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Airline Economy Seat of the Future: A Pole? A Perch?

Designers take the “small is beautiful” approach but may have to yield to larger interests

The airline seat of the future may not be a seat at all. In fact, if Italian seat designer Aviointerior has its way, it may be more of a, well, perch. While it may not be the first time such concepts have been proposed, perhaps the scary part is that this concept of stand-up airline seating keeps coming back to live another day.

The latest version has passengers propped up on bicycle-like seat, with surrounding seats blocking the passenger into a clean and cozy fit. The model is the Skyrider 3.0, an improvement, they say, on the Skyrider 2.0 that debuted last year at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Germany.

According to CNN reports, the design company stresses that this concept is not about creating a “cattle class,” perhaps a notch below basic economy, and cramming in as many passengers in as possible.

“The message is, we do not want to put thousands of people in the cabin, we want to offer a multi-class configuration, which is nowadays impossible if you want to reach the maximum load of passengers,” Gaetano Perugini, engineering adviser at Aviointeriors, told CNN.

However, the Skyrider seat offers much less space than the average economy seat — just 23 inches — so airlines could, indeed, create a cattle car economy class. Current comparable measures in airline economy class seats run from 29 to 32 inches.

“So that means that in the same cabin, you will have standard economy, premium economy or business class and ultra-basic economy — which is an innovation for the airline and the passenger,” Perugini said. “This is the true reason for the Skyrider.”

The design was first proposed back in 2010, but had some structural issues that prevented it from taking off. Indeed, Ryanair proposed a type of vertical seat in 2010 that never made it off the drawing room floor, although some 42 percent of those polled said they would book the seat if it were at half rate. The design would have allowed the airline to cram an extra 40 or 50 passengers into the cabin. Similarly, Airbus came out with a patent for a saddle of sorts in 2014, which became the target of jokes but never made it into the cabins. The current model, as with the others, does not bode well for every body type, perhaps any body type.

“If you read the specification of the A380 or the A320 — or the A321 or the 737, you read that it’s not allowed to be installed at a pitch of less than 28 inches,” the engineer explained in the report.

The seats look similar to a bicycle seat but with back support. But like other designs before it, this “ultra-basic economy” is getting a lot of stares but not picking up a lot of interest.