While this may be the golden age of aviation in terms of premium cabin seat comfort, innovation has lagged and arguably regressed in economy class, with premium economy seats not much more comfortable than what used to be standard for all economy class passengers. But a new lie-flat, double-deck seating concept has the potential to transform the premium economy experience.
Double-Deck Zephyr Seats Promise Lie-Flat Option In Premium Economy Class
First introduced in 2018, aircraft seat manufacturer Zephyr Aerospace has released a prototype that would not only offer a lie-flat seat in premium economy class (we’ve seen those concepts before…Air New Zealand has even promised to unveil this), but also the chance to sit upright with legs fully extended.
This marks an important differentiator for this particular product, which promises to take up the same amount of real estate for the same number of seats onboard by stacking one over the other. In fact, Zephyr claims it can increase cabin density on the Boeing 787 by 14%.
Stacking, however, would come at the cost of overhead bins, so I’d imagine that the airline might have to offer a locker similar to what United now features onboard its CRJ-550 aircraft.
In theory, this is a great product. In reality, there are still many hurdles to be cleared before Zephyr would be available on your next flight. First, the product has not been certified yet by the Federal Aviation Administration or any other safety body. Not only must it be certified, but it must be certified in every position and every stage of the flight. Will passengers be able to quickly evacuate from the upper berths in case of emergency?
The seat was designed by Jeffery O’Neill and Matt Cleary and patented three years ago. Clearly told Forbes:
“I have 10 years of experience as an industrial designer specializing in interior cabin design and cabin configuration, and have designed and helped to patent numerous different airline seats and seat configurations. The Zephyr seat does not come without its challenges, as is the case with any new product in our industry. However, we have remained committed to considering the certification and engineering requirements throughout every stage of our development. I’m elated to say that I can finally see a clearer path to certification with the latest design.”
But questions remain:
Will it be certified?
Is it economical?
Will it have a negative effect on business class bookings?
Will airlines buy it?
Are passengers willing to splurge for it?
Even so, it is an interesting product that looks like an incredible improvement on the present-generation premium economy seats.
I’m excited that the Zephyr seat concept could represent the future of premium economy travel, giving more passengers access to lie-flat seating at more reasonable price points. Conceptually, I think many would be willing to trade much of the business or first class soft product just for the chance to lie-flat.
What are your thoughts on the Zephyr seat?