For Flyers, Double-Decker Seating Could Be The Next Travel Option

For flyers, economy class can occasionally represent a constant struggle of expenses and leg room issues. However, designer Alejandro Núñez Vicente’s new double-decker seating arrangement could end up being the innovation needed to bring comfort back to passengers.

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Sitting on a plane for long hours while sitting down can certainly be tenuous, especially when you’re cramped in a three seat aisle. If you’ve ever wished for more innovative seating, airplane seat designer Alejandro Núñez Vicente may have something right up your alley.

In what has become a very trendy story in the internet world, CNN’s Francesca Street took a look at a prototype that would revolutionize the flight industry — a double-decker seating structure that could help economy travelers to do more than stretch their legs.

Named the “Chaise Longue Economy Seat,” (the same name as his company) Núñez Vicente’s project began in college. It then earned a nomination in the 2021 Crystal Cabin Awards, leading Núñez Vicente to pause his studies to focus his efforts full-time on the Chaise Longue.

It’s certainly been a long road for Núñez Vicente, who could’ve never imagined he would reach this stage. “Of course, at the beginning, no one expected this to get this big to the point where we are today. But they all knew that I was going to be able to do something,” he told Street.

Now that Núñez Vicente’s prototype has been debuted at the 2022 Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX), it has left the aviation world and customers both marveling at its interesting attempt of solving typical passenger woes, and weary of the possible downsides that could follow it.

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

Taking a look at Núñez Vicente’s design, there’s a lot to digest. The prototype presents two main sections: a three seated bottom row that acts almost like a mini cabin, and an elevated row with two ladder-like steps in order to reach the seats. The elevated row, which sees overhead storage removed, has the ability for seats to lean back without interfering with rows behind it.

Meanwhile, tucked away in the back with the top row structure curving upwards in front of it, the bottom row allows passengers to fold the chair back 125 degrees while stretching out their legs thanks to a foot stall, providing extra comfort. “The space for legs is unmatched,” Núñez Vicente said.

However, the limitation for that is there isn’t much room to stand, and for those who become easily claustrophobic, it might not be the best situation. A passenger’s weight could also prevent them from sitting in those seats, though Núñez Vicente explained that’s why there’s a number of seat designs that can help to accommodate a passenger and their specific needs.

“If you don’t like heights, you wouldn’t go skydiving. If you’re claustrophobic, you wouldn’t go on the lower row. But if you have long legs, you would,” he said. “For me, even if it’s a little more claustrophobic, I prefer the lower seats.”

Originally envisioned for a Flying-V airplane, the Chaise Longue would fit in the center aisle of any medium to large plane. Typical seating rows would then be used on the sides of the plane. As the Fast Company notes, the seat design could be appealing to airlines by allowing them to fit an additional 5-10% of passengers into that center row.

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“One of the phrases I get a lot is, ‘If it’s not broken, why change it?’ So if passengers still fly in the worst economy class seats, why are we going to give them a better option? It makes money. That’s the goal of the airline at the end of the day, not to make your flight better.”

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Perhaps most importantly is that instead of having to pay more money for more comfort in higher classes, passengers could achieve that luxury while still being able to afford economy tickets. “We see it as the future of the economy class,” Núñez Vicente said. He certainly isn’t wrong in trying to tackle the financial side of flying given recent developments.

Airline ticket prices have skyrocketed due to inflation, causing a 25% year-over-year rise in June. In April, prices rose 18.6%. Rising jet fuel prices also play a role in price jumps, with the jet fuel price index reaching 484.06 on June 17, up from 432.03 on May 27.

Certainly, unique seating options would help to bring economy flyers a new experience, one that could also offset the staggering costs they are now facing in the process. After all, the class has a long history of airlines opting for maximum occupancy over comfort. An overhaul could prove to be vital.

Unfortunately, those already dreaming about not having to worry about leg stiffness may have to wait a little — or a lot — longer before those thoughts become reality. Núñez Vicente explained that airplane seat concepts differing from the norm have a more difficult time finding their way into usage.

For the Chaise Longue to squeeze its way into aviation regularity, it would need to overcome industry regulations and roadblocks. Even then, it would need to be picked up by airlines or seat manufacturers, which could also be a lengthy process.

Still, Núñez Vicente seems to be content with letting his design do the work in attraction attention. “Right now, we’re showing the market what we have. And we’re letting the market come and tell us what we need to do next,” he said.