Stacked Seating Could Permit Lie Flat Beds In Economy

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With airlines preparing for a post-COVID future, many are thinking about ways to encourage passengers back to the skies. While all airlines are implementing enhanced cleaning and hygiene procedures, some are considering whether this goes far enough. As such, many companies have been beavering away to produce innovative seating concepts that could provide more privacy and distancing in flight. The latest is called the Zephyr Seat.

Zephyr Seat
The stacked seating would allow for more space, more distancing, and lie flat comfort. Photo: Zephyr Aerospace

Lie flat comfort for premium economy

Produced by San Francisco startup Zephyr Aerospace, this new product, the Zephyr Seat, is designed to provide not only more social distancing on board but also access to lie-flat comfort in non-premium cabins. Targeted for deployment in premium economy, the double-decker arrangement will give every passenger direct aisle access and the ability to lie down.

The concept works on putting one passenger above another, thereby allowing the same capacity as is typically seen in premium economy, but with more distance between each person. In addition, rather than the usual relatively generous recline, passengers will have the ability to lie completely flat and grab some sleep on long-haul flights.

Zephyr Seat
Passengers will have additional personal space. Photo: Zephyr Aerospace

The seats require a similar amount of pitch to regular premium economy seats; 38-42” according to the website. Seating would be in 2-4-2 configuration, as is usually seen in the PE cabin.

With 78” of lie flat space, these would be some of the biggest beds in the sky. They have been designed using lightweight composite materials, which Zephyr Aerospace says will lead to a 90% reduction in direct maintenance costs.

Perfect timing

Although only at the concept stage just now, Zephyr Aerospace has high hopes for success for its new lie flat seating. The company believes that the time is perfect for airlines to consider outside the box designs and that the new seat could be just what is needed to get people back in the skies.

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Zephyr Seat
Lie flat in premium economy, with more distancing in place. Photo: Zephyr Aerospace

CEO of Zephyr Aerospace, Jeffrey O’Neill, spoke to  Simple Flying about the concept, and its applicability to a post COVID industry. He said,

“The safety of passengers and employees is the top priority of U.S. airlines. Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic,airlines are following – and in some cases exceptionally exceeding- all guidance from the CDC to get travelers flying again.  For the first time ever, privacy is the new onboard standard for travelers. The Zephyr Seat redefines the Premium Economy Class experience by offering the most affordable, health conscious, lie-flat experience in commercial air travel.”

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The company says the new seats would be an easy retrofit to existing premium economy cabins. It is currently fundraising to take the concept to the next stage but has to convince airlines too that it would be worthwhile investing in this update.

How realistic is this concept?

We’ve already seen a number of incredible innovations in the field of aircraft seating, and plenty of ideas flowing forth concerning social distancing on board. The Zephyr seat is an interesting solution to this problem, but would it really work?

The one thing all airlines have agreed on throughout the crisis is that keeping the middle seat free is never going to work long term. In fact, anything that significantly cuts into their capacity is likely to impinge too much on revenue and would require fares to increase significantly.

Zephyr Seat
Airlines could fit the same number of passengers in the premium economy cabin. Photo: Zephyr Aerospace

Zephyr’s concept works well in the premium economy cabin, but this is traditionally the smallest cabin on the plane. While it could certainly solve a problem for the 30 or so fliers in the PE cabin (and could encourage more to upgrade), there’s still a huge issue for the hundreds stuck back in coach.

Nevertheless, if it works, can get funding and the relevant certification, it would be an exciting addition to the seat matrix.

What do you think about the Zephyr seat? A cool innovation or unlikely to ever happen? Let us know in the comments.

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