LOFT KAREN DITKO | VIRGINIA TECH INDUSTRIAL DESIGN | THESIS 2012
TABLE OF CONTENTS PROBLEM RESEARCH FINDINGS THE SEAT TREND STUDY IDEATION ARM RESTS FOOD AND DRINK MEDIA FINAL CONCEPT
1 3 9 19 23 27 31 35 43 45
THE CABIN INTRODUCTION IDEATION INSPIRATION VERTICAL CONCEPT LUGGAGE SEAT PITCH PLANE LAYOUT PROOF OF CONCEPT LOFT
47 49 51 55 57 59 61 63 67 71
The standard airline economy seat is too small, uncomfortable, and arranged in rows that are too close together. This leads to passenger anxiety from claustrophobia and conflict when fellow passengers encroach on each otherâ€™s space, leading to an overall unpleasant experience.
INITIAL RESEARCH Several travel site articles reveal the most common complaints about flying in economy class include leg room, people reclining into other peopleâ€™s knees, and other passengers encroaching on othersâ€™ personal space.
SURVEY Because online comments are generally only written by those who have had an unusually bad experience, a survey was conducted to gather more unbiased opinions about flying.
The survey asked for general demographic information, opinions on seat size, reclining function, and other passengers who are too wide and too tall.
SURVEY RESULTS Respondants ranged in height from 5â€™1 to 6â€™4, aged from less than 20 to over 60, and most described themselves as average or a little overweight.
The majority fly United for short-haul domestic flights a few times a year, sitting in economy or economy plus.
67% believe that the standard airline seat is not adequately sized
THE GREAT HYPOCRISY:
77% of respondents recline their seat at least some of the time 88% do not like the person in front of them reclining their seat
“They can’t help being tall. It’s genetics not a choice.” “It’s hypocritical, but I feel it’s not their fault if they are tall but it is if they are overweight.” “Don’t believe that tall people are an annoyance to the people they are sitting next to.” “Another person being tall doesn’t intrude on my space” “They ought to pay for more leg room if they require it.” “Airline seats are already ONsmall TALL too forPEOPLE: even the shortest person.” “I think this people people who are too tall to fitI indon’t see height is18% a ofless ofbelieve an issue than width. a standard seat should pay more encroaching on the next passenger’s space. A taller 76% believe they need should not more up to let adjacent people person may topaystand reach aisle; dueonto 6% thinkthe it should depend thetheir person leg length.” “If they keep their seat upright and don’t impact the people around them, then they shouldn’t need to buy extra space.” “Another person being tall doesn’t intrude on my space”
“Because if your physical person is going to impede upon space I paid to be my own, I would feel cheated if you didn’t have to pay to take up extra space.” “I dislike sharing my seat with someone else’s excess flesh.” “Well, my question to airlines is, will they charge less to a person who is slim? Overall it is improper to charge a person based on their height and weight.” “I ON WIDE PEOPLE: despise fat people because of a deep insecurity and self52% of people believe people are too wide to fit “I feel that this loathing regarding mywho own weight.” seat should pay more isin aa standard gray area. People have “control” over their weight should not paythere more are many people that have in33% anbelieve idealthey world, but conditions that make them overweight and unable to 15% think it should depend on the person lose weight.” “For the airline it’s all about revenue.” “It is unfair for a person to take up over one seat and then charge someone else for the seat they are ‘sharing’.”
The survey exposed two main areas of complaints: passenger conflict and general comfort CONFLICT 1. Armrest sharing - apart from end seats, every row of seats has shared armrests between the seats. Many survery respondents complained of other passengers refusing to share the arm rests. 2. Seat recline - tall passenger do not have enough leg room as is, and become increasingly unhappy if the person in front of them reclines their seat back, therefore affording them even less room. Reclining also affects the angle of the tray table, which negatively affects those trying to do work on laptops.
COMFORT 1. Leg room - with airlines trying to make as much money as possible per flight, they have put the seats as close together as possible. This means that anyone with long legs are uncomfortable the whole flight, often with their knees touching the seat in front of them. 2. The seat itself - the seat back default position is upright, which puts more weight on the tailbone instead of spreading it out over the back, which can get uncomfortable on longer flights. Airlines also do not replace seats very often, which leads to old, worn out seat cushioning.
Based on survey results and preliminary research, leg room and other passengers encroaching on personal space must be addressed while updating the technological features of the seats but keeping costs reasonably low.
To achieve this, the same number or more seats must be kept in the airplane cabin so as not to lose revenue for the airlines; but re-designed and re-arranged to allow for fewer opportunities to encroach on othersâ€™ personal space.
THE PLANE: BOEING 777-200
Since the majority of survey respondents flew United and were dissatisfied with their seating experience, the Boeing 777-200 will be the focus of this project. This plane features a center column of five seats, the middle of which is subject to all of the common seat complaints without the perks of a window or aisle nearby.
The solution will consist of two parts:
THE SEAT and CABIN LAYOUT
A vital part of having an enjoyable flying experience is to have a comfortable seat. Due to cost-saving measures, the size of the standard ariline seat has been steadily shrinking and the rows of seats are being placed closer and closer together, resulting in an uncomfortable experience for the majority of passengers. According to an article in Ergonomics Today, the ideal seat pitch is 35”. Many economy airlines only provide around 30” of seat pitch. The article states that the “minimum dimensions need to be expanded by at least 3”... to ensure that seating standards are such that passengers would be able to quickly evacuate an aircraft in the event of an emergency.”
A better-designed airline seat would not only increase passenger comfort, it would increase overall safety in the event of an emergency.
What kind of seats do people willingly sit in for extended periods of time? To start, looking at seats that are designed to be sat in for extended periods of time will give a basis for a new airline seat design. While large easy chairs and lounge chairs are the most comfortable, they are not practical to install in economy and already implemented in the first- and business class cabins.
Office chairs, on the other hand, are sat in for 8 hours a day every day and feature many ergonomic qualities. In addition, they do not take up nearly as much space as the other chairs.
The Aeron Chair by Herman Miller is arguably the best and most ergonomic office chair available on the market today. As such, it is an excellent inspiration for an airline seat redesign.
Iterations of the chair include a back inspired by the Aeron chair, plus a widescreen TV screen, tablet rest, and large headrest. The default back position will be reclined, avoiding the conflict of passengers reclining their seats into the laps of those behind them.
THE FINAL CONCEPT
curved head rest mesh back wide screen
curved arm rests
ARM RESTS The curved arm rest shape allows for more lateral room for the passenger, but keeping the outside edge straight allows for more efficient seat placement in rows. How the shapes of the two armrests work together next to each other was also an important consideration.
ARM REST FEATURE CONFIGURATION
The final armrest shape allows for more lateral space while still providing a comfortable surface for the passenger to rest his or her forearm and hand. The large front also provides a maximum amount of space for control buttons and features. Each seat will have its own set of arm rests, thereby avoiding the conflicts that arise from two seats sharing one arm rest. Armrest features include volume and channel controls and displays, an audio jack, and powered USB ports.
In the process of modeling the armrest onto the chair, it was disocvered that the initial arm rests shape did not complement the rest of the chairâ€™s design language, so the shape had to be altered.
As the chair design progressed, the armrests eventually evolved into more organic curved shapes that better reflected the chairâ€™s design language.
FOOD AND DRINK
Because of the increased seat pitch and recline, the traditional tray table on the back of the chair in front would not be practical. In addition, if the person sitting in the aisle seat uses their tray table, they effectively trap the other occupants of the row in their seats. Also, if a passenger orders a drink, they must use the entire tray table just for one cup and one bottle or can. This is an ineffective and often inconvenient use of space.
To address this issue, a separate cup holder and tray table system would have to be implemented. In addition to being more convenient for passengers, the airline would be able to easily remove all the tray tables to clean and disinfect them on a periodic basis.
The initial plan was to have a slide-out cupholder with a tray that locks into the cupholder portion. However, when executed in the computer model of the seat, this cupholder/tray system did not work with the rest of the design language of the seat.
In order to develop a tray table and cupholder system that would work better with the design language of the seat, iterations were sketched on top of printouts of the existing design.
When not in use, the tray table stows in the seat back pocket.
The tray attaches to the seat through insertion into the end of the arm rest.
The cupholders are integrated into the arm rest in their own compartment, like in luxury cars. Having the cupholder in the armrest allows airline passengers to enjoy a beverage without needing to use the entire tray table just for one cup.
The cupholders are designed to fit a standard airline beverage cup, as well as a can or bottle of a beverage.
All the passenger media and comfort controls are contained in the arm rest. Many passengers have difficulty reaching the bulkhead controls, especially on larger planes. They have been moved to a more easily accessible location. In addition to the standard volume and channel controls and headphone jack for the media display, powered USB ports have been added to ensure passengers can enjoy using their iPods, tablets and other USB-powered devices for the entirety of the flight no matter the length.
The seat back features a widescreen HD screen to ensure the full enjoyment of modern movies and TV shows.
Curved head rest for comfortable sleeping HD media Mesh back for comfort and breathability Reclined default position for increased ergonomics and comfort Curved arm rests to allow for more lateral room High density foam seat for comfort and FAA regulations for seats doubling as flotation devices Maximum under seat storage for personal belongings
THE BOEING 777 ECONOMY CABIN HAS 312 SEATS. Goal: maintain or increase number of available seats
Now that the seat has been redesigned, it is important to fit it into an existing economy cabin in a fashion that will not lose the airline an excessive amount of revenue. Ideally the new seat configuration will not result in the loss of any of the existing available seats on each flight. Airline seats are among the most expensive pieces of real estate people will purchase, and having fewer seats per plane would drive the cost even higher which is something that should be avoided if possible.
The Boeing 777 is a widebody plane commonly used for long haul flights. It is the focus of this redesign due to its use for long-haul flights where comfort is important for passengers sitting on this plane for upwards of six hours. Additionally, the 2-5-2 layout results in someone being trapped in the middle seat of the 5 section, which is uncomfortable due to not having easy aisle access or a window to look out of.
Initially, lateral spacing of the seats was investigated to give passengers more separation from each other. However, increasing the spacing between seats reduced the number of seats available by half, which was not an acceptable solution from the point of view of airline revenue.
In an airplane only a minimal amount of vertical fuselage space is taken by the cabin. Below is the cargo hold and gas tanks, but the top is empty. This has potential for utilization.
Norman Bel Geddeâ€™s Air Liner Number 4 and the more modern Boeing 747 double decker planes served as inspiration for how to use the fuselageâ€™s extra vertical space. The Air Liner Number 4 utilizes a design that seats passengers not only in multiple decks, but also inside the wings of the aircraft. The Boeing 747 uses the vertical space in a more practical fashion for modern aircraft by having two decks on top of each other.
By utilizing the vertical space a second deck can be added in the fashion of the Boeing 747, increasing the amount of lateral space available for seats.
Overhead storage space remains the same on the lower deck, but due to the curvature of the fuselage, the extra space to the sides of the seats more readily lends itself to be storage space.
Seat pitch is the amount of space between one part of a seat and that same part of the seat behind it. Standard airline economy seats only have about 30 inches of seat pitch. The LOFT seat configuration allows for 35 inches of seat pitch, which is the recommended distance by Ergonomics Today, and the same amount that airlines charge extra for in the â€œEconomy Plusâ€? section.
Standard economy 30” seat pitch
LOFT 35” seat pitch
LOWER DECK: 186 SEATS
The new cabin configuration features a 2-2-2 configuration. Each passenger has his or her own set of two arm rests, which decreases passenger conflict and increases space between passengers. The galley, lavatories and emergency exits remain in the same positions as the original configuration.
UPPER DECK:126 SEATS
Due to the curvature of the plane, the upper deck features a 2-2 configuration. The upper deck has its own set of galleys, lavatories and emergency exits. Staircases are located at the front and the back of the cabin for access between the decks.
126 SEATS 186 SEATS
312 SEATS 67
To get to one deck to the other, there is an oval spiral staircase located at the front and the back of the plane. The oval shape allows for a wider staircase so passengers have an easier time moving their carry on luggage up and down the stairs.
The upper deck features standard side windows, as well as a row of top sky lights. The top sky lights would feature smart glass that can become opaque to darken the cabin if the sun becomes too intense or for overnight flights.
The lower deck features six-across seating as opposed to the original nine across. Passengers have more separation from each other, and window seat passengers only have to climb over one person if they need to get to the aisle.