Editor’s Note – Monthly ticket is a new CNN Travel series that highlights some of the most fascinating topics in the world of travel. In June, we’ll take to the skies to check out the latest advances in aircraft interiors, including the people working to change the way we fly.
(CNN) — You may not know that the standard for airplane seat sizing dates all the way back to 1954.
Then Boeing first flew the prototype that would lead to the iconic 707 of the jet era.
As Boeing developed its aircraft families, it reused core elements such as the fuselage, even as it developed new wings and engines.
For example, the 727 was essentially a 707, but with the engines in the back. The 737 – still in production today – was and is essentially a 707, but with two engines instead of four.
Arranged with six in each row in “tourist” or “coach,” as economics used to be called, the 707’s seats were pretty good before 1954, but that was nearly 70 years ago.
You may not know many people who reached adulthood in 1954, but if you do, make the most of their impressive longevity and compare their general size and build next to a sturdy, well-fed 18-year-old today.
All things considered, you’ll probably notice that people are a lot taller these days — taller, with wider shoulders and wider hips.
But the Boeing 737 — which has a fuselage width of 148 inches (3.76 meters), like the 707s — still seats six people in each row.
No wonder planes seem cramped these days, even the slightly wider Airbus A320s, which usually offer an 18-inch seat, or the A220 (designed by Bombardier as the C-series), which offers 19-inches.
Above: A Boeing 707, the aircraft manufacturer’s first jet aircraft. Below: A Boeing 737-800 in Hanover, Germany, in 2013.
Getty Images, Getty Images
But what if these one-aisle planes were just, well, bigger? That is a question that aviation interior consultancy LIFT Aero Design is asking with a concept called Paradym.
Director Daniel Baron and design partner Aaron Yong are refreshingly open that Paradym really needs a new paradigm: wider planes.
“Paradym is a configuration concept for next-generation single-aisle aircraft,” Baron told CNN.
“It takes a higher standard of comfort in economy class using wide triple seats. What is totally different is the idea of a new single aisle aircraft that is significantly wider than the current 737 or A320 families.
“Each row in Paradym would have wide triple seats, with 20 inches between the armrests instead of the current 17-18. Each row would also have two armrests between the seats instead of one.”
The concept would allow airlines to customize these three seats to offer different levels of service depending on demand, including economy and premium economy. There is also a lay-flat option.
Changing Traveler Needs
LIFT poses the question at a particularly crucial time, particularly for the single-aisle narrowbody aircraft that make up the bulk of the world’s short-to-medium-haul fleet, and a small but growing portion of its long-haul services.
Boeing has stretched the airframe of the Boeing 737 from the 1960s as far as possible with the 737 MAX. Airbus is heading that way with the A320neo evolution of the 1980s A320. Add that to its hydrogen capabilities, and it seems likely that both aircraft makers will have to build an entirely new aircraft for their next narrowbody.
Now is the time to talk about broadening that plane a bit.
“The simple fact is that airlines need to reinvent themselves to remain relevant in the era of surging airfares, forever work from home and the coming metaverse revolution.
“Economy class space for long-haul flights is shrinking as more space is allocated to premium classes for increasingly luxurious seats. And around the world, people are getting taller in all directions. Yesterday’s seat width standards may no longer be enough to keep up. frequent long-haul flights are attractive, especially with ultra-long-haul flights now lasting 16-20 hours.”
The concept of LIFT Aero Design would enable airlines to adapt the interior of an aircraft to demand. But first, aircraft manufacturers will have to make wider aircraft.
LIFT Aero Design
Covid-19 has also changed the way many people perceive their own personal “bubble” of space, while increasing onboard disruptions from unruly passengers are likely related to the fact that the seat rows are generally a few inches closer together. than in previous years, and that there are more seats in each row.
When the Boeing 777 first started flying in the 1990s, almost all major airlines placed nine economy seats in each row. Today, almost all of them have 10. When Boeing designed the 787 Dreamliner in the 2000s, it advertised a comfortable eight-a-side seat standard and a nine-a-side option for low-cost airlines, but in reality, only Japan Airlines took the eight seats. next to each other.
From an aviation accountant’s point of view, this makes sense. The accepted wisdom in the airline industry — and the continued success of low-cost airlines — is that all comfort problems are solved by cheaper ticket prices, and very few passengers choose their flight for anything other than price and schedule.
‘A cabin without curtains or partitions’
Airlines, explains Baron, “have access to highly sophisticated revenue management software to adjust fares, but ultimately cannot physically adjust the seats on multi-class aircraft to meet ever-fluctuating demand.”
Some have tried, as with the type of convertible seat previously used by some European airlines, to create a wider berth for their center seat free-economy Eurobusiness style seats, but this has now been largely removed.
“Going forward,” says Baron, “for airlines, the key to sustainable profitability will be the ability to tailor the entire experience to customer needs.”
These can even change between trips for the same person: A road warrior has different needs when she’s flying alone to Omaha on a one-hour daytime flight than when her family is flying eight hours to Europe overnight on vacation.
“We’re already seeing a trend toward product unbundling,” said LIFT’s Aaron Yong, referring to airlines selling individual mini-upgrade products like seats with extra legroom, better meals, lounge access, more luggage, and so on.
“Paradym is a configuration concept for the next generation of single-aisle aircraft,” said LIFT director Daniel Baron.
LIFT Aero Design
“In the future, the demand for flexibility in seat products and inflight service options will only increase. In this context, the main benefit of Paradym for airlines is the ability to sell multiple products with one seat model on the aircraft. Customers would be able to book any airline-provided experience, with the airline being able to continuously tweak to optimize pre-flight monetization, using every row on the plane, right up to departure.”
“Paradym envisions a cabin without curtains or partitions,” explains Yong, comparing three-person seats to sets of four seats or quads.
“The concept of traditional classes is being replaced by products. The airline could sell each row from nose to tail as economy, premium economy and/or a lay-flat product, i.e. the customer buys three seats and gets a wide sleeping area that is almost as long as a quad bike. It can be combined with premium food, IFE and amenities and sold as ‘premium economy flat’, a brand new product category.”
Those may not be the household names with their established brands and well-known brands: Delta One, United Polaris, British Airways Club World, and so on.
But new airlines are coming up all the time, and often the old guard realize that there could be real benefits to the way the new public does things.
However, is that enough for a Paradym shift?
Top image: Paradym concept from LIFT Aero Design. Credit: LIFT Aero Design