Depending on how you see it, the latest innovation in airline seats may be the most comfortable way you could fly … or the most excruciating.
Italian seat manufacturer Aviointeriors has unveiled the latest incarnation of its so-called SkyRider seat – an airline seat which certainly allows passengers to stretch their legs as much as they want. And without paying the usual premium for a seat with extra leg room.
However, there is a catch. A rather large one.
The seats are so upright they are almost vertical, meaning passengers are practically standing up during their flight.
Following the release of Aviointeriors’ first SkyRider seat in 2010, the company has come out with a second, sleeker and more funky version, the SkyRider 2.0, unveiled this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2018 in Hamburg, Germany.
Dubbed by the company as “the new frontier of low-cost tickets and passenger experience”, the idea behind the SkyRider is – predictably – to cram in more passengers.
Their “ultra-high density” configuration reduces space between the rows, allowing an airline to increase occupancy by up to 20 per cent, the company claims. The seats also weigh half that of a conventional airline seat, allowing them to pack more people in.
The concept of vertical seats is not new. In 2003, Airbus developed a version which was seriously considered by budget carrier Ryanair. In 2010, Tiger Airways Australia reported it was considering “standing-only” seats in its flights, while China’s Spring Airlines said in 2015 it was looking at vertical seats for domestic flights.
The Italy-based company compared the seating position to that of a horseback rider. In selling the concept of pretty much standing up for the duration of a flight, it noted that cowboys can sit on saddles for hours without feeling uncomfortable.
It also noted that the seats in the new and improved SkyRider have extra padding, compared with the original version.
Aviointeriors unveiled its first SkyRider “saddle seat” eight years ago, but no airlines have adopted the concept to date.
Aviointeriors said in a statement that the SkyRider 2.0 “ensures an increased upright passenger position, allowing installation of the seat at a reduced pitch, while maintaining an adequate comfort”.
With a seat pitch (the distance between any part of the seat and the back of the next seat) of 58.4 centimetres, “adequate comfort” is rather subjective. (The standard pitch on low-cost carriers is about 71 centimetres, according to aviation writer John Walton.)
But Aviointeriors maintained the seats had many benefits.
“The design of this seat enables [us] to increase the passenger number by 20 per cent allowing increasing profits for airline companies,” a spokesperson for Aviointeriors told CNN.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Australia declined to comment on the prospect of the SkyRider for its aircraft, citing the commercially sensitive nature of future aircraft configurations.
The New Daily received the same response from Virgin-owned budget carrier Tigerair Australia.
A Qantas spokeswoman ruled out inclusion of the seats in any of its aircraft, while Jetstar has been approached for a response.
CNN reported that while some airlines have shown interest in the past, SkyRider faces several regulatory hurdles, such as higher passenger numbers, potential delays to evacuation and the fact they leave no room under the seats for personal belongings.