Complaining about airline seating may be a cliche, but it is an issue that poses serious discomfort for frequent flyers. In an effort to pack more seats onto flights, some carriers have drastically reduced the amount of leg room in standard classes over time, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by passengers.
Travel review sites are packed with complaints from customers who have grown tired of the ever-shrinking seating in coach and economy class. While airline seats aren’t getting bigger, seat manufacturers are at least looking for ways to make them a little more comfortable. That is the word according to a recent industry event held in Long Beach, California.
The Aircraft Interiors Expo is a relatively niche but still notable event in the world of airline tech. Each year, companies like Aeroblaze, Latitude Aero, and HAECO Cabin Solutions come together to show off the next generation in aircraft interior comforts. Airline interior design is a massive industry at $17 billion, with projections that it will grow to nearly $30 billion to keep pace with growing travel demands around the globe. This past week’s expo was of particular note as several exhibitors showed off unique solutions to the shrinking airline seating problem experienced by so many frequent flyers who can’t afford to travel first class.
Acro Aircraft Seating, a manufacturer who produces aircraft seating for big names like Spirit and Frontier, unveiled new seats that use unique padding and frames to more comfortably seat passengers in the economy class. Mark Westcott, an account manager with the company who stands a substantial 6’3″, showed off the new seats in a demonstration. Westcott showed that by curving each seat’s backrest and using a thinner piece of padding, Acro had improved comfort and leg space without actually increasing the row spacing.
Innovations like these are necessary as airlines themselves seem unwilling to address the problem. While seat pitch, the space between a seat on the one behind it, measured at 35 inches in 2011, that number has since shrunk to 31 inches, with some carriers going as low as 28 inches. The problem is so out of hand that activist groups have petitioned the U.S. government to step in and establish standards for how rows are spaced. While the Federal Aviation Administration has been slow to offer a blanket solution, aircraft interior manufacturers eager to acquire lucrative contracts have and will continue to find solutions that meet both customer concerns and carrier desires to pack in more passengers.