Review the recent literature on new airline-seating designs and you might conclude that all the design industry’s resources were being directed either toward ludicrously luxe lie-flat first-class beds (or suites), or, at the opposite end of the comfort spectrum, toward novel approaches to shoehorn ever-more more coach seats into ever-smaller spaces (stand-up seating, anyone?).
And you’d be mostly right: The airline industry’s focus is overwhelmingly on maximizing luxury touches in the premium-class cabins, and maximizing customer density in coach.
Conspicuously missing from the seat-design agenda has been a focus on maximizing comfort for those coach-class seats. That’s where the great majority of flyers will be sitting, after all. And with shrinking legroom and fuller planes—load factors now average 80-plus percent year-round — a more comfortable seat would seem an obvious design goal to pursue. The problem with that logic, of course, is that more-comfortable seating doesn’t translate into more-profitable seating. So it’s not a priority.
Against that rather bleak outlook, a project under development at London-based Factorydesign offers coach passengers a ray of hope. The company’s so-called Twister seat is all about comfort. According to the seat’s designer, quoted in Aircraft Interiors International, “There has been considerable debate about economy class seating in the media, and many concepts which don’t actually seem to have considered the needs of the passenger. This design is completely centered around improving the passenger journey experience.”
The Twister design improves passenger comfort by conforming to flyers’ body types, utilizing a ribbed seat skeleton that twists this way and that, and can be locked into place to preserve the most comfortable shape. As described by the designer, “From your shoulders to your thighs, the seat follows your profile as you move.”
That certainly sounds like a marked improvement over the thin-cushioned “crusher” seats increasingly favored by the airlines. But Twister seats are a long way from being fitted in the coach cabin of your preferred airline.
The design must be finalized. The seat must be tested and certified as safe for airline use. And finally, the highest hurdle of all: The airlines must be convinced to buy a seat that promises much in comfort but little in profit.
Reader Reality Check
How comfortable do you find the current generation of coach-class seats?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.