In the fu­ture zoning of econ­omy could be the way for air­lines to go

Onboard Hospitality - - In Conversation With... -

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.

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