new economy class seat

:smiley: Hi people, I am joseph. I am in the mist of designing an economy class seats for the new generations of airplanes like the A380. Although I personally feel that it might be impossible to design “sleeper” seats in econ class due to the financial viability. I felt that it is still possible to design something that can improve comfort, especially on 18 hours flights like those from Singapore to the big apple. We had witnessed huge improvements for seats in business and first class, however econ seats have been visually and mechanically similar since the 60s and 70s.

I appreciate any complaints you have on the current seats. If you see any interesting developments, do drop me a link…


Perth, Western Australia

By the way you describe your personal feelings on the matter, I’m presuming this is a student project? It could easily be a thesis by it’s complexity and the user-research and long list of functional requirements involved.

Thoughts on probable requirements:

  • Self containment
  • Configurations of 1 to 5 wide
  • Dimensional limitations/volume
  • Passenger anthropometrics
  • Passenger Safety requirements
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Clear lines of sight (aisles, IFE, windows)
  • Aisle and seat identification
  • Traytables (food, laptop, beverage)
  • Storage (underseat, seatpocket)
  • Arm, Leg & Head rests (movable?)
  • Floatation device
  • Entertainment electronics/in-seat power
  • Tilt, tilt-control
  • Servicability
  • Cleanability
  • Flammability (materials req.)
  • Servicable/replacable upholstery
  • Cost

I see lots of opportunities for incremental improvement, but you’d have to remove many functional requirements in order to radically improve the product.

Open up alotted dimensional volume and cost and I think you can get there.

CG, you are correct on the thesis matter. I am tackling this project as part of my honours thesis. Getting things up onto a plane is real hard with all the FAA regulations. A simple econ seat on my last count contains no less than 700 parts and bits.

At the moments, I am working within seat pitch of 34" and width between armrest at 19". As you can imagine, space is rather tight and I am taking an inside out approach from the skeletal structure up to the upholstery and the IFEs.

Biggest complaints now are the lack of leg space and elbow space and the seat back pockets are reducing precious shin space, and not to mention the IFE control box under seat.

It is a big project, but I am sure most folks will feel that it’s time econ passengers deserve a little more luxury. If any airlines can come forward and say that their seats provide 2" more space than the rest, I think they will have a winner on long haul routes.



hi joseph,

i’ve had to do coach seats for 14-16 hour flights a few times - some of which involving transfers, ugg - and i always thought i’d be one step closer to getting scoliosis after the flight!

while i love being in a new country, i personally dislike going through the physical act of having to travel to get there and prefer to sleep through long flights, so my main cabin priority would be to get into the most comfortable sleeping position (and this is next to impossible with most of the available carrier seats).

am relatively tall, so my main comments about the seats would probably only apply to taller people:

  • seat back. for some odd reason, most seats have a concave curve below the neck area; i’ve always wondered why, as it forces you to hunch together with the neck support pushing your head forward and does not provide any kind of ergonomic support. it isn’t comfortable to sink into either. i think this portion should have a bit more support especially for the lower back. has anyone ever sued an airline for a bad back i wonder?

  • armrests. maybe it’s because of my height, but i always felt that the armrests were often too cold and too low. i’m not one of those people gifted with the ability to sleep upright on my back without moving, so i use the armrests to prop up my elbows from time to time so that i can lean on one side with a pillow on my hand (as the low armrest height prevents me from leaning on my shoulder, and not all carriers provide that inflatable neck pillow thing… besides, added to the head rest, that neck thing just makes you hunch forward some more). this gives me a stiff neck after a few hours, and then i shift to the other side. can armrests be made adjustable without costing so much? and could the head rest maybe curve in a little bit more at the sides so it isn’t such a painful struggle to find a leaning position?

all for now!

Yes, I must admit that most coach seats are rather uncomfortable to sleep on. The way the seats recline not only causes stress to the lower pelvic region, the seat back also reduce into the shin and leg space of the poor passenger behind. I am researching into a more comfortable reclining position- possibly a ‘cradle’ position. Perhaps a change in the pivot position of the chairs might help a little.

I must agree with you on the armrest issue, as most are un- padded, it gets pretty hard and cold mid flight. I actually find the armrest an obstruction if I am travelling with a partner. Precious inches are lost trying to accommodate the arm rest.

Thanks for your input, noname.


i think it’s possible to design something like an office chair that wheels around on a flex track, that way anyone can find his/her spot or position like reclining , seating, eating, watching movies, using laptops and cell phones, even playing video games. i think specially video game industry should research thid because they can sell tons of tickets for airlines providing a virtual reality video atmosphere where people can entertain themselves while riding the plane.

i got an idea. why don’t we give it to boeing, motorolla, herman miller, sony, universal studios, macdonalds, and nike as a joint project.

It’s a huge wasted opportunity…Talk about a captive audience!

Meanwhile the airlines are going bust because the same people who will spend $75 for a few days in the airport lot are trained to hunt for the absolute lowest possible price for the flight, frills be damned. It’s like we’ve been trained to suffer.

If the airlines worked like hotels, and billed their passengers only at the END of the flight, they’d probably make a fortune–using the flight time as an opportunity to continuously upsell everything from in flight entertainment to the class you’re sitting in.

If you’re doing airline seat design, you might want to look into purchasing this video:

Seymour and Powell (UK) take on the design of an airline seat in one of the episodes. It’s fairly dated by now, and there was alot of ground they did not explore, but its definitely entertaining.

Yep, seen the video by Seymour and Powell. Interesting design, but sadly their work does not seem to translate into reality for Swiss Air. A check with Swiss Airs’ website reveals no new grounds were broken.

I do like what UFO and CG wrote on a captive audience, being stuck on a plane for 18 Hours, with nothing but the TV screen in front, soft selling can be turn on the max. However I do like to improve on the ‘flow’ of asking for help from the cabin staffs. I guess we’ve all seen those little lights that go off on top of us when pressing the help button. I am planning to introduce a bit of ‘self service’. Request for drinks are forwarded to the galley direct without cabin staffs coming forward to take their orders.

It will be great if you guys can suggest anymore instances where we seek assistance from cabin crews.

Will appreciate if people can describe their favourite sleeping position. As I am trying to establish the best reclining position.


Perth, Western Australia

cheers for that link “fueled”

WHen I saw this topic I immediately thought of that programme, but couldnt find any info on the web…

so yea, thanks


I am one of those who fly 10-14 hours flight few times a year. I am 5"2’. I can tell you how much I hated to fly because of discomfort. I can never sleep during the flight because the seat are not made for me. Even some flight have adjustable head-rest. it still don’t reach my head.
Most of the time I will sit between two big American. They are littlely taking 30% of my space with their fat spilling over the seat. (Hey what’s wrong with suggesting extreme over weight people buying two seat!?)
The air is always very dry. Makes my noise inch!
please design something seat that’s good for everyone!!!