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Is double-decker seating the 'future of air travel'?

A prototype of this new seating arrangement, debuting in Germany this week, aims to give flyers back precious personal space and add extra seats carriers want.

By Matthew Kitchen

Ever since the first commercial flight took off from St. Petersburg, Fla. in 1914, airline seating has been in a perpetual state of flux, with companies continuing to cram as many people as possible into limited spaces and lighter aircraft in hopes of maximizing profits. In the last 30 years, economy passengers have lost an average of 3-to-4 inches of legroom and 2-to-3 inches of seat width, according to Insider, making for cozy, uncomfortable air travel across the U.S. 

However, a newly designed double-decker seating arrangement could (in theory) end this issue in larger jetliners, giving people back their precious personal space while adding extra seats carriers want. A prototype of Alejandro Núñez Vicente's “Chaise Longue Airplane Seat” debuted at the 2022 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany this week, and he’s apparently been granted funds to continue the project. He’s also “in talks with big name airliners,” per CNN. 


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"My purpose here is to change the economy class seats for the better of humanity,” Núñez Vicente told CNN, “or for all the people that cannot afford to pay for more expensive tickets." 

Núñez Vicente's seats were first designed to fit the Flying V, a futuristic concept crafted at Germany’s Delft University of Technology. The Flying V, which places the cabins along the wings rather than the standard tubular design we all know and love, is aerodynamically shaped to cut fuel costs by 20 percent. However, Núñez Vicente said the seats could also fit in traditional wide-body craft including the Boeing 747 and Airbus A330. 

You’d be a fool not to welcome innovative principles that offer more space on a flight, however, Núñez Vicente's design leaves a lot to be desired. First, while passengers on the lower deck are offered room to stretch their legs, an added footrest, and the opportunity to stow bags beneath the seat in front of them, those on the upper deck must climb a small ladder to get seated, won’t be able to access bags, which seem to be stowed on a shelf between the decks, and are only granted a slight angular cutout to slide their feet into rather than the extra room and footrest.


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How Núñez Vicente plans for flight crews to perform beverage service, much less for passengers to quickly and effectively evacuate during an emergency, is not entirely clear at this point. 

However, at least there’s space to breathe up top, and shuffle to the middle seat. Down below, the seats hang over much of the floor space and have to be flipped up and down so as to not force people to crawl across each other to their spots. You’re effectively tucked underneath the above passengers in a space and position CNN’s Francesca Street called “pretty claustrophobic” when she tested it this week in Hamburg. “But if you don't mind tight spaces, and you're planning simply to sleep all flight, it could be an effective solution,” she concluded. 

However, they all seem to come with a giant viewing screen for watching movies—nice. Which lesser-of-two-evils you prefer would seemingly be up to you when buying a ticket, but some early Twitter reviews of the setup have been less than stellar. 


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To be fair, Núñez Vicente knows this prototype isn’t the final version and hopes to continue getting feedback on his design. Next, he has to make sure his design not only adheres to FAA guidelines, which might be the fastest way to a “no,” but that it is also light enough not to weigh down the airliners, adding to fuel costs. His goal, he says, is to create “the future of the economy class,” allowing for more inexpensive seats and more opportunity to travel. 

Matthew Kitchen is editorial director of Chron. He previously worked as a features editor at the Wall Street Journal and NBC News and has contributed to Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, and Esquire.