We all know the feeling of being stuck next to a cougher. Annoying at the best, life-threatening at worst (something that never would have crossed your mind, probably, until this year).
But, post-pandemic, airlines are going to be under severe pressure to keep passengers virus-free.
While it’s not economically viable to strip and replace seats with capsules, some handy Italian engineers have come up with the next best thing.
Aviointeriors is a company based in Italy, which recently came out with two designs that could see your economy seat look markedly different in the future.
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The first of which involves fitting each seat with a hygiene screen. This plastic shield goes around your head and side, preventing contact with the passenger next to you.
The designers at Aviointeriors call it ‘glassafe’ and say it’s transparent to allow communication, whilst also eliminating the chance of breath propagation.
“Glassafe (creates) an isolated volume around the passenger in order to avoid or minimise contacts and interactions via air between passenger and passenger, so as to reduce the probability of contamination by viruses or other,” Aviointeriors said in a statement.
“Each passenger has their own space isolated from others, even from people who walk through the aisle.”
“It is made of easy cleaning and safe hygienic materials. The option is available with the shield in opaque material or with different degrees of transparency.”
Before the cynics throw their ‘5G: a conspiracy’ booklets at me, and ask: ‘if airlines can’t afford to maintain their jets at the moment, how the hell are they going to purchase new products?’ consider this: in order to implement this aspect of the design, nothing needs to be removed from the aircraft.
Why? Each plane doesn’t need to reinstall seats into their cabins, the shield simply fits onto existing ones.
The problem comes with Aviointeriors’ second idea: along with the shield, Aviointeriors has designed a seating plan called the Janus seat, inspired by the two-faced Roman God.
The idea of this design is that the middle passenger faces the back of the plane, with the window and aisle passengers still facing forwards.
So far so smart, right? Wrong: the middle seat passenger would still face two people – the ones behind them. Even if there were a way around this, it would be costly to turn around every middle seat (DMARGE is currently looking into whether seats are already designed to pivot and move, or if whole new seats would need to be installed).
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Passengers also have concerns about privacy: as one man commented on Aviointeriors Instagram page: “crotch watching might be a problem here. Not to mention you’d have someone’s face in your peripheral field of vision for the duration of the trip.”
“You’d feel uncomfortable every time they turned their head for whatever reason.”
Worse: the forward/aft configuration would likely increase the difficulty of in-flight services, as well as complicate emergency evacuation procedures (though, as Forbes notes, “Greater row separation could address these questions, and give passengers more legroom”).
We like the first idea though – that of the plastic shields. If you’re with us on that you might like to know more. The first fact to note is that, while both designs are ready, both need to go through safety tests to be approved for commercial use.
“All national authorities worldwide are trying to block this pandemic through a series of actions and recommendations and we want to contribute with our ideas and proposals in the interests of the whole community,” an Aviointeriors spokesperson told The Daily Mail.
“With this objective in mind, we have studied new solutions that take into account social distancing among passengers sitting in economy class, where there is a condition of higher density, but with characteristics that remain applicable even in the lower density classes such as premium economy or business class.”
“We have worked and we will continue to develop products specifically designed to make the travels of the near-future post-virus ever safer and in accordance with the new requirements for passengers who will have to share the spaces available for the duration of the transport.”