What if planes were wider? Aircraft cabin concept rethinks passenger seating

Editor’s note – Monthly ticket is a new series from CNN Travel that highlights some of the most exciting topics in the world of travel. In June, we’ll take to the skies to see the latest developments in aircraft interiors, including the people working to change the way we fly.

(CNN) — You may not know that airplane seat size standards date back to 1954.

It was then that Boeing first flew the prototype, which later became the legendary 707 of the jet age.

As Boeing has developed its aircraft families, it has reused key elements such as the fuselage, even as it develops new wings and engines.

For example, the 727 was essentially a 707, but with the engines in the back. The Boeing 737 still in production today was and still is essentially a 707, but with two engines instead of four.

The 707’s seats, six per row in “tourist” or “bus” as the economy used to be called, were pretty good for 1954, but that was almost 70 years ago.

You may not know many people who were adults in 1954, but if you do, make the most of their impressive longevity and compare their overall size and height to a tall, well-fed 18-year-old today.

All other things being equal, you’ll probably notice that modern humans are a bit bigger – taller, with broader shoulders and wider hips.

But the Boeing 737, whose fuselage width is 148 inches (3.76 meters), like the 707s, still seats six people in each row.

It’s no surprise that planes today feel cramped, even the slightly wider Airbus A320 which offers an 18-inch seat, or the A220 (designed by Bombardier as the C series) with a 19-inch seat.

Above: Boeing 707, the company’s first jetliner. Bottom: Boeing 737-800 in Hannover, Germany, 2013.

Getty Images, Getty Images

But what if these narrow-body aircraft were just bigger? This is the question asked by the consulting company LIFT Aero Design, which is working on a concept called Paradym.

Managing director Daniel Baron and design partner Aaron Yong are open about how Paradym really needs a new paradigm: wider planes.

“Paradim is a next-generation narrow-body aircraft configuration concept,” Baron tells CNN.

“He uses a higher comfort standard in economy class with wide triple seats. What is completely different is the idea of ​​a new narrow-body aircraft that is significantly wider than today’s 737 or A320 families.

“Each row at Paradym will have wide triple seats with 20-inch armrest spacing instead of the current 17-18. Each row will also have two armrests between the seats instead of one.”

The concept will allow airlines to modify these three seats to offer different levels of service based on demand, including economy class and premium economy class. There is also a recumbent option.

Changing Traveler Needs

LIFT is asking this question at a particularly important time, especially with narrow-body narrow-body aircraft, which make up the majority of the world’s short- and medium-haul aircraft fleet, as well as a small but growing portion of its long-haul flights.

Boeing maximized the 1960s Boeing 737 airframe with the 737 MAX. Airbus is following this path with the 1980s evolution of the A320neo A320. Add to this the possibilities of hydrogen power, and it is likely that both aircraft manufacturers will need to build completely new aircraft for their next narrow-body aircraft.

Now it’s time to talk about making this plane a little wider.

“The simple fact is that in an era of rising airfare, work from home, and the coming metaverse revolution, airlines will have to reinvent themselves to stay relevant,” says Baron.

“Space in economy class on long-haul flights is shrinking as more space is made available in premium class for more and more luxurious seats. And all over the world people are getting bigger in all directions. Yesterday’s seat width standards may no longer be enough to make frequent long haul flights attractive, especially with ultra long haul flights now taking 16-20 hours.”

The LIFT Aero Design concept will allow airlines to tailor aircraft interiors to meet demand.  But first, aircraft manufacturers will have to start building wider planes.

The LIFT Aero Design concept will allow airlines to tailor aircraft interiors to meet demand. But first, aircraft manufacturers will have to start building wider planes.

LIFT Aero Design

Covid-19 has also changed the way many people perceive their personal space bubble, while the rise in onboard disruption due to rebellious passengers is likely due to the fact that seat rows are a few inches overall. closer together than in previous years, and that there are more seats in each row.

When the Boeing 777 first began flying in the 1990s, nearly all mainline airlines had nine economy seats per row. Today, almost everyone has 10. When Boeing designed the 787 Dreamliner in the 2000s, it advertised a comfortable eight-abreast standard and a nine-abreast option for low-cost carriers, but in reality, only Japan Airlines took on the challenge. eight seats in a row.

From an airline accountant’s point of view, this makes sense. Conventional wisdom in the airline industry — and the continued success of low-cost carriers — is that any comfort concerns are resolved by lower ticket prices, and that very few passengers choose their flight on anything other than price and schedule.

“Cabin without curtains and partitions”

Airlines, Baron explains, “have access to very sophisticated revenue management software to adjust fares, but in the end cannot physically adjust seats on multi-class aircraft to meet ever-changing demand.”

Some have tried, for example with the convertible seat previously used by some European carriers, to create a wider sleeper for their European business style economy seats without the middle seat, but this has now been largely removed.

“Moving forward,” says Baron, “for airlines, the key to sustainable profitability will be the ability to tailor the entire experience to customer needs.”

They can even change for the same person between trips: A road warrior has different needs if he’s on a one-hour daytime flight to Omaha alone and with his family on an eight-hour overnight flight to Europe on vacation.

“We’re already seeing a trend towards separating products,” says LIFT’s Aaron Yong, referring to airlines selling individual mini-upgrades such as seats with extra legroom, better meals, lounge access, more baggage, and so on. .

"Paradym is a next-generation narrow-body aircraft configuration concept." says LIFT Managing Director Daniel Baron.

“Paradim is a configuration concept for the next generation of single-aisle aircraft,” says LIFT Managing Director Daniel Baron.

LIFT Aero Design

“In the future, the demand for flexible seating options and in-flight service options will only grow. In this context, Paradym’s main advantage for airlines is the ability to sell multiple products with the same seat model on board an aircraft. Customers will be able to book any experience offered by the airline, while the airline can continually make changes to optimize flight revenue generation by using every row on the aircraft prior to departure.”

“Paradym envisions a cabin with no curtains or partitions,” Yong explains, comparing triple seat sets to sets of four or four seats.

“The concept of traditional classes is being replaced by products. An airline can market any nose-to-tail row as economy class, premium economy class and/or a flat product, i.e. a customer buys three seats and gets a wide sleeping area of ​​almost the same length. quad bike It can be paired with premium food, IFE and amenities and marketed as a “premium economy apartment”, a whole new product category.”

It may not be for big names with their established brands and well-known brands: Delta One, United Polaris, British Airways Club World and so on.

But new airlines are opening all the time, and often the old guard realizes that the new crowd’s way of doing business can bring real benefits.

However, is this enough to change Paradym?

Top image: Paradym concept by LIFT Aero Design. Credit: LIFT Aero Design

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