Could this be the future of the economy class cabin?

    The problems kept forward by the COVID-19 pandemic run far more profound than just the immediate shock. For aviation, many of the fundamentals have brought into question; in particular, a penchant for stuffing as many people into the cabin as possible. Avio interiors, an Italian aviation seats design firm, has presented a new concept for economy class seating that could go some way to tackle the problem.

    S-shaped seating for socially distant flying

    Earlier on April 21st,  AvioInteriors revealed a, a product designed to create some keep away from other passengers in flight. Without airlines losing passenger seat capacity. While that’s an easily fitted product, designed to clip on to existing cabin seats. The same company had also unveiled a concept for some airlines who wanted to go one step further.

    The Janus seat, which named after the two-faced Roman god, which aims to create social distance on board by changing the fundamental way we expect to fly. The yin-yang style arrangement will see one-third of passengers facing away from the direction of travel. Perhaps not something passengers would choose for our inflight experience, but something we’ve come to accept in other forms of transport, like trains, buses.

    Passengers in the aisle and window seat would face the direction of travel, while those in the middle position face backward. It’s a concept that has been seen in the business class compartment for quite a long time. although never before in economy.

    Of course, just merely alternating the direction of travel won’t tackle social distancing issues. To provide additional protection, Aviointeriors have also proposed the idea of a large transparent screen around the top of the seats. Effectively shielding each passenger from their immediate neighbour and those moving around in the aisle.

    How realistic would this concept be?

    The Aviointerior’s take on social distancing is interesting to see. However, the product itself leaves many questions which all viewers aks for answer answers.

    While the alternating direction of travel may go some way towards adding for the protection of passengers. It also adds some challenges for airlines. The company claims that the blueprint of the new seat configuration will be no larger than existing arrangements. Thus not allowing more passengers to fit in, but how would inflight meal service work? With those transparent barriers in place, will the aircraft be able to evacuate as quickly and safely as regulations require?

    The efficiency of the product is also somewhat questionable. While passengers protected from immediate neighbours and passing aisle traffic, the result is that one person is left facing two others. Would this effectively increase the risk of exposure?

    Added to all this is the expanse of plastic screens that will be in place on the aircraft. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is known to persist for as long as seven days on plastic and stainless steel. This would mean that every surface would need to disinfect between every flight for the product to live up to its safety ambitions.

    This, in itself, would be a considerable commitment for airlines. Before COVID-19, loading-unloading and boarding-deboarding usually would take under an hour. slightly more for widebody aircraft, which didn’t include thorough cleaning of anywhere other than galleys and toilets. While this may well change in the future, the Janus seat brings with it a significant cleaning burden. not to mention the cost implications of swapping out an entire cabin of seats.


    Overall, it’s great to see companies like Aviointeriors working to develop products to help us get back in the air. However, between the two product concepts that have revealed some weeks ago, the idea looks like a more workable solution.

    Right now, both of these products are patented concepts. But the company says that it is ready to begin their production. To install these seats onto the aircraft, it’s going to need to win both over airlines and regulators and answer the many questions that remain.


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