Durban - When it comes to flying, size does count – even if it is just 2.54cm bigger.
This is the claim from European aircraft maker Airbus, which argues that thousands of passengers across the world could end up saddled in uncomfortable, sardine-class seating for another 30 years unless rival American plane-maker Boeing agrees to provide wider seats.
Just one inch bigger.
Airbus released research by a London-based sleep research company, concluding that passengers would get less sleep on long-haul flights if they ended up on 43.18cm wide seats, set down as a minimum standard in the 1950s.
Based on research by Doctor Irshaad Ebrahim of the London Sleep Centre, Airbus claims passengers will get a better night’s rest on an 18-inch (45.72cm) wide economy class seat.
Airbus, which has always maintained a minimum standard of 18 inches on economy class seats, said “other manufacturers” were eroding passenger comfort by going back to the narrower 17-inch specification to remain competitive in an era of soaring fuel costs.
Ebrahim, who monitored twitching limb movements, brain waves and sleep behaviour of a small number of passengers on both 17 and 18 inch seats, concluded that passengers got a “deeper, less disturbed and longer night’s sleep” on the wider seats.
“In the narrower 17-inch seat the passengers were affected by numerous disturbances during sleep – which meant that they rarely experienced deep restorative sleep.
“When it comes to flying long-haul in economy, an inch makes a huge difference on passenger comfort,” Ebrahim said.
Kevin Keniston, the head of Airbus’s passenger comfort division, did not mention Boeing by name but said that unless manufacturers agreed to ditch narrow seats, another generation of long-haul passengers would be “consigned to seats based on outdated standards”.
He also noted that more passengers were now flying longer distances compared to 50 years ago.
“In the past five years the number of flights over 6 000 nautical miles (over 13 hours flight time) has increased by 70 percent.
“In 1998 no flight over 7 000 nautical miles had ever taken place. In the next 15 years, passenger traffic will double and by 2032, the world’s airlines will take delivery of more than 29 220 new passenger and freight aircraft.”
Boeing has not commented. - The Mercury