Confidence is a key hurdle in getting travelers back into the skies, particularly in economy and premium economy where people are a lot closer than the whole 2 meter, 6 food guidelines. There’s just one big thing: airlines are hemorrhaging money at the moment, which makes spending millions on brand new seating concepts entirely impossible, even if we’d really like them to.
Yep, the bad news is that many of the designs you’ve likely seen in recent weeks likely won’t be flying anytime soon, but a happy medium at a much lower price point may exist, with solutions to add privacy between seat mates.
Safran, a leading French airline seat designer has a new line of products in partnership with Universal Movement called ‘Travel Safe’, a line of accessories airlines can buy for preexisting seating setups which transform things like recline, and privacy. The most attractive option for many passengers will undoubtedly be the screens which can be placed in between each economy seat.
Crucially for airlines, these solutions don’t involve removing or blocking seats, and are arguably something many economy passengers would’ve loved to have for years already, pandemic or no pandemic. No one likes a chatty seat mate, do they? In the near term, middle seats may be blocked as a courtesy while passenger loads are low, but it’s impossible for airlines to exist in the long term with this sort of restriction.
Even with a screen between you and the person next to you, that still leaves the uneasiness about cleanliness. Another interesting initiative with the ‘Travel Safe’ line is creating solutions which reduce the number of seat features you must actually touch, by retrofitting current seats with new bells and whistles. Think: a foot lever to recline your seat, line opening a trash can.
Other features include middle seat buffers, which create additional storage and privacy when middle seats won’t be in use. Much like “business class” setups in Europe, these could be moved or removed on a flight by flight basis, which creates unique potential. Talk of creating new antimicrobial surfaces for trays and arm rests is also in the works.
As travel rebounds over the next few months, it’ll be interesting to see if airlines bite on these solutions, or whether they think it’s all a waste, because ultimately the world will return to the way it was before, whether it should or should not. These solutions from Safran will hit the market this summer, so only time will tell.
Unlike completely bespoke seating concepts which, at least for the interim may be as likely to take flight as pigs, there’s real potential here for solutions which add safety and confidence, without a killer price tag.