21-year-old student Alejandro Núñez Vicente’s 2021 Crystal Cabin Awards entry made waves online after a CNN article. The entry is the Chaise Longue Airplane Seat, and Vicente is already in talks with big-name airlines and seat manufacturing companies regarding his creative budget airline seat design.
The 2021 Crystal Cabin Awards, the only international award for “excellence in aircraft interior innovation”, nominated Núñez Vicente’s Chaise Longue Economy Seat Project for their Judges’ Choice shortlist award. The seats feature a dual-level seat cabin, with each row alternating between on-floor seating, and seats elevated a few feet above the ground—thus fitting way more in a smaller space.
Yes, the concept looks shockingly claustrophobic and seems extremely tight, but it also solves a few problems with budget air travel. For one thing, it looks like passengers can freely recline further back than what we would normally be comfortable with.
The seats also give more leg room, as Núñez Vicente realised elevating the seat row in front would solve the issue. His design, however, eradicates the overhead luggage compartment—but luggage would be stored in compartments under the seat instead.
“The lower row has the advantage of passengers having the lounge experience of a couch by stretching the legs, whilst the upper row provides an SUV experience, making it possible for instance to cross the legs due to the increased leg room and overall living space,” says Núñez Vicente.
There are plenty of other advantages. I expect that airlines would also go nuts about the idea because it will save them a lot of money in the long run by fitting more passengers in the place. Seats would also potentially be cheaper for passengers, so it seems like a win-win situation.
However, there are still some concerns that stare at us in the face—even with the advantages. For one thing, especially if you’re sitting on the bottom seats, you’ll need to brace yourself for farts, foot smells, and all other sorts of weird uncomfortable scents.
The higher seats seem to be the better deal, but it doesn’t seem like they have a lot of leg room compared to the bottom seats. The higher seats are also likely harder to sit on for older passengers or passengers with disabilities.
Despite the disadvantages, Núñez Vicente is ambitious and confident his design could become a reality. He is currently showcasing his design at the 2022 Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX), and is already working on the next step in his process, to engineer the structure to be lighter than its current iteration.
“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,” said Núñez Vicente.