Long before the spread of coronavirus, designers were trying to develop unique ways to reconfigure commercial airline seats to make them more comfortable for passengers. Now, the focus is on safety to prevent the spread of deadly illnesses. But it seems once design accomplishes both.
The Zephyr Seat, created by designer Jeffrey O'Neill, features an airplane cabin with double-decker seats in premium economy. These seats lay flat while also giving passengers space from each other, limiting interactions. This could offer a level of protection from the spread of viruses such as COVID19.
O'Neill's idea for the seat came after remembering a long-distance bus trip he made in Argentina that had bunk beds. To transform this into an airplane, the designer used the current space between the seat and overhead bin to make the double-decker.
"We basically retrofitted a whole other seat on top of another," O'Neill told CNN Travel. "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."
The seats could be configured into a 2-4-2 lineup, meaning most airlines could still hold the same number of passengers. A pull-out ladder allows for the passenger on the top to access his seat. But it can easily be stowed away when not in use.
Of course, this unique design would mean passengers aren't rubbing elbows as they would in typical economy seats. Not only would that help make flying more pleasant, but it would also be safer if you're not as close to other passengers.
Although the Zephyr Seat is still in the concept phase, O'Neill said he has been in talks with four major airlines, including Delta as well as engineering partners. He even presented the idea at the 2019 Airline Interiors Expo at Hamburg, where airline executives expressed interest.