seats. While some airlines have taken the opportunity to further up-sell within the forward cabin, even in a single-aisle layout, the new Collis Aurora seat keeps that space for galley carts. It is unclear how the United seat will use the additional room on board, but making a more premium passenger offering does not appear to be in the offing based on the drawings.
Who will make the seats?
The patents were filed by United Airlines, but the inventors listed are all employees of UK-based design firm Acumen. The patents are also assigned to United.
Acumen was also the design partner for the original Polaris seats, with Zodiac (now Safran Seats) building them based on the Optima platform. That’s no guarantee for the new single-aisle option, but it seems the most likely candidate.
The patent referenced in this report is US11691736 (specific to the arm overlap).
With thanks to the eagle-eyed B.B. for the tip on this patent.
A favor to ask while you're here...
Did you enjoy the content? Or learn something useful? Or generally just think this is the type of story you'd like to see more of? Consider supporting the site through a donation (any amount helps). It helps keep me independent and avoiding the credit card schlock.