The world’s largest charter airline and European holiday charter operator TUI / Thomson Airways is looking at new seating configurations for the sixty 737 MAX airplanes that can not only increase revenue but would offer some of the most unique and more social and intimate inflight experience for their passengers. The new cabin design could turn some rows into more intimate pods with a table between the passengers, similar to Tommy Class, and other rows into train style booth seats with six seats around a table.
Thomson is looking at introducing a pod with two seats, with a table between, as part of the Max configuration. The carrier intends to test a version of this dual-seat arrangement on its current fleet.
Although the pod requires conversion of three seats to two, customer service director Carl Gissing says the airline is confident that passengers, notably celebrating couples, will be prepared to pay an ancillary premium for the arrangement.
Thomson is also exploring a booth layout for the Max, aimed at seating four to six passengers around a centre table – in a similar manner to a restaurant – for larger travelling groups and families.
“We also know that everyone has different preferences when it comes to where to sit, and who to sit with,” says Gissing, adding that Thomson will look into providing exclusive zones for families or different age groups.
TUI and Thomson Airways current 737 fleet offers a bone crunching 28-30 inches of cabin pitch, so the both of these additions are welcome additions to their current cabin layout. However the idea of being stuck at a family table when traveling alone or with only one other person seems slightly hellish and I would hope to never be in that situation. Multiple times I’ve been on trains in Europe and have been seated at such tables when traveling alone, and nothing is more awkward than accidentally playing footsie with the stranger across from you! Either way I respect Thomson for trying to do something difficult and unique with an airplane instead of sticking with the status quo. I think new layouts, new seat concepts, and offering a more premium product is smart. Yet, if we know anything from ULCC and charter airlines, Thomson must do this wisely, as Holiday travelers who are seeking low cost travel options may not be willing to pay the additional costs to sit around a table or to have the middle seat blocked.
What are your thoughts, would you pay more to be placed in a pod, or in a group of 6 with your friends or family?