Is this the future for economy-class travel after COVID-19?

The impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the airline industry has been tremendous. And there seems to be no end in sight as experts predict that air travel may never be the same again. Once travel restrictions ease airlines will have the relentless task of convincing travellers that their health and safety will be a top priority. Because currently, the thought of sitting on a plane in such close quarters with strangers for hours at a time is not so appealing. 

Airlines such as Delta and Emirates have already begun blocking out middle seats on planes to reduce the overall number of passengers allowed on board and create a bigger distance between people. However, fewer passengers would mean increased flight fares. So, what’s an alternative solution?

Italian design firm Aviointeriors, who specialise in designing aircraft interiors and passenger seats, have put forward two possible solutions. Their new designs revolutionise economy class cabins by creating a larger distance between passengers without compromising on too much space.

Design 1: The ‘Janus Seat’

The first design is the ‘Janus Seat’. Named after the two-faced Roman god, this design reverses the middle seat in a three-chair row so that the passenger in the middle faces the opposite way to those beside them. 

The design also features a transparent “shield” that isolates them from each other, creating a “protective barrier for everyone.” The shield even wraps around the outside of the aisle seat to protect passengers from catching something from people walking through the aisle. 

According to Aviointeriors, the design would be made of materials that can be easily cleaned and kept hygienic.

New seat design for air travel post coronavirus. Image: Aviointeriors
Image: Aviointeriors

Design 2: The ‘Glassafe’

The second design is the ‘Glassafe’ which is a little more practical and cost-effective in the short term. This design essentially involves installing the shields on existing aeroplane seats to make the close proximity safer among passengers sharing the same row. 

The transparent shields – which can be supplied in opaque materials if desired – aim to limit the spread of germs by creating an “isolated volume around the passenger” without the feeling of being boxed in. 

It’s worth noting that this shield only comes down to about shoulder height, meaning passengers’ arms will still be susceptible to germs that may be hidden on the shared armrests.

New seat design for air travel post coronavirus. Image: Aviointeriors
Image: Aviointeriors

How soon could this be a reality?

Paolo Drago, chief executive of Aviointeriors, says that the Janus seats could be ready in as little as six months, according to FlightGlobal

The designs will need to be tested to ensure that they don’t interfere with escape regulations or exit-row requirements. However, in order for the design to advance to the next stage of production, there needs to be significant interest from airlines. Then once they’ve been through all of the design phases, they’ll need to be approved by aviation regulators.

Alternatively, Drago believes Glassafe could be delivered in less than two months, provided regulatory clearance is achieved.

Whether these designs get the go-ahead or not, it’s safe to say, there are some big changes coming to the way we travel by air. 

Keep Reading: 3 reasons why flying will not be the same after the coronavirus

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