Going Vertical: This Economy Class Seat Puts You Higher In The Cabin

With the economy cabin crying out for a radical overhaul of passenger comforts, we’ve seen a number of concepts that seek to make use of the vertical space. While some of the double-decker concepts look to be a certification nightmare, one, from TU Delft student Alejandro Núñez Vicente, presents a far more plausible means of leveraging the height of the aircraft cabin.

Chaise Longue  economy class seat
The Chaise Longue concept uses vertical space to give everyone more room. Photo: Alejandro Núñez Vicente

The Chaise Longue Economy Seat Project

With the Crystal Cabin Awards unveiling the shortlist for the winners this year, there is a strong level of design inspiration targeted at the most frequently flown cabin – economy. For most passengers, this is the only way they ever fly, and yet, there has been little in terms of radical innovation in this space for several decades.

We’ve already seen concepts that repurpose the overhead bins into sleeping pods and a concept that places bunk beds above the passenger seats. But one project stands out as being somewhat more realistic, while also giving passengers a significant upgrade on their comfort levels.

Developed by a student at TU Delft, Alejandro Núñez Vicente, the Chaise Longue Economy Seat Project aims to add legroom, increase versatility and make the most of the wasted vertical space in the aircraft cabin. The creator describes the idea as,

“High comfort at economy class prices by using the vertical space in the cabin.”

Chaise Longue economy class seat
Staggering the seats vertically gives more legroom and recline to all passengers. Photo: Alejandro Núñez Vicente

It requires the removal of the overhead bins, thereby freeing up space to stagger the seats not horizontally, but vertically. This, it seems, unleashes some powerful passenger experience juice, and could make a huge difference in the economy cabin for those longer flights.

How the concept works

For most aircraft, passengers can expect a maximum seat pitch in economy of 32”. This is seen as a healthy balance between comfort for the passenger and enough density for the airline to be able to operate the flight profitably. By placing alternate rows of passengers higher up in the vertical cabin space, far more legroom is unlocked, as well as some interesting additional benefits.

In a statement about the concept, Núñez Vicente said,

“The uniqueness of this concept is that the vertical space in the cabin is used to create more space for the passengers. Through the use of the vertical space, the seat design provides passengers with bigger recline angles, more leg room and more overall space within the 32” seat pitch, while supporting a wide range of different body postures.”

Chaise Longue economy class seat
Lower row passengers have huge amounts of room to stretch their legs. Photo: Alejandro Núñez Vicente

The benefits for the lower row passengers are clear to see. The elevated position of the passenger in front allows them to stretch their legs fully out underneath the forward structure. Both upper and lower passengers also benefit from a much greater recline than would be possible with standard economy seats.

For those up top, they don’t get the full stretch of the lower row passengers, but there is more legroom than the standard 32” seat would usually provide. In addition to this, the designer says that having a raised eyeline gives the passengers more visual space, which engineers a positive passenger experience on a psychological level.

Chaise Longue economy class seat
Upper row passengers will experience a feeling of space and openness with their elevated position. Photo: Alejandro Núñez Vicente

An additional benefit, both for passengers and the airline, is the ability of the lower row seats to completely fold up. This allows easier entry and exit to the row, improving turnaround times and making it easier for all passengers to get seated. It will also remove the need for passengers to actually step out of the row to allow a window or aisle passenger to pass during the flight.

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A plausible solution

Núñez Vicente stresses that, despite the removal of the overhead bins, the luggage capacity of the aircraft would not be affected. Every passenger would have access to a storage compartment beneath their seat, large enough to accommodate a cabin-sized suitcase and an additional handbag or coat.

Chaise Longue economy class seat
Baggage storage is provided underneath the seats, and lower row seats fold up for easy access. Photo: Alejandro Núñez Vicente

Overall, it’s a very interesting new way of looking at the space in the economy cabin, and in many ways, it is a far more plausible solution than some of the ‘double decker’ ideas that have been floated in the past. With rapid egress on the lower level and an unaffected passenger density, the route to certification of this solution should be relatively straightforward.

The Chaise Longue concept has been shortlisted for 2021’s Crystal Cabin Awards. Winners will be announced at the digital Aircraft Interiors Expo, taking place around the virtual Aircraft Interiors Expo (14 – 16 September 2021).