Flex Lounge Economy Seats Just Might Ruin Air Travel

"Exciting idea[s]... for sadists."

Flex Lounge Economy Seats Just Might Ruin Air Travel

A truly awkward economy seat design has left travel lovers furious – the flex lounge. The economy seat idea, which was designed before the pandemic hit in 2020, involves a seat set-up where you can sit facing your friends or family. 

As the designers – German aviation company, the Heinkel Group – wrote on Facebook: “Our concept, the Flex Lounge, gives the opportunity to book the first two seat rows and make it your own private little area. Your time together starts after takeoff!”

The problem is – what happens when you’re not travelling with friends or family?

There would be a lot of scope for irritating behaviour, as many commenters beneath a recent news.com.au article pointed out. “I never want to sit next to people, no way I want to face them,” one commenter wrote. “Hello….privacy is the #1 desire of every traveler” wrote another.

Comments beneath news.com.au’s article: ‘Horribly painful’ plane seat design causes outrage.

“Ridiculous, I wouldn’t sit like that with family, friends or anyone!” another added. Oh and not to be outdone, another person wrote: “I did this on the train from Paris to London. It was absolute torture for all.”

Despite these online complaints, the flex lounge was, believe it or not, short-listed for a competition in 2020. That didn’t stop it getting a bunch of grief on Twitter though.

One Twitter user suggested that in 2020 scientists had lost their way – rather then designing things to improve our lives they must be conspiring to actively make them worse (in all caps, too).


Another wrote: “Exciting ideas… for sadists.” Further comments included: “Their feet are LITERALLY touching. Please spare us this idiocy,” and “Do you want murders to happen mid flight? Because this is how you get murders in mid flight.”

Another user joked that it could be a great way to get a seat to yourself. He wrote: “I will wear a crop top with nipple holes cut out of it and pick my nose nonstop until the people across from me leave. Btw I’m a bigger man with a beer belly so let that sink in.”

Another Twitter user said they actually didn’t mind it, and said it’s quite common on trains.

On news.com.au another user made a similar point: “I flew with Czechoslovakian Airlines in 1985 from Prague to London in this seating arrangement. There was a table we could put up between us and I found it very comfortable. Mind you, I was only 26 and travelling with friends…”

Finally, another Twitter user pointed out a massive hole in everyone’s logic, explaining that the seat swivel was not set in stone: “Since nobody read the story, I’ll just put it out there that this is a flexible configuration. Meaning families and groups traveling together can sit facing each other if they want. Otherwise, the front row seats are positioned facing forward the normal way.”

Illustration of Flex Economy. Image Credit the Heinkel Group.

One question remains though: why put us through all that stress in the first place? As Natalie Reilly for news.com.au pointed out, the design doesn’t seem to take basic laws of human interaction into account.

“And while they [the Heinkel Group] stipulated that it was for family and friends, I must query if they understand how basic relationships work?” Reilly wrote.

“Because, if you are a family, you know that someone – most likely a child – is going to yell ‘bags not sitting backwards!’ and then they’ll be fighting with another child for the rest of your 18-hour flight, or until the child with the weaker tummy vomits on you after sitting backwards.”

She added: “As for friends, sure, this might be tolerable if you’re travelling from Hamburg to Paris – that’s 1 hour and 40 minutes of zero screen time, just the aggressive level of intimacy that comes from staring at each other non-stop. And maybe you’re into that.”

Food for thought – and not a design we anticipate seeing in the skies any time soon. If COVID wasn’t enough of a travel killer for one decade, perhaps this supremely awkward economy seat design has what it takes to kill your desire to travel for good…

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