Companies around the world have been implementing a variety of safety measures, and preventative protocols to ensure that their customers feel safe and protected once the travel industry resumes operations after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some airlines have blocked the sale of select seats to promote distancing while others require passengers to wear face masks to hinder transmission. Some airports have even gone so far as to implement full-body disinfectant machines.
Now, a French aeronautical engineer, Florian Barjot, is sharing his idea for a new plane seat that could protect passengers and allow them to social distance appropriately without airlines having to pay an arm and a leg to redesign the cabins of their aircraft.
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Barjot’s concept, called PlanBay, is a removable kit for unused seats in economy class that can be temporarily used during an epidemic as well as during the recovery phase.
“With the Covid-19 outbreak, for the first time in recent history, the passenger air traffic dropped globally by 90% during a two months period,” the PlanBay website explains.
“Due to the uncertainty, we need to be resilient and adaptable. Modern aircraft have efficient air systems that prevent the contagion from one person to the entire passenger population, but the health authorities recommend one-meter distancing, which is hardly achievable in economy class, even with an empty middle seat.”
The goal of PlanBay is to provide a “kit solution” for empty seats to promote and allow for social distancing while also being cheap to produce and inexpensive for airlines to implement.
The kit supplies a protection panel behind the seat with an additional panel in between adjoining seats. It is designed to fit onto an empty middle seat so that passengers seated in the aisle and window can properly socially distance from one another.
According to the website, the installation is straightforward and easy to follow.
The panels also increase the height between rows while filling gaps between seats. It does not block emergency exits but also does not recline to be “consistent with distancing measures,” however, this is compensated with a lateral headrest.
The significant advantage of PlanBay over other airplane seat designs and prototypes is that it is removable, which presents a lower-cost alternative for airlines who wish to ensure the safety and health of passengers without having to shovel out exorbitant amounts of money. This fact is particularly relevant and appealing during a time where the industry as a whole has suffered substantial financial losses due to the pandemic.
In terms of next steps, there are still several processes and approvals that PlanBay must go through before it can be put on the market.
Barjot must obtain airline/operator interest for the concept to gauge demand. If there is interest, then he must venture into negotiations for partnerships with aircraft interior suppliers to determine logistic, production and certification capabilities.
Following that approval, a prototype will be developed for first adopters before final design and certification are made. Only then will PlanBay enter the production phase and be permitted to enter service.
It is also not the only airplane seat concept that is seeking to protect passengers from viruses.
Aviointeriors, an Italian manufacturer of airline seats, unveiled two ideas for airplane seats back in April named “Glasssafe” and the “Janus Seat.” Glasssafe is similar to PlanBay in that it comprises of a kit with a transparent shield that can be installed onto existing seats to ensure the safety of passengers sitting together to decrease potential contamination.
Differentially, the Janus Seat is unique due to its reversed positioning of the middle seat in a row of three to promote isolation between passengers. In contrast, the window and aisle seats remain forward-facing.
While it may not be within the immediate future, the concepts surrounding PlanBay may appeal to those travellers who are anxious about returning to air travel following the coronavirus pandemic. A potential method that could allow them to distance themselves from fellow travellers could provide peace of mind and encourage those who wish to get back to travel to feel more comfortable when they decide to venture out once more.