The Aviation Interiors Expo-US may be a smaller version of the Hamburg version held each year, but that doesn’t mean it is without interesting news. This year the buzz is all about the SkyRider seats from Avioninteriors. Why? Because they offer a nearly upright “seat” with only 23 inches of pitch. When the seats take up 25% less space that means room for a lot more passengers (and revenue) for the airlines.
But will folks actually be willing to sit in the seats? And can they even fit? Important questions and ones that the company hopes to answer for interested parties throughout the show. The booth was heavily trafficked, with media outlets conducting interviews and interested observers hoping to give the seats a try. After watching others take their turn for about an hour and watching their reactions I finally settled in myself to give the seats a ride.
Take a couple employees and seat them on the “saddle” that acts as the seat and things don’t look all that terrible. They actually seem pretty happy there, though they are also in the “bulkhead” row with nothing in front of them so they can stretch out their legs a bit.
But try to get a reasonably small cameraman in there (seriously, guy, a pager??) and the camera simply will not make it.
There are even tray tables and what looked like a simulated 7”-ish IFE screen in the demo set. With your face only 7” away from a 7” screen it would be incredibly large, probably actually too big for most folks’ range of vision. I cannot imagine that working out well. With the fisheye lens the seats actually don’t look so horrible.
The saddle styling of the seat is interesting. One person mentioned that it was like riding a horse, without all the space normally associated with equestrian activities. Indeed, for folks who are outside the normal height range that the seats are designed for the saddle could prove to be rather uncomfortable. A 6’ 4” reporter from one of the news outlets tried to get into the second row and was rather unsuccessful. Similarly, I would imagine that the saddle would be rather uncomfortable for folks shorter than around 5’ 2” tall. I really have no idea how it would work for most kids.
So, how did I fare in the seat? Here’s the photo. I got in and sat there for about 5 minutes. I even moved into the middle when another guy showed up and wanted to experience it as well. The good news is that the middle seat didn’t feel particularly cramped relative to the aisle seat. The bad news is that all the seats are a pretty tight squeeze. I figured that, much like riding the subway, anything would be fine for 30-45 minutes if needed. The problem is that there is no such thing as a 30-45 minute flight. My trip from Las Vegas to Long Beach this morning was only 45 minutes in the air but I was on the aircraft for nearly double that with boarding, taxi and deplaning time. And I’m not so sure that there is actually a price point at which the airlines can sell this product that would make me comfortable enough flying it. Maybe it is just a function of getting used to the experience, but I’m not particularly convinced. It isn’t a seat and you’re not quite standing. Limited head clearance (the seats are taller to make up the missing pitch) and no under-seat space would mean less capacity on the planes for carry-on bags. Plus it just feels cramped. Way more than traditional seats and even more than the rather tight space in the back of a Spirit Air plane.
Actually maybe not on that last one. Just maybe the SkyRider would be better than the tight squeeze that some carriers offer in a traditional layout today. I certainly wouldn’t fly Spirit again based on just how awful the seats were in the back on a 150 mile flight I took with them so perhaps they have nothing to lose by giving something like this a try. Maybe there is a market for these after all. That’s a rather scary thing to consider.
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