Thursday 27 April 2017

Think planes are cramped now?

Sitting comfortably: The
SkyRider offers just 23
inches of space from the
seat in front of you
Sitting comfortably: The SkyRider offers just 23 inches of space from the seat in front of you

Gemma O'Doherty

Welcome to the future of flying. There's no point in whining, moaning or calling Joe -- this is how it's going to be, so take a deep breath and hold your stomach in.

Michael O'Leary must be positively salivating at the sight of the SkyRider, the new 'saddle-seat' for planes that debuted at a recent Aircraft Interiors Expo in California and lets airlines squeeze up to 40pc more passengers on board each flight.

No company has invested in the controversial seating yet, but if and when it gets the go-ahead from aviation authorities, no doubt Ryanair will be first in line.

Of course, in Michael's ideal world, he would have us literally flying by the seat of our pants with nothing to perch our posteriors on at all. He dreams of skies that are standing-room-only, where passengers hang from a strap for the duration of their flight.

But that idea is likely to stay firmly in the realm of fantasyland, unless European safety laws are radically overhauled.

Stringent regulations which demand that aircraft seats must be capable of withstanding a force of 16Gs -- or 16 times the force of gravity -- pretty much preclude the idea.

Since 9/11, it's been a decade horribilis for the world's airlines as they cling to survival and grasp at any new idea that will save cash.

Although ticket sales have perked up in recent months, the Skyrider, created by Italian firm Aviointeriors, couldn't have come at a better time.

The novel bar-stool design would seat passengers at an angle, with 23 inches between their perch and the seat in front of them. Compared to the average industry standard of 31 inches, that's a lot more behinds on board. It also weighs a lot less than a regular seat, so massive fuel savings could be made.

Apart from the obvious comfort drawbacks in what has been dubbed 'Economy Minus' seating, one concern is that because the cabin will be so tightly packed, evacuation of a plane in the event of an accident may be more difficult.

However, apart from bringing extra revenue into airlines, the new cabin seating might actually be better for passenger health than the current arrangement.

Being perched in an upright position -- half-sitting, half-standing -- rather than a slump is the ideal position for the body, keeping a good air flow through the lungs and the back straight.

This could even help reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

Environmentalists are also pleased with the sardine-tin seating because it could reduce the CO2 per passenger by increasing the capacity of the plane.

Whether cattle-class seating will actually fly or not remains to be seen, but airline insiders were queuing up to get a look at it last week when it went on public view for the first time. Don't be surprised if you find yourself strapped into a SkyRider any time soon.

Irish Independent

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