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Morph into comfort in an economy airline seat

Out There | December 10, 2013 | By:

London-based design firm Seymourpowell has designed a concept economy seat for airline travel inspired by new materials and flexibility. Called “Morph,” the seat would offer passengers choices concerning the amount of space they pay for and provide a better fit for more people.

Seymourpowell’s concept provides an alternative to the standard economy seat, which ergonomically has been designed for everyone by averaging the sizes of the largest and smallest percentiles to a point where it fits relatively few people properly. It begins as a standard product, but it can adapt to the changing needs of the passenger.

Morph uses smart architecture to adjust the width of the seat, and to individually control seat pan height and seat pan depth to suit varying sizes of passenger. This creates a scalable value offer for airlines, allowing them to arrange the economy cabin according to their passengers’ willingness and ability to pay for space.

The concept seat works by replacing traditional foam pads with a fabric that is stretched across the width of three seats, around a frame and over formers. One piece of fabric is used for the seat back and one is used for the seat base. The fabric is clamped down by the armrests and the upper dividers to form three individual hammock seats.

By moving the formers and pushing them through the fabric the recline can be controlled, as well as a range of ergonomic adjustments, morphing the fabric to provide a tailored fit and greater comfort.

“A passenger’s size is only one factor,” says Seymourpowell head of transport Jeremy White. “Morph takes into account how people feel along with their emotional needs. These needs change too, depending on the time of day, the length of the flight and the reason behind the journey. On the way out, the passenger may need to work, while on the way home they may want to relax or sleep.”

Economically speaking, this is a revolutionary proposition for travelers. Passengers would not buy a seat; they would buy space. Smaller travelers or children could buy a space and a seat fitted specifically for them—and a cheaper ticket. They could sell or trade their inches to passengers that require or simply wish to have more space.

In addition, the ability to move the divisions laterally, adjusting the width of the seat while maintaining recline and comfort allows airlines to change a row of three into a row of two, moving quickly from a high density economy ticket to a lower density, premium ticket. If the economy seat could adapt to differing people’s sizes, comfort levels could increase without a reduction in the carrier’s capacity. For the airline this creates a scalable value offer, and for the passenger there is added value by having a choice.

Additionally, the company has designed a new seat layout system that focuses on the business and premium travel segment of the high-speed and long-distance rail market. White says that the core of the idea allows two (or more) sets of seats to face another two sets of seats creating a shared space.

For rail vehicles, passengers would pre-book a specific layout to suit their needs. In some circumstances the occupant of the seats could reconfigure their space according to their requirements at the time. The design also potentially allows for the conversion from a meeting or dining space to a set of sleeping spaces.

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