Unless you can afford Business or First class, you know how claustrophobic a flight experience can be. With little space for legs, lying down is pure fantasy.
As our current world redefines the importance of physical distance, we need new solutions for our spaces – including airplanes. A designer might have had just the right idea.
It Started With A Sleepless Flight
Flying from New York to Singapore was not the most restful experience for designer Jeffrey O’Neill. Through the long-haul flight, he could not sleep one bit, and kept thinking:
“I’m on probably the best-rated airline in the world, and I’m getting wonderful service and the food is edible, but I can’t sleep. This is really uncomfortable. Why is it so difficult to find an affordable way to lie flat on a flight that’s 19 hours?”
He got to work with his company, Zephyr Aerospace, to solve the uncomfortable issue. Inspiration struck him as he remembered a cozy bus with bunk beds in Argentina.
Aware of the importance of real estate on planes, he came up with a double-decker 2-4-2 design. This would not sacrifice any seats while creating more living space for passengers.
A New Airplane Seat
The Zephyr Seat by O’Neill looks like a futuristic dream. The designer used the space between a seat and the overhead locker to add a second layer of seats.
Passengers will be able to lounge, stretch or lie down. Moreover, these seats are a safer way to keep physical distance from other travelers.
To encourage companies to adopt the design, the seating arrangement fits most plane cabins. As O’Neill explained:
“We basically retrofitted a whole other seat on top of another. So it’s essentially two levels, it’s not as tall off the ground as people might imagine, it’s only four and a half feet off the ground from the entry point to the lower seat to the upper seat.”
A Long Way To Go
It took O’Neill two years to go from design to mock-up of the project. He also found an engineering partner and is ready to move forward.
At the 2019 Airline Interiors Expo in Germany, he first shared his idea with the aviation industry. After that, he used feedback to improve his product.
For now, he does not have a contract with any company yet, but promising conversations are happening. We would not be surprised if coronavirus tipped the odds in his favor.
Lastly, the Zephyr Seat will have to pass security tests before approval. As the process can take up to three years, it is not time to dream of a comfortable economy flight just yet.