New economy class seats

: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

To me, it’s the leg room that makes more impact to the experience of flying. I have no choice but to fly by North West. Not the worst of all, but they cramp seats really close to each other to exchange for more passengers. On top of that, it’s also got to do with the newness of the equipment, lighting, air, noise, food, entertainment options and … the person beside you. Apparently North West ain’t going to do anything about the flying experience they provide but still charge quite an amount.

I bet 18 hrs on Singapore Airline planes will feel like a 4 hr flight on a NWA one. I have to endure straight 13 hrs of that, plus other connecting flights.

Oh regarding the seats… hope there is a better lambar system, and more comfortable arm rests. Those things were from the 70s!

Also, could have a head rest that you can safely lean against, something that doesn’t just support the head, but also the neck or shoulder.

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 airlines are uptight about removing seats unless they can up the fares. 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.



Human Factors is probably one of your biggest issues. Think about a seat that allows mobility, v.s. a seat that forces people to sit in one position. As forms, these two concepts could be along the lines of planer v.s. moulded shapes, respectively. People should be able to move around in their seats, and not be fixed to one position. However, this brings up the issue about social trends (below)

Almost all airline seats force the body (back, neck) into a slumping curve. The head and neck are pushed to far foward, while there is not enough room to support the back.

You may also consider social trends. Flying and lounging at a bar are realated because they should offer people a relaxed and easy going seating experience (laid back, not upright “stiff” or proper). However, that experience is not the best position for our bodies becuase the back and neck are angled backwards, and it is impossible to maintaine prper posture. In an ideal situation, seats would not have seatbacks. Over years our bodies have grown accustomed to seatbacks, and thus, we rely on them for support, as our ‘seating’ muscles get weaker.

Anyways, seating design is hard enough when your balancing social customs and ergonomics, and even harder with flying.

Good luck


I sat on a seat on a regional jet this week where the padding was completely matted in the center of the seat, creating a “dish” to sit in. What a awful experience!!

I’m a fellow designer that spends about 200 hours a year airborne going back-and-forth to China. My ass is killing me because of the crappy economy class seats on United. Here are the problems I have encountered:

  • Poor tilt lock on the seat back (I have to keep pulling the seat back up!)
  • Obviously they are too narrow. It seems like some planes may have an extra 10 - 20 mm of width?
  • Controls are in a ridiculous location.
  • The seat-back pockets have become seat-back garbage cans. Make them out of mesh like my Audi’s so the cleaning crew can see inside them.
  • Make the bottom seat cushion segmented so it can be adjusted under your thigh. When I try to sleep I like to straighten by legs and the edge of the seat prevents that.
  • I like the tall head rests with “wings” to rest your head on. That was a nice improvement.

There is plenty of room for improvemnt on those crappy seats. It could become a HUGE marketing advantage for one of the bankrupt airlines if they could advertise a new and improved economy class seat!!!

Good luck,

You ought to study how people like to sit for long periods of time. I prefer sitting with my legs up on something, which usually ends up as the arm rest of the person in front of me. I find that to be the most uncomfortable thing about planes is that there is no place to put up my feet (even if they are bent). I also need head support and to be somewhat balled up when I am sleeping. I find it difficult to get my head comfortable on airplanes when I want to sleep. The pillows just aren’t enough when you’re sleeping, ubt get in the way too much when you’re awake.

i forgot to add. I once rode a train from switzerland to paris, and was very impressed by the seating on it. It had a leg rest that flipped up(in lazyboy style) and was level with the rest of the seat, and was also very strong, so that is could serve as almost a bed, or at least more leg support. I could tell that the person who designed it, liked to sit just the way I do.

Joe. been a few months. please update. will move to General next day or two without. prefer to keep it here.