In the future zoning of economy could be the way for airlines to go
Paul Priestman, chairman of cabin design specialists PriestmanGoode, talks cabin comforts and future zoning
The thought of spending hours on a long-haul flight in Economy shouldn’t fill people with dread, and as designers our job is to make the experience better.
There are things we can play with to give people extra legroom without causing the ticket price to soar. Making the seat thinner where your knees rest and sculpting it around the spine, to create additional knee room, for example; as well as basic design amendments such as moving the magazine pocket up higher, are already giving more space on airlines such as SWISS and United.
People don’t sit in just one position; we vary our positions and posture to get comfortable and there are some amazing materials and technologies coming through that can really boost comfort - such as foams with different density and firmness at different points, which provide comfort and support where it matters.
Seats with armrests that can be moved out of the way enable passengers to snuggle up and sit sofa-style, or change position more easily.
But frankly, a beautifully-designed, comfortable seat with extra legroom means nothing if people aren’t being served by happy, helpful staff. We therefore focus as much attention on designing great spaces and facilities for staff as we do for passengers, so that they can focus on delivering a stand-out customer service and leave a positive lasting impression on them.
We carry out significant research with passengers, crew and maintenance teams to understand what their individual needs are and work with suppliers to develop new materials that are harder wearing and easier to maintain. We build mockups throughout the development process to ensure our designs are fit-for-purpose.
Looking at future trends, however, zoning of Economy could be the way for airlines to go.
Price, for many passengers, remains a priority but the launch of Premium Economy has shown people’s willingness to trade up for some extra legroom and a slightly more deluxe service. Economy Plus and Economy Basic offered by other airlines take this a step further.
In future people might, for a reasonable price, pay a little extra to sit in a kids-free zone, or a work-, sleeping- or family-zone. The seats would be the same but the service levels provided would be different and priced accordingly. This type of zoning is already happening in airports so why not onboard aircrafts?
Paul recently spoke at the GREAT Festival of Innovation run by the UK's Department of International Trade.