London - Few predictions are certain when it comes to the future of air travel ... except this one. It looks like being a lot more comfortable.
A British company has come up with adjustable plane seats you can book to suit your shape and size.
It means larger passengers need not worry about squeezing into uncomfortable, tight spaces, moving to business class or paying double – they just book an expanded seat to fit them.
And families can enjoy more comfortable flights without taking up more overall space – mothers and fathers can add a few notches to their seats while smaller children can have theirs scaled down.
The Morph, as the seat has been called, also allows for the possibility of slimmer travellers paying less for occupying smaller spaces. The design by London firm Seymourpowell has already attracted attention from plane manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus.
Details of passengers sizes and needs will be fed into a computer and airline staff then adjust the varied seating arrangements at a touch of a button before take-off.
Unlike traditional seats, which are created individually using foam padding, the new design is based around a single piece of fabric stretched across the back of a frame for three seats.
Another piece of fabric is placed along the bottom, creating a hammock-style chair. The frame includes “formers” which move up or down underneath the fabric, allowing the passenger to alter the recline, as well as the height and depth of the seat pan, according to their size and comfort.
Crucially, the formers, which act as arm rests and dividers between the three seats, can also be moved left or right to alter their width, making the seats bigger or smaller.Economy class airline seats are, on average, around 18in wide.
But the Morph seats would allow, for example, a couple travelling with a young child to book two larger 22in seats to improve their comfort, while the child would occupy a smaller and cheaper 10in seat. Jeremy White, of Seymourpowell, admitted that some airlines were resistant to charging people according to their size, but claimed passengers would welcome improved choice. Larger travellers could see it as a better option than being charged twice over.
“One airline told us that if they have an oversized passenger, they make them buy two seats,” he said. “I can’t think of anything more degrading or humiliating than forcing someone to buy two seats because they are a bit wide.”
Mr White said the seats can also be adjusted to suit other needs such as privacy for lone travellers, mothers with children, people working or less abled passengers.
The seats are unlikely to be fitted into existing aircraft, so it could be more than a decade before the Morph design is introduced.
However, some airlines have already adopted similar seating plans. Air New Zealand’s Dreamliners feature “Skycouches”, a row of three economy seats that can be turned into a sofa.
And earlier this year Airbus announced it would be offering an additional two inches on some aisle seats on its new A320 jets to keep up with “demographic trends”.
Analysts have suggested imposing a “fat tax” on passengers above a certain weight to cope with demands from larger passengers.
In April, Samoa Air became the first airline to operate a “pay-by-weight” system. - Daily Mail