A revolution in air travel or a devolution in airline customer service, that’s what industry insiders are saying about a plane seat inspired by a saddle that was unveiled at the Aircraft Interiors Expo conference in Long Beach, California this week.
Called the Skyrider, the new seat design concept was designed by the Italian aircraft seat design company Aviointeriors, but looks like something out of the Old West.
On the Skyrider, passengers sit on an angle on a saddle-seat with only 23 inches of legroom. That’s 7 inches less than the average amount of legroom for an economy class seat.
To put it in even greater perspective, the legroom in some of the most generous U.S. carriers, like JetBlue, is 34 to 38 inches. The SkyRider seats would fit perfectly in the space between two JetBlue seats.
According to Aviointeriors, the lack of legroom and high angle of the seat does not compromise its comfort. If cowboys can sit for hours comfortably on a saddle, says the company, then airline passengers would be equally comfortable on a one to three hour flight sitting on the Skyrider.
The company also claims that the Skyrider would help bring about a new class of economy seating that would be more affordable than the current economy class, but still a step above riding the cargo hold.
For airlines, the seat would mean being able to maximize capacity on their aircraft and make more money. The seat is already attracting attention from discount airlines hoping to make more profit by increasing the occupancy in the economy class sections of their planes.
Earlier this year, the head of Irish airline, Ryanair, proposed a similar space saving idea, saying that his company would offer vertical seats to customers. European Aviation Safety Agency officials, however, nixed the idea.
The agency would have had to change European rules for the certification of aircraft before allowing vertical seats, since current European rules demand that each passenger has to be provided with a seat. The Skyrider may encounter similar roadblocks in Europe and the U.S., if it is determined that its saddle-like design does not meet agency seat regulations.
The FAA has strict guidelines for how aircraft seats need to perform in an emergency including the ability to withstand forces up to 16 times that of gravity. Any airline carrying the seats would also need to adhere to FAA guidelines on passengers per flight attendant ratios.
Chances are good that the Skyrider will not by flying off into the sunset until these guidelines are met.
By Adriana Padilla at PeterGreenberg.com.
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