US start-up Zephyr Aerospace has pitched a unique seating arrangement that would revolutionise the way we travel, while promoting on-board social distancing.
Designed by company chief Jeffrey O’Neill, the Zephyr Seat claims to be the “first lie-flat seat for Premium Economy Class travellers on commercial flights”.
The arrangement would see double-decker flat-bed seating retrofitted to commercial aircraft, which the company claims could increases ancillary revenue for airlines by as much as 30 per cent.
The idea has seen a strong showing from investors, with $65,537 (65 per cent of the company’s minimum goal) raised on crowdfunding platform Republic in just over one month.
Zephyr said that the benefits are twofold: offering premium economy passengers a comfortable and affordable option for sleeping during long-haul flights, as well as promoting social distancing.
“We believe that new types of travellers will require privacy or will want to pay extra for that as much as they would pay for the ability to sleep,” said O’Neill, who adds that he was inspired by a sleepless flight between New York to Singapore a few years ago, on what was then the world’s longest commercial flight.
O’Neill envisages all-aisle access, with beds arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration. Manufacturing costs associated with the “Zephyr Seat” work out at $30,000-$40,000/unit, which the company says is 60 per cent less than the average production cost of a business class seat.
Zephyr adds that it is currently in discussions with commercial airlines, seating manufacturers, and OEMs (Airbus, Boeing) to bring the product to market. Accordingly, the company’s website lists Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Lufthansa, Delta, and Japan Airlines as interested parties.
The news comes after a host of design companies have introduced prototypes aimed at solving the problem of on-board social distancing.
With aviation heavyweights including Alexandre de Juniac and Michael O’Leary hinting that social distancing could spell the end for cheap flights, companies such as Factorydesign have introduced prototypes aimed at further curbing the risks associated with travelling on a packed plane.
Prior to the outbreak, several airlines were already leaning towards the adoption of a lie-flat model for economy and premium economy travellers.
Air New Zealand, for example, filed a patent back in February for its sleep pod design – called the “Economy Skynest” – in anticipation of the launch of its Auckland-New York service.