Think planes are cramped now? Try the new 'Skyrider 2.0' standing seats
The 'Skyrider' returns
Didn't think planes could get any more cramped? Think again, if these new "standing seats" ever see the light of day.
Technically, the Skyrider 2.0, designed by Italian design firm Aviointeriors Group, isn't new, but rather an updated version of one it debuted back in 2010.
Reappearing at the 2018 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, this time in lurid yellow and blue (hint, hint, Ryanair), and with more cushioning, they weigh 50 per cent less than standard plane seats do currently, and are sized to squish 20 per cent more people into a cabin.
The reduced legroom brings the seat pitch (the distance between one seat and the next in front) down to 23 inches. By way of comparison, the likes of easyJet and Jet2 have a seat pitch of 29 inches - among the lowest in the game.
Eight years on and no airline has yet purchased the Skyriders, you might be pleased to hear. But considering budget airlines like Ryanair have no qualms with cost-cutting measures that sacrifice comfort (a lack of seatback pockets, for a start) - might that change? We investigate.
First of all, the Skyrider is designed for short flights only, rather obviously given that tray tables are non-existent, there is no-sign of in-flight entertainment, and seats don’t appear to recline. As for the reduced legroom though, would that even be an issue given you'd be perched, with the weight off your feet, rather than seated, legs crunched? Perhaps not.
It’s baaaaaack! The AvioInteriors Skyrider saddle seat is returning to #AIX18 after its controversial reception. Will the fact that 28” is normal on low-cost carriers mean that a 23” squat for a (very) short flight seems more #PaxEx palatable? #avgeek pic.twitter.com/zLylr91NiT— John Walton @ #APEXEXPO 🏳️🌈 ✈️ 💺 (@thatjohn) April 10, 2018
"It's an innovative seat since it allows ultra high-density in the aircraft cabin, taking full advantage of the space between the floor and the fuselage," its designers say.
"The original bottom ensures an increased upright passenger position allowing the installation of seats at a reduced pitch, while maintaining adequate comfort."
American Travel blogger The Points Guy took a pew on the Skyrider in Hamburg last week and surmised: "My knees were firmly planted against the seatback for the entire time in the rear row. Perhaps that discomfort distracted me, but spending 10 minutes sitting in the saddle seat really didn’t seem to be bad."
What's wrong with it?
No seatbelts, but this is just a prototype. Nowhere obvious to stow belongings, except for above your head, but given the seats will render passengers taller, it's likely that the overhead lockers would have to shrink. According to safety regulations, there must be a certain amount of clear distance between passengers' heads and the ceiling, and the Skyrider would shorten that.
Yes. Passengers might complain about the shrinking space in cattle class on budget airlines, but they did also choose to buy the bargain ticket. Simply put, seats like this would make flying even cheaper.
Safety-wise, whether they would speed up or slow down evacuation in the event of an emergency is unclear. But scrambling out of your seat from a standing position could conceivably be quicker than getting up from a seated one.
Will airlines ever buy them?
Yes, according to Aviointeriors.
"We are convinced of their use in aircraft, maybe not immediately but we believe it can definitely be a configuration on which the short-haul flights will move," a company rep told us.
Last June, VivaColombia publicy expressed interest in the concept of vertical seating. "There are people out there right now researching whether you can fly standing up," founder and CEO William Shaw said. "We’re very interested in anything that makes travel less expensive."
And all the way back in 2010, when the Skyrider first made its debut, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary went even further, cheerfully referring to them as "bar stools with seat belts" - and deeming seatbelts unneccesary.
"A plane is just a b****** bus with wings", he said at the time. "If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you. You don’t need a seatbelt on the London Underground. You don’t need a seatbelt on trains which are travelling at 120mph and if they crash you’re all dead..."
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) disagrees with O’Leary. It claims there would be many hurdles to jump through before carriers could launch "stand-up" flights.
"First the airline would have to ask the manufacturer of the aircraft to fit them in, then the manufacturer would have to get those seats approved," said Richard Taylor, a spokesperson for the CAA. "Unless they can make it 100 per cent safe, it won’t be viable."
If they do pass the safety test? Watch this space.