(CNN) – The design, which reconfigures aircraft cabins with two-story reclining flat seats in the premium economy, is being touted as a possible solution for flyers seeking greater protection from the Covid-19’s proliferation.
Zephyr Seat is the vision of designer Jeffrey O’Neill who considers isolation from his co-drivers so that his creation can offer a change of play after a pandemic.
With the Zephyr Seat, airlines could provide two-story seating in a 2-4-2 configuration that, O’Neill says, would allow most of the world’s airlines to maintain the same seat density as their existing premium cabins.
Sitting in a top-notch economy, O’Neill realized halfway through a super-long journey that he wouldn’t close his eyes.
“I’m on probably the best rated airline in the world and I get excellent service and the food is edible but I can’t sleep,” he recalls. “This is really embarrassing. Why is it so hard to find an affordable way to lie down straight on a 19-hour flight?”
Real estate on the plane is expensive – and airlines usually don’t want to sacrifice space.
But O’Neill remembered the long-distance bus trip he had made on his way through Argentina. The bus used bunk beds and slept far better than on its seemingly more luxurious air trip to Singapore. It occurred to him that maybe that was the solution.
That was two years ago, and O’Neill says his idea since she graduated is on the back of a napkin drawing he dreamed of with his design partner, to a life-size model, which he says proves its feasibility.
The Zephyr Seat offers a two-story aircraft interior concept.
Courtesy of Zephyr Aerospace
The Zephyr two-story concept uses the space that exists between a standard seat and a canopy.
“We basically rearranged a completely different seat on top of the other,” O’Neill explains. “So it’s basically two levels, it’s not as high off the ground as people can imagine, it’s only four and a half feet off the ground from the entry point to the lower seat to the upper seat.”
The result, O’Neill says, is more legroom without the airline being forced to sacrifice space or reduce passenger numbers.
The idea is still in its infancy, though O’Neill says he has identified an engineering partner – and has spoken to four major airlines, including US carrier Delta, although he has no firm commitments so far.
He introduced airline executives at the 2019 Airline Interiors fair in Hamburg, Germany – and said he had received valuable feedback on how to make the headquarters a viable option for the middle-class aviation market.
The next stage would be to pass the product through the required safety tests, which could be a three-year process.
New aviation capabilities
Of course, the questionnaire is currently hanging over the future of aviation, and no one knows what air traffic will look like over the next few months, let alone years.
O’Neill believes the new aviation landscape fits into his vision of the Zephyr Seat.
Designer Jeff O’Neill believes the seat will allow Premium Economy passengers to sleep better.
Courtesy of Zephyr Aerospace
The increased privacy that the seat could offer could convince passengers who require social distance. Accordingly, the concept, like other ideas under construction, does not fully address the proximity of the aircraft and the potential risk of Covid.
O’Neill also points to a future where there could be fewer scheduled flights, and those in business may be more strenuous and expensive – something we’re already seeing.
“The price of business class or first class seats will be out of range probably for about 85% of all passengers, which means a more affordable option could become a reality or a consideration for most of these people,” he says.