Why aren't airplane seats designed more thoughtfully?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by sobore, Jun 14, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    http://www.slate.com/id/2296340/

    For aeronautical engineers, aircraft design concerns aerodynamics, flying capabilities, airframe strength, fuel consumption, and so on; but for the rest of us, design is mainly about the seats. Designing a comfortable seat is about more than getting dimensions and angles right and having padding in the right places; it is also about accommodating motility, that is, allowing the sitter the opportunity to shift and change body positions from time to time. Being totally immobile is inherently uncomfortable, but sitting in one position for hours at a time is precisely what we do on planes, which is what makes aircraft seats such a challenging design problem. On top of that there is the need to accommodate storage, TV screens, and lighting. Airline seats don't come with the plane; they are manufactured for individual airlines by specialized companies such as Weber in the United States, Contour in Britain, and Recaro in Germany.

    Read more at http://www.slate.com/id/2296340/
     
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  2. Saracen
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    Saracen Silver Member

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  3. garyst16
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    garyst16 Silver Member

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    While you may believe the primary design of an aircraft seat is to be comfortable to it's occupant, the actual thought process behind the design is to provide an attractive seat for the passenger but more importantly, provide the lowest weight seat to the airline. Let's face it; the airline business, like all other for-profit entities, is about making the most profit possible. In the airline industry, the aircraft with the least weight will make the most profit (based of course on equal load factors to other aircraft). Seats are a major contributor to the overall weight of the aircraft and therefore must be weight efficient. Unfortunately, reducing the weight of the seat means narrower seats with less padding/cushioning, the equate to a more uncomfortable seat for the passenger...IMHO
     
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  4. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    It's actually an interesting compromise, because the last thing you want is a light, plasticky El Cheap-o seat that feels cheap, because that translates into a bad experience for the passenger and the perception of the airline as a whole. Just look at how people perceive American cars to be cheap because of the interiors. :)

    And don't forget, the seat could be light and (reasonably) comfortable but it also has to be strong and have a reasonable service life. You don't want them popping off after the first hard landing or having to replace them every year, because there's no money in that. :)

    At the end of the day it's a balancing act. I have no doubt whatsoever that airlines could make the most comfortable seat ever made and it could weight less than a sheet of paper, if price was no object.
     
  5. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Evacuation should be interesting.
     
  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Agreed, and that's why I always wonder why airlines like UA don't remove the old obsolete airphones from their aircraft. I think I was on a domestic 777 recently that had four phones in each economy row. These phones haven't been functional for years, and yet they still get flown around and are even still connected and advertise low rates.
     
  7. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    This whole article seems poorly thought out--just another piece of fluff to increase page views and based entirely on extending his own opinions onto the entirety of the flying public.

    "Since seating in coach now seems to respond to only one requirement, to cram in as many seats as possible—the Sardine Principle—there is not much to say about the design of its seats."
    Actually, I would argue there's a lot to be said about this, particularly since coach makes up most or all of the passengers on a plane. Just comparing CO and UA, which I flight the most, CO's seats seem to have less lumbar support and harder cushions. When I used to fly Southwest, I found that the leather was a nice perk over the cloth on most airlines.

    The author points out supposed innovations on US in business class (a coat hook and bottled water holder) and total confusion about the detachable IFE. But lots of airlines have closets or some kind of coat rack in first or business, so he's wrong to suggest that the only previous alternative was to stuff it in the overhead. Assuming the FAs cooperate, I would actually prefer to have someone take my coat instead of getting my own hook. And while a bottled water holder is nice, I've never seen anyone bring a giant bottle with them into first or business, which the author says is ubiquitous. Finally, detachable IFEs make a lot of sense when you want to roll out upgrades to the tech more quickly (also, I imagine the installation cost is cheaper). UA's 757s still have CRTs!

    As three class cabins disappear, the first/business cabin needs to be differentiated better from coach to make it a worthwhile expense. And as competition increases between airlines, even coach needs a little consideration. New technology, including lighter components and better electronics make it easier to give all passengers more comfortable seats with better IFE. The addition of these features doesn't mean airlines are only starting to care, it just means that it's only beginning to become cost effective.
     
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