Flying business class is passable. But for everyone else, the flying experience is terrifying. Leisure travel has evolved into a Lord of the Flies The battle for resources – the slightest rumbling of our seats, some fresh air to breathe through the masks – is what turns passengers against each other in frustration. This hell is a natural consequence of the business plan of air travel to maximize bodies on the aircraft to offset higher fuel costs; it is A Business Plan That Works Awfully,
So what’s the next chapter in budget air travel? Some believe it is two-heaving passengers. Alejandro Nez Vicente was a graduate student studying industrial design when his concept for a double-decker airline seat caught the eye of the airline industry and investors alike. After winning a prestigious industry award last year, he is the CEO of Chase Lounge Economy Seat, the name of both his product and company.
Their proposed seat system fits in the center aisle of an aircraft. People below can fully extend their legs at the expense of the space between their faces and the seat in front of them. People on top (who fit because the overhead storage has been removed, with suitcases going under the seats instead) sit in normal seats. The catch is that they don’t have enough room to stand. Meanwhile, the airline benefits the most, with the option to fit an additional 5%-10% of ticketed passengers in the center row, depending on how much they mess with the legroom details. Huh.
As radical as the idea may sound, Nez Vicente isn’t actually the first to design a double-decker plane seat. In 2020, designer Jeffrey O’Neill proposed zephyr seat, which re-imagined the seating as a series of bunk beds. But Nez Vicente has struck a certain nerve of the internet, with thought pieces and mementos for remarkably comfortable seating arrangements. Meanwhile, he claims representatives from every major airline have come to Hamburg this week to test-drive their seats at the famed Aircraft Interiors Expo.
As he joins me on a video stream, a small crowd still surrounds his prototype on the otherwise empty show floor. Nez Vicente flaunts many features in his design, while his slim, 6-foot-2-inch frame slides smoothly into a bottom row seat. He points out that while most airline seats recline to 110 degrees, theirs reach a full 125 degrees. This extra tilt is worthwhile, as ergonomic research has shown that people sleep better and sit more reclining, Meanwhile, his legs are stretched straight in front of him without bending.
“The space for the feet is unmatched,” he says. Then, turning his attention to the mere inch of space between his nose and the seat in front of you, he says, “It’s a little closer. But if you close your eyes and you’re asleep, you don’t care. , , , For me, even if it’s a little more claustrophobic, I prefer the lower seats. ,
I would mention that although he may be fine with the sensation of a tight spot, this is not true for everyone. an estimated 12.5% of the population Suffers from claustrophobia. And we all value breathing room and sight lines in a plane – both of which have long been considered important parts of airline seat design. Even when your knees hit the seat in front of you, the perception of air space can make you feel more comfortable.
Nez Vicente doesn’t deny the realities of claustrophobia, but emphasizes that consumer preference is key to his design approach. Since its double-decker seats only fit in the middle rows, the plane’s side rows would still have typical seats. The bottom row might not work for heavier people, he admits, especially if he tried to squeeze into a boxed-in center seat. But they could always use the top row of their design, he says, which is an otherwise typical plane seat that’s been elevated. He calls this vantage point an “SUV experience” that keeps your head on your surroundings, allowing you to see the cabin down.
This approach isn’t particularly embracing universal design, where one object is designed to be a way to work for all. Instead, Nez Vicente argues that coach passengers will have three unique seating options under their design, and can choose the route most comfortable for their physical and mental condition.
“If you don’t like height, you won’t go skydiving,” he says of the top row. “If you’re claustrophobic, you won’t go to the bottom line. But if you have long legs, you can.”
This logic assumes that consumers can always choose the seat they want, when in fact they are often forced to choose the remaining open seat on the plane. However, Nez Vicente is correct that in a world where people come in all shapes and sizes, the one-size-fits-all lie of sitting in flight is harming us. Maybe we’re actually more comfortable with seats tailored to our unique experiences, pulling ourselves up rather than imposing ergonomic comfort levers on us. And airlines, of course, have already proven that they’d be thrilled to nickel-and-dime for the slightest improvement.
Yet the shortcoming of that thinking is that sitting comfortably is not a design problem. We know how to build seats that already satisfy 95% of people, and you’ll find them on trains, in cars, and in living rooms everywhere. You’ll find them on the plane, even in business class.
There is no physical reason why any known style of good seating cannot work as well on an aircraft, as long as it is light enough to meet the cost of fuel. The practical reason they don’t is that airlines insist on packing more passengers into aircraft cabins than is possible. And as long as they stop, we’ll be watching designers cram into 747 pieces like pieces of Tetris, flipping and turning us to fill every gap. There may be a certain brilliance to his ideas, just as Nez Vicente’s double-decker seat designs do. But that doesn’t mean these ideas are really good.