Jonny Clark is an airline brand consultant and founder of the aviation design site TheDesignAir.net.
Before you know it, the days of sitting in a standard forward-facing seat—and rubbing elbows with strangers—will be a thing of air travel history. Over the past decade, as the economic health of the industry has improved, airlines have been improving the flying experience—investing heavily in unique advanced seating.
Cabin design and interiors are big news, and seat manufacturers around the world are working overtime to produce enough seats to keep up with demand spurred by the recent wave of new aircraft deliveries. Domestic and international carriers are placing enormous orders for technologically advanced airframes such as the 787s, A380s and A350s. All this business has led to a frenzy of innovation not seen in the skies since the jet-set era of the 1960s.
While airlines seek to wow passengers with dramatic and futuristic designs—convertible, butterfly-inspired seats; spacious, multiroom suites; stackable pods—design teams are hard at work problem-solving for the needs of carriers and travelers in the years to come. How many people can be safely crammed into a cabin? How much will passengers pay to preserve their personal space? Can a smart, flexible seat be both comfortable and financially advantageous?
Of course, the transformations taking place aren't limited to an armrest or a cushion. The whole look and feel of a cabin's interiors could be turned around, flipped over and rolled into a circle. Windows could be (and are) traded in for curved, high-definition screens and intuitive circadian lighting.
What isn't changing? At this point, every detail is up in the air.
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Butterfly Seat Concept (by paperclipdesign)
The butterfly seat concept's main attraction is its convertibility. A simple fold of the seats turns a premium-economy-seating configuration into business-class suites. Use the seatback as a bench, a herringbone-style bed or enjoy the added work space. Designer James Lee says, "I believe that flexibility is the future of airline seats. In the past decade, designers have come up with all sorts of wonderful ways to pack seats into the cabin more efficiently while maximizing utility for passengers."