A new model of airplane seating was unveiled at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, Hamburg, Germany, June 20, 2022. The Chaise Longue Economy Seat, also known as the Chaise Longue Economy Seat, would effectively stagger economy-class passengers between two levels of seating. These double-decker seats are marketed by the inventor as having more recline, more legroom, and more privacy.
Do double-decker plane seats offer any chance of flying? Let’s look at the possible reasons, from regulations to feedback from flyers — that might prevent it from happening.
Concepts for double-decker plane seats
The Chaise Longue (note French spelling) is not the first double-decker plane seat design to be developed. For the better part of a century, aircraft seat designers have tried to accommodate more passengers in the same space. These concepts have not caught on, at least not yet.
Our research revealed that the oldest double-decker plane seat dates back to 1948, when a patent was filed. Paul David Priebe, the inventor of the plane fuselage, envisaged a two-level seating arrangement. Each upper-deck passenger would look outward through a large window. Lower-deck passengers would be able to face inward, with a large window.
The patent was granted in 1952 but the inventor died before it could be flown on an aircraft. Even though the patent expired over 50 years ago we have yet to see an airline use this now-public-domain idea.
High-capacity, high-comfort split-level seating
In 1995, stacking passengers was a popular idea. Two inventors created a bizarre arrangement of lower- and higher-level seats in a patent titled “high-capacity split-level seating for transportation and stationary applications”. The upper-deck seats would allow passengers to raise their feet, elevating their feet above their heads.
Inventors also considered the possibility of airbags (labeled 31–34 in the picture below) being used to absorb the impact of an accident.
The patent was granted in 1998. These inventors died before the invention could be implemented. Their patent expired upon their death, and it appears that this allowed a new generation of inventors to continue the idea.
Airbus’ stacked passenger patent
Airbus filed a patent in 2015 that described a double-decker plane seat arrangement. The magazines’ reaction was swift and furious.
Conde Nast Traveler headlined the article “Airbus Files Patent for Stacking Passengers Like Firewood.” Wired magazine compared the design to “stacking passenger on top of each other — a bit like blocks playing Tetris.” Popular Science described the layout as “akin to bunk beds at summer camp, but traveling hundreds of miles an hour.” It was surrounded by adults and strangers. ”
Airbus had to partially rescind the filing after such a strong backlash. Airbus spoke out to The Telegraph to say that the filing only “preserves innovation and idea” and that it wasn’t necessary for the idea to be implemented into an aircraft design .”
The Chaise Longue Economy Seat
The Chaise Longue Economy Seat, the latest in a long line of double-decker plane seat inventions that has attracted the public’s attention, is the Chaise Longue Economy Seat. Alejandro Nunez Vicente, the inventor of the seat design, showed it off at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (2021). After being shortlisted for the prestigious Crystal Cabin Award 2021, Alejandro Nunez Vicente returned to AIX 2022 with an actual mockup of the double-decker chair.
The design is very innovative on paper. The lower row is intended to allow passengers to stretch their legs and even lift them off the ground. The so-called “upper row” offers more personal space in exchange for two steps.
Both levels’ seatbacks can be reclined to a 125 degree angle. This is 15 degrees more than the average angle for economy seats.
Details are scarce beyond that. We only have information from the LinkedIn company page about this design. The company does not have a website that provides additional information. You can however view a 3D rendering the seat design.
Henshaw layered, flat-seat
Double-decker plane seat designs tend to pack more passengers in the economy cabin. Some inventors have also created concepts for business class. One example of this is in a 2011 patent filing.
The seats aren’t double-decker, but every third passenger would be seated at an elevated level. When passengers are ready for sleep, the seats can recline into a multi-layered arrangement.
The patent is still in force and is being considered for possible development. In 2019, the patent was purchased by B/E Aerospace, a seat manufacturer.
Issues regarding double-deck plane seating
There have been many double-decker plane seat designs over the years. However, not all of them are currently flying in the skies. These are just a few reasons.
A great flight deal is something everyone loves. A larger number of passengers can result in cheaper flights. This is the business model for ultra-low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Spirit Airlines.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to double-decker plane seats is the apparent hatred of the idea by the flying public, which was evident after Airbus’ 2015 patent filing. Although the reaction to the Chaise Longue Economy seat has not been as strong, there are still plenty of hot takes.
Dan Kois, in a recent article published in Slate, doesn’t mince words about the idea for double-decker aircraft seating. He refers to the Chaise Langue idea as a “nightmarish dream for the future” of air travel. He jokes that he has a solution that will “knock me unconscious for as long as my flight.” ”
More weight = higher prices
Weight is directly linked to cost, especially when flying. Manufacturers of aircraft seats do everything they can to reduce the weight of their seats. Spirit Airlines claimed that the new economy seat had reduced 11 ounces per seat when it was unveiled in 2022.
In 2018, I visited the Zodiac Aerospace plant in Texas. Executives pointed out small design changes that were made by Singapore Airlines to reduce the premium economy seat on their longest flights.
If manufacturers and airlines are concerned about weight reduction, might they consider installing massive seating devices to increase the number of seats on their planes? We doubt it.
Head Impact Regulations
Even though we don’t want to think about accidents while flying, they do happen very rarely. In such cases, laws have been put in place to ensure that airline passengers are as safe as possible. One of the many regulations governing aircraft seats is designed to protect passengers against serious head injuries.
Protective measures must be taken in cases where head contact is possible with seats or other structures. ”
Although we don’t claim to be experts in this area, we think that a design where the passenger’s head is only inches away from a solid structure could fail certification.
Double-decker plane seating: It’s unlikely we’ll see it soon
There have been many inventions in history that optimize aircraft space by stacking passengers. And yet, we are still flying in generally the same one-level mostly-forward-facing seating configuration as a century ago.
Perhaps one day, airplane seat inventors will come up with a design that can fly. It will take a while before double-decker plane seats are seen in the skies, but it is possible.
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