The design and engineering teams at Italy-based aircraft seating company, Aviointeriors, have been studying new solutions that would enable social distancing among economy class passengers, in order to help enable commercial flights to resume amid concerns about the spread of Covid-19. With current seat layouts, keeping sufficient separation between passengers in economy class would require a significant reduction in cabin density, but Aviointeriors has devised two ideas that would maintain seat count while potentially creating a safer cabin environment.
The Janus Seat
The first concept by the company is Janus, named after the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, time, duality and endings, who had two faces, which meant he could look both to the future and to the past.
The name was chosen as the centre seat in a Janus economy triple is reversed, facing aft in order to maximise separation between passengers. Passengers seated in the outer seats (aisle and fuselage) face the direction of flight.
Facing a different direction helps separate passengers, but that alone doesn’t isolate them; indeed their heads remain in the same location. Hence all three passengers in a triple are separated by transparent shields to help prevent breath propagation, with the centre seats contained at the rear and on both sides. Further shields on the aisle seats would help protect occupants from people walking through the aisle.
According to Aviointeriors, the backwards-facing centre seats occupy the same space as the outer seats, and do not require additional seat pitch or extra space for access and exit clearance, so there is no reduction in cabin density.
The usual seatback equipment can be mounted on the shields, allowing the passenger sitting behind to use features such as a meal table and literature pocket. The shields do not impinge on the recline function of the seats.
Fitting shields could create an issue for disabled access, an issue which Aviointeriors has worked to solve by adding a foldable or sliding function to the shields on the aisle seats. The shields are made of easy-to-clean materials to aid hygiene, and could be specified in an opaque material or with different degrees of transparency.
Glassafe – a quick retrofit solution
For airlines wishing to retain their existing seats in economy class, Aviointeriors proposes Glassafe, a kit-level solution that could be installed on existing seats to help separate passengers in double or triple seats.
Like Janus, the Glassafe transparent panels also enable disabled access, as the panels on the aisle side can be rotated to make ingress and egress easier.
Aviointeriors has stated that Glassafe could be supplied in various versions for a range of existing seat models, with fixing systems that enable easy installation and removal.
The shield is shaped to maintain elbow space and to enable easy access to seatback features such as tray tables, magazine pockets or coat hooks.
Aviointeriors says that Glassafe could also be supplied in opaque material or with different degrees of transparency, all of which are designed with easy cleaning in mind.