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Will This New Airplane Seat Design Make It Easier to Sleep in Economy Class?



During this past week’s Aircraft Cabin Innovation Summit 2019, held in London December 3 – 5, 2019, and attended by airlines, aircraft manufacturers and designers, a potentially game-changing prototype caught the media’s attention.

CNN Travel reported on an innovative new seat design that would allow passengers flying in constricting coach seats a little extra comfort and even privacy.

The new seat styling, dubbed the ‘Interspace Seat Concept’ comes from Universal Movement, an offshoot of London-based design firm New Territory. In a sort of mission statement, Universal Movement’s website declares, “We believe that comfort, good posture and well being is a human right irrespective of financial status or social class.”

New Territory’s founder and chief creative officer, Luke Miles, formerly served as Head of Design at Virgin Atlantic for three years, so he’s an expert in aviation interiors.

While airplane seat designs currently make use of adjustable headrests, the Interspace design takes the notion a step further by introducing a padded “wings” configuration that folds out from within the seatback, giving you a place to lean your shoulders and torso, as well as your head. In fact, the design has done away with the traditional headrest altogether, pointing out that regular home and office chairs don’t typically include them.

The wings fold manually into and out of the chair on either side, so that one or both can be unfurled at the same time; and this can be done without taking up extra space, or impeding upon others’ ability to move up and down the aisle. New Territory stressed to CNN that, although their profile is sleek, the wings are robust and sturdy.

The chair prototype on display at the summit was made of carbon fiber with a lightweight design, but the company speculates that the Interspace design could be easily retrofitted into existing aircraft seats, whatever material they’re comprised of.

Miles told CNN that the overall intention of the project is to offer passengers, “the ability to actually develop your space,” adding that he’s in conversations with a few air carriers who’ve already shown interest in Interspace.

So, while you can’t count on finding any extra legroom on your next Economy-class flight, you might soon have the ability to enjoy an extra degree of comfort supplied, courtesy of the seat itself.

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Expect Airlines to Supply Fewer Options and Higher Fares After COVID-19



While many in the air travel industry are, of course, hoping for a swift and complete rebound in passenger traffic once the COVID-19 crisis finally comes under control, others aren’t as optimistic.

In fact, aviation analysts are saying that the diminished demand for air travel brought on by the coronavirus pandemic will likely persist for quite some time, even once the threat of contagion has passed.

CNN Business’ coverage looked back at the commercial aviation industry’s path to recovery after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, pointing out that passenger traffic didn’t fully bounce back until 2004. And, in the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, it wasn’t until 2013 that passenger traffic again reached the levels seen in 2007, just prior to the recession. The slumps seen in air traffic during those two crises were just a fraction of what the world has witnessed over the past four weeks.

It’s likely to take a long time for passenger air traffic to rebound from this unprecedented downturn, even once people are able to start flying again. As airlines resume operations, they’ll be selective about the routes they maintain and reduce frequency in order to fill more seats per plane, which will lead to higher fares than were seen before the crisis.

Chief credit analyst for airlines for S&P Global, Philip Baggaley, explained that, as airlines return fewer planes to service and fill those in operation to maximum capacity, many of the low-costs seats that fliers once enjoyed booking will vanish. “Fewer seats flying means fewer cheap seats at the margin,” he said.

“There’s going to be fewer airplanes. That means less flying,” industry consultant, Mike Boyd, told CNN Business. “So, there’s going to be less choice, and you’ll be paying more. There’s no way around that.”

Historically, major economic blows to the industry have resulted in bankruptcies and mergers for the airlines. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, there had been nine major U.S. carriers, which afterward merged into today’s four major carriers, which last year accounted for 80 percent of passengers flown aboard U.S. airlines: American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.

It’s possible, then, that a new wave of airline failures and mergers is on the horizon, especially given that the $50-billion federal bailout promised to the industry won’t even cover the near-$65 billion in revenue that U.S. airlines would have otherwise collected, even if they only matched last year’s numbers.

“In the near term, we’re going to see a shakeout,” said Joe Schwieterman, a transportation expert and professor at DePaul University in Chicago. “The weaker players may not survive this. Most industry leaders are expecting a long, painful recovery.”

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