The Cozy Suite – Building a Better Airplane Seat
Via Wired Blog
Some refer to it as economy class syndrome. To others it’s know as a coach class clot. But whatever you call it, sitting squeezed into an airplane seat until you develop deep vein thrombosis is no way to die. And that’s why this strange new seat is worth checking out.
The Cozy Suite is a staggered seat configuration designed to give passengers a better shot at getting some shut-eye during their flight. Delta just put in a big order for the seats, and surprisingly, plans to install them in the often overlooked coach class cabin.
A new airplane seat isn’t something you just throw together during a lunch break. Thompson Solutions, the UK company responsible for the Cozy Suite, spent nearly seven years designing, testing, and refining the product.
They started by observing passenger behavior on both short- and long-haul flights. Thompson’s Brian Rogers says the design team came away with two main findings: passengers trying to sleep on long flights tend to position themselves at an angle, and those sitting at the window seat generally seem slightly less miserable because they can rest their head against the wall.
With this information Thompson developed and patented the idea of a staggered seat. They then began the long process of designing a prototype, refining it, and running usability tests. It’s product design 101, except that Thompson had to balance passenger comfort with some very specific technical specs. “It doesn’t make sense to change the product if it won’t be certified,” Rogers says. “(The) engineering (team) needed to involved at all stages of development.
The finished product, at least on paper, seems great. Because seats aren’t lined up in a straight row, each passenger has a place to rest their head. The staggered design also creates a sense of personal space, and gives passengers four inches of additional legroom.
It might seem surprising that cash-strapped Delta would be the first customer to order the Cozy Suite, but the seats will provide the airline with competitive advantage in the brutally competitive transatlantic market. And from a business standpoint, the design allows Delta to fit eight seats in a row instead of seven, which means they can wring more revenue out of each flight. Delta won’t say how much they’re paying for the seats, but they plan to install them on 100 777 and 767 widebodies beginning in 2010.
As far as future sales go, Rogers says Thompson is going with an agreement one middle eastern airline, and is close to deals with several others. But usability tests are different than actual flights, and he admits the new seats are a gamble. Having spent too many hours cramped in coach, we think they’re probably better than what’s out there now.