In a round-up of some of the newest additions on the seating market, features editor Melissa Moody discovers how airlines are creating solutions for seats with a changed world in mind
Molon Labe Seating has unveiled a new airline prototype that will allow passengers of restricted mobility to fly on airlines in their own wheelchairs.
Currently, passengers in wheelchairs must transfer to a skychair able to get down the narrow aisle before transferring to their airline seat, with their own wheelchairs stored in the cargo hold.
The solution is based on the slide-slip seat design, but has been modified from a standard economy-class triple seat to a very wide economy-class double seat.
“Power wheelchair users have an approximate spend of globally $3.9 billion, and the desire to spend this on travel has never been stronger,” says Ben Orson, managing director of JPA design, which has been working alongside Molon Labe to bring the chair to life.
“IATA forecasts passenger numbers doubling by 2036, and disabled travellers are rising at approximately 10 per cent per year. We want to create a space to allow power wheelchair users to fly safely and with dignity inside the cabin in their own wheelchair.”
During operations, the aisle seat functions as a normal economy-class seat but, when required, it is slid over the
top of the window seat and locked into place for normal use. The gap that is then opened up as a result of sliding the aisle seat over the top of the window seat offers a 36-inch-wide space that can secure a manual or powered wheelchair in place.
A Q-Straint wheelchair docking system, which is already widely used on buses and trains, is used to secure the wheelchair to the aircraft cabin floor.
To expedite the design, analysis and engineering and certification of the seat, Molon Labe has launched a GoFundMe campaign titled #flyingwheelchairs.
“It costs millions to design and certify an airline seat. We are a small start-up with limited resources; our recently certified S1 economy-class seat is our main focus right now,” says Molon Labe CEO Hank Scott.
“We chose to crowdfund this project so we can get it certified and in the air as soon as possible. We want to be flying within 18 months, but we need the public’s help.”
The space age
With space at a premium on many aircraft, passengers look to get the most out of their seating. Bulkhead seats are often sought by many travellers as a means of getting extra leg room and proximity to bassinet fixtures. Adient Aerospace has taken this a step further with its Space For All (SFA) concept.
Nominated for a Crystal Cabin Award for Passenger Comfort Hardware, the concept aims to enhance the front row seat experience with an individual extending mechanism that translates out from the lower bulkhead wall.
When locked in position, SFA can provide each passenger with an extended flat surface to use as a lounge seat, or with all three deployed, a common space for children and adults. With the armrests in a raised position, SFA provides the front row passengers with over 17 square feet of shared flat space that can be used as a bed on longer flights.
The company, which won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019 for its 1 For All Tetris-like seating concept, has made it clear that the Space For All solution can be retrofitted onto existing fleets, but would be further optimised with the Adient Aerospace front row triple seat, which incorporates a folding centre armrest with bifold meal table.
Shedding the pounds
Nolinor Aviation has announced that it is equipping its latest fleet of Boeing 737-499 with the lightest aircraft seat in the world.
Made by Expliseat, the TISeat E2 is 40 per cent lighter than any other certified seat currently on the market.
“For our new fleet of Boeing 737-400, we needed to give a fresh look to the interior of our aircraft while also improving performance. The solution put forward by Expliseat is perfect for us,” says president of Nolinor Aviation Marco Prud-Homme.
According to Expliseat, the TiSeat E2 offers optimal transport efficiency by reducing the total weight of Nolinor’s aircraft by 1.1 tons whilst maintaining the comfort. With a structure made of titanium and carbon fibre, it is equipped with a 4.5 inch recline and foam combinations for flights up to seven hours.
The frame is made from the most resistant materials certified for aerospace, carbon fibre and titanium, which can last 1,000 times longer than aluminium with a carbon fibre tray table to resist the most critical load up to 90kg.
Nolinor says that the weight saving allows the airline to modernise its fleet while increasing competitiveness, by facilitating operations on destinations where Nolinor is benefiting from additional aircraft performance, or gaining additional 1.1 tons of payload.
It also allows the airline to expand its commercial offering with “new comfortable seats and a lighter fleet, offering the best passenger experience” with a more efficient aircraft that is capable of more range, less fuel and better carbon emissions.
Chief executive offer of Expliseat Benjamin Saada welcomes the news. “Our market shares in Canada are rapidly growing with more than 3,000 TiSeat flying on Dash 8, ATR and Boeing 737 aircraft. We are delighted to have Nolinor flying with our seats on the Boeing 737 aircraft. It demonstrated how our lightweight technology is a key asset for airlines in Canada to improve their operations while decreasing their CO² emissions.”
Sleeping in the sky
As fuel efficiency becomes easier and innovations continue to speed the industry ahead, the aviation market is increasingly moving in the direction of ultra-long point-to-point flights, making sleeping in comfort on aircraft more important than ever.
Dutch consultancy and engineering firm ADSE has introduced a new approach for sleeping comfortably in economy class with the Economy Sky-Dream concept, which has introduced the idea of stackable bunk beds.
Replacing overhead bins, the beds would be lowered during the sleep phase of flight and allow passengers to get some much-needed rest.
The idea was inspired by ADSE consultants’ own long-haul flight experiences, and is intended to challenge conventional cabin design thinking for long-haul travel. Aimed at wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 and 777, the solution includes a full lie-flat experience through a bunk-bed concept. Making optimal use of the height in the middle of the aircraft, the central overhead luggage bins are taken away to create vertical space for a three-person full lie-flat bunk bed.
Maurice Boon, technical consultant at ADSE, explains that while the concept could be classified as blue sky thinking, they also considered the practicalities. “We realised that a radical innovation in the aviation industry will only occur when we can create benefits for all the stakeholders involved.
“We would envision this as a distinct class, indeed a premium economy, for part of the cabin,” adds Boon. “The design features a passenger density that is very similar to a common 34-inch pitch, 10-abreast layout, so there is almost full interchangeability. This offers extensive LOPA freedom.”
During taxi, take-off, cabin service and landing, passengers of two rows will be seated opposite each other in club seating configuration, with hand luggage stowed under the extra-wide seats. The middle bed will move down during the long cruise to make room for the three beds. The beds will be 76-80 inches long and have a width of 23.6 inches, 20 per cent wider than a regular economy seat.
The company says that the three-bed design won’t force airlines to compromise on revenues either, as it allows passenger density similar to a regular economy comfort class, and increased comfort may also bring in passengers, leading to increased revenue potential.
By opting for a modular concept, the Economy Sky-Dream is easily installed and able to be retrofitted into wide-body aircraft. It can be built into the existing seat tracks and luggage rack suspension without altering the residual value of the aircraft.
Safran partners up
Safran Seats, the aerospace manufacturer, has partnered up with transportation technology company Universal Movement to bring the Interspace seat technology to market in a move that hopes to “get airlines back on their feet much sooner” than if standard aircraft seating remains the same.
The seat utilises its patented lateral-support wing design to provide greater privacy and comfort to passengers when travelling in premium economy. Guests are able to fold out two padded wings to provide more support and the ability to change posture at seat.
Following Universal Movement’s launch of the seat at the Red Cabin Innovation Summit in December last year, the new agreement will see Safran take up the exclusive development and manufacturing of the Interspace portfolio across economy and premium, domestic business class, and upgradable retrofit solutions for existing premium economy seating, as well as the new Interspace Lite edition for economy.
Safran Seats’ EVP of strategy and innovation, Quentin Munier says: “We are confident that this partnership with Universal Movement will generate value to our customers thanks to its recognised agility and innovative spirit. Interspace is a great innovation for privacy of passengers, even more so in the post-Covid-19 travel environment that’s ahead of us.”
The partnership also allows the companies to begin work on the Interspace Light, which gives airlines flexibility to reconfigure economy cabins, providing delineation and privacy between passengers by locking out either the central or outboard seats of a row.
Luke Miles, founder of Universal movement says: “When we launched the Interspace seat last year, we had established a clear gap in the aerospace seating market with an innovative new design. We are thrilled to be partnering with a company as significant and accomplished as Safran to bring this portfolio of products to market.
“With the travel industry severely affected by the spread of coronavirus, we have also sought to provide a solution through the Interspace Lite. Our partnership with Safran is a significant step in helping to support the industry and also make planes a much more comfortable space for passengers when they look to travel again.”
The manufacturing for the lite and premium economy upgrade products is due to begin in early summer of 2020, with supply and kitting tailored to meet demand thereafter. The company’s design and development teams will continue, leading to a fully integrated interspace product for economy and premium economy as a new seat offering.