Flying in the economy has always been an unpleasant experience but this new seat design could revolutionize air travel by allowing all passengers to lie down.
US-based startup Zephyr Aerospace has unveiled the design of a new airline seat and bed combination for economy class. called zephyr seat, this lie-flat accommodation is able to retrofit existing commercial aircrafts — both Boeing and Airbus — while complying with social distancing measurements for airlines.
Designer Jeffrey O’Neil’s creation, known as the Zephyr Seat, could one day allow passengers in the economy to lie flat, thanks to its double-decker-style seating arrangement. This means two people will share a row, one on top of the other, similar to a bunk bed setup.
The design would let all passengers lie flat in economy
Image credits: Zephyr Aerospace
“We believe that new types of travelers will require privacy or will want to pay extra for that as much as they would pay for the ability to sleep,” O’Neill shared with CNN Travel.
According to O’Neill, his seating will require a two-four-two configuration, which he claims will allow most airlines to maintain their passenger numbers without sacrificing passenger comfort.
The idea’s still in its infancy, although O’Neill says he’s identified an engineering partner — and he’s been in conversation with four major airlines, including U.S. carrier Delta, although there are no firm commitments right now.
He presented the idea to airline executives at the 2019 Airline Interiors Expo at Hamburg, Germany — and said got some valuable feedback on how to make the seat a feasible option for the mid-range aviation market.
The next stage would be passing the product through the required safety tests, which could be a three-year process.
Airlines wouldn’t have to reduce the number of seats
The seats, Intelligent Aerospace reported, are made with limited movable fixtures and crafted with the “highest standard lightweight composite materials, reducing direct maintenance costs for airlines.” The upper seats will come with a telescopic ladder so guests can climb in with ease. Each seat will also feature a drop-down footwell to allow for more personal space and multiple sleeping positions, which is great news for anyone who likes to toss and turn. The configuration may even be large enough for parents and small children to lie down together.
As O’Neill noted to CNN, he came up with the concept on a sleepless flight between New York and Singapore several years ago, well before the coronavirus hit.
“We basically retrofitted a whole other seat on top of another,” explains O’Neill. “So it’s essentially two levels, it’s not as tall off the ground as people might imagine, it’s only four and a half feet off the ground from the entry point to the lower seat to the upper seat.”
His proposal comes as airlines are trying new safety measures as they slowly restart flights. At Manchester Airport, pre-booked airport security slots are now being trialed. Travelers can reserve a free 15-minute window to use a dedicated lane taking them directly to a checkpoint.
It hopes the scheme will enable passengers to be managed more efficiently and queue sizes to be reduced.
This would make sleeping during a long flight much easier
Image credits: Zephyr Aerospace
“I’m on probably the best-rated airline in the world, and I’m getting wonderful service and the food is edible, but I can’t sleep,” he said. “This is really uncomfortable. Why is it so difficult to find an affordable way to lie flat on a flight that’s 19 hours?”
In 2019, O’Neill shared his concept at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, but has since seen renewed interest since new social distancing guidelines have been issued. Now, all that’s next is for O’Neill to perform required safety tests, which CNN explains could take up to three years to complete. If you have to fly sooner than that, book an airline that blocks the middle seats to allow for more room, and of course, wear your mask at all times to ensure your safety and the safety of your fellow intrepid fliers.
If you believe in the product and are interested in getting involved, the U.S.-based startup is currently accepting investors.
Of course, a question mark currently hangs over aviation’s future, with no one quite knowing what air travel is going to look like over the next few months, let alone years.
There will likely be a greater demand for onboard social distancing, from both passengers and airlines — recent flights have proven that current inflight setups make this tricky.
O’Neill reckons that the new aviation landscape fits with his vision for Zephyr Seat.
The increased privacy the seat would offer, he says, could reassure travelers demanding onboard social distancing. That said, the concept, like other ideas in the pipeline, doesn’t totally solve the issue of being in close proximity on aircraft and the potential COVID-19 risk.
O’Neill also points towards a future where there could likely be fewer scheduled flights and those that are operating could be busier and more expensive — something we’re already seeing happen.
“The price for a business class or first class seat is going to be out of range for probably about 85% of all travelers, which means a more affordable option might become a reality or a consideration for a lot of those people,” he says.
The chairs would give passengers much more space
MAG chief operating officer Brad Miller said the pandemic will “reshape the airport experience”.
He went on: “We are exploring every innovation and technology that can help us to adapt to the new world, protect public health, and restore confidence in air travel.
“This new measure will allow us to manage our security process more efficiently in these challenging times, providing a better and more comfortable experience for passengers.”