This Double-decker Airplane Design Could One Day Allow Everyone to Have Lie-flat Seats — Even in Economy

"We believe that new types of travelers will require privacy or will want to pay extra for that as much as they would pay for the ability to sleep."

Zephyr Aerospace Double-decker Economy seat
Photo: Zephyr Aerospace

When it comes to the future of flying, design firms are getting creative. With more people looking to stay socially distant on flights, companies are coming up with a few solutions, including dividers between seats and even a “Glassafe” bubble. And sure, they may all work, but now, one firm is presenting an idea that will not only allow people to distance during flights, but will also give passengers in economy class a chance to have lie-flat seats, too.

Designer Jeffrey O'Neil’s creation, known as the Zephyr Seat, could one day allow passengers in economy to lie flat, thanks to its double-decker-style seating arrangement. This means two people will share a row, one on top of the other, similar to a bunk bed setup.

Zephyr seat

"We believe that new types of travelers will require privacy or will want to pay extra for that as much as they would pay for the ability to sleep," O'Neill shared with CNN Travel.

According to O’Neill, his seating will require a two-four-two configuration, which he claims will allow most airlines to maintain their passenger numbers without sacrificing passenger comfort.

The seats, Intelligent Aerospace reported, are made with limited movable fixtures and crafted with the “highest standard lightweight composite materials, reducing direct maintenance costs for airlines.” The upper seats will come with a telescopic ladder so guests can climb in with ease. Each seat will also feature a drop-down footwell to allow for more personal space and multiple sleeping positions, which is great news for anyone who likes to toss and turn. The configuration may even be large enough for parents and small children to lie down together.

As O’Neill noted to CNN, he came up with the concept on a sleepless flight between New York and Singapore several years ago, well before the coronavirus hit.

Zephyr Aerospace lie-flat economy seat
Zephyr Aerospace

"I'm on probably the best rated airline in the world, and I'm getting wonderful service and the food is edible, but I can't sleep," he said. "This is really uncomfortable. Why is it so difficult to find an affordable way to lie flat on a flight that's 19 hours?"

In 2019, O’Neill shared his concept at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, but has since seen renewed interest since new social distancing guidelines have been issued. Now, all that’s next is for O’Neill to perform required safety tests, which CNN explains could take up to three years to complete. If you have to fly sooner than that, book an airline that blocks the middle seats to allow for more room, and of course, wear your mask at all times to ensure your safety and the safety of your fellow intrepid fliers.

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