It’s a fact of flying life: It’s hard to sleep in coach. But the London-based firm New Territory is hoping to change that with a new economy-class seat design that could make the cheap seats more comfortable.
The project, called Interspace, was officially unveiled earlier this month and features a wing support system that has been built into a standard coach-class-style airplane seat. It includes two padded wings that can fold out from the seat back, allowing passengers to lean on a cushioned surface.
According to New Territory, the crux of the problem is that airplane seat comfort has been traditionally associated with seat pitch, which is the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it.
Instead, the company found that what fliers actually need in order to be more comfortable is the ability to rotate and redistribute their weight within their seat, “which is why you often see people leaning on the window of the aircraft using makeshift pillows,” New Territory wrote in a release.
For Luke Miles, founder and chief creative officer at New Territory, the project is as much about social equality as it is about design.
“Not enough time, thought and resources have been invested into the back of the aircraft cabin,” Miles said in a statement. “We believe that comfort, good posture and well-being is a human right irrespective of financial status or social class.”
Miles noted that up until now, economy-class seats encourage an unnatural posture and seating position.
The padded wings on the Interspace seats have been designed so that they can be folded into the chair’s upholstery, allowing passengers to get in and out of their seats more easily. Either one or both wings can be deployed depending on passengers’ preferences.
New Territory has partnered with U.K.-based SWS Certification Services, which specializes in helping companies get airworthiness approvals for new designs for aircraft interiors. The Interspace seats are consequently fully certifiable, according to New Territory, which means carriers interested in implementing the seats could do so relatively quickly.
Airlines will be able to choose different types of finishes for the padding (which has the option to be removed and washed when necessary) and can also embed speakers or other technology within the wings.
Miles’s hope is that the Interspace design could prove particularly valuable for the growing ultra-long-haul market.
The Interspace design comes several months after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved an economy-class seat that adds several inches in width to the middle seat by setting it slightly behind and lower than the adjoining window and aisles seats, with the hope of ending middle-seat misery.