Seating changes could be part of the future of flying
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These economy-class seats are specially designed to protect passengers from viruses – and each other. Luke Rix-Standing finds out more
Of all the places to be during a global pandemic, a claustrophobic aluminium tube 35,000 feet in the air and filled with members of the public, is probably not top of your list.
A social-distancing nightmare, the few airlines that aren't grounded are currently considering a host of anti-coronavirus measures, such as leaving middle seats empty, and testing all passengers before boarding.
Now, an Italian design firm has devised a different sort of solution – economy-class seats constructed to shield passengers from infection.
Aviointeriors has been designing aircraft seating for nearly half a century, and has come up with two prototypes. First there is the Janus Seat, named after the two-faced Roman god, which reverses the centre seat to create an interlocking pattern, in which no two passengers are next to each other, and facing the same way.
A curved glass shield would slot around each seat, which could be foldable or slidable, transparent or opaque, depending on carrier preference. The design would fit snugly into existing seat patterns, and all passengers would retain access to the pockets, tray tables and screens that might adorn the backs of the seats in front.
Second is the Glassafe concept, a simple plastic hood providing a physical barrier between adjacent travellers. A so-called "kit-level solution", the design would be easily affixed to pre-existing rows of three, without altering other aspects of cabin functionality.
The units are transparent, to avoid blocking natural light, detachable, so they can be easily cleaned, and come with shoulder-high gaps to ensure free arm movement.
The aviation industry faces any number of problems moving into a post-corona world, and there is no suggestion that such a device could completely cut in-flight transmission. Glassafe aims instead to "minimise contact and interaction" and "reduce the probability of contamination".
Coronavirus aside, both these designs might at least lend plane cabins some desperately needed privacy.