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These New Economy Seat Concepts Are Getting Interesting

These New Economy Seat Concepts Are Getting Interesting
Taylor Rains

Flying coach on long-haul flights is miserable. Being stuck in a cramped seat with no ability to stretch out makes it near impossible to get rest before touching down in a new time zone. Although this has become a common frustration of travel, some companies are making an effort to introduce more comfortable alternatives to the economy seat, such as Air New Zealand’s Economy Skynest and newcomer Zephyr.

Zephyr Lie Flat Bed 2

What is Zephyr?

Invented by Jeff O’Neill, Zephyr is a double-decker premium economy seat meant for wide-body jets. Mr. O’Neill’s concept is simple – create a better all-around product for customers without hurting the airline’s bottom line, which is exactly what he believes the Zephyr seat will do.

Intro to Zephyr Seat from jeff oneill on Vimeo.

He said, “We should not be having these ridiculous discussions about asking permission to recline a seat or get to the bathroom. Why are we even giving airlines the option to tell us how we can and cannot travel? Privacy should be accessible and affordable, and [airlines] should improve their customers’ in-flight experience.”

Zephyr Lie Flat Bed

The seat is staggered in a 1-2-1 configuration, offering aisle access each and more privacy than today’s premium seats. It has a fixed recline and relies on a zero-gravity design to keep travelers comfortable. It also includes a cubby for personal items, an inflight entertainment screen, charging ports, and a large armrest.

Privacy and increased comfort is only the start of the Zephyr design. What makes it interesting is its ability to convert into a lie-flat bed. Although the seat itself does not lie flat, it has a cushion that connects two padded sections of the space to create an angled bed. It may not be business class luxury, but Mr. O’Neill believes it will still be favored oversleeping upright for 12 hours in today’s premium economy.

Zephyr Double Decker Seats 2

Will Airlines Buy It?

Mr. O’Neill says that because the seats are stacked, airlines will not forfeit capacity. The same number of seats in today’s wide-body cabins can be accommodated using Zephyr, so it should not impact an airline’s bottom line. Mr. O’Neill explained, “The best part of this seat: it has NO heavy mechanical/electronic components. The entire seat has only 2 moving pieces inside, so the weight and direct maintenance costs for the airline are significantly reduced! Using advanced composite materials, we can build this seat at less than 50kg per unit.”

Zephyr Lie Flat Bed 3

What do you think about Jeff O’Neill’s design? Let us know in the comments!

View Comments (30)


  1. Gynob001

    February 28, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Too bad! I had this idea over a decade back when there was no Shark Tank!

  2. JimInOhio

    February 28, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    So how does emergency evacuation work if you’re on the top row?

  3. Lurch

    February 29, 2020 at 2:28 am

    Are there overhead bins and how much can they hold?

  4. hackakhan

    February 29, 2020 at 5:14 am

    Noone will want this. How do you get the ladder to your seat when you are in the top row? Doesn’t the ladder block evacuation? The bedding space is angled. You can’t lie straight. And so on…

  5. cscasi

    February 29, 2020 at 6:21 am

    I can see some of the elderly or those with various leg, hip, back and other issues climbing around (up and down) using these seats. Also, where is the carry on baggage being stored?
    And, as mentioned already, what about emergency evacuations
    Finally, are the flight attendants going to be able to service meals, drinks etc., easily in this configuration?

  6. wentrup

    February 29, 2020 at 6:25 am

    The idea is great! Go for it!
    Emergency is not an issue; you would not select an upper seat if you were afraid or handicapped. And it would be easier to get out than if you were in a middle seat in a row of 3 or 4.

  7. ConnieDee

    February 29, 2020 at 6:48 am

    Well, I’m impressed that someone is acknowledging that flyers have personal item, things, stuff–not in a chest pocket or hanging around their necks–that they might actually want to access, touch, swap out, or store during a flight.

  8. ksandness

    February 29, 2020 at 7:48 am

    Emergency evacuation would work at least as well as it does when you would have to crawl over another passenger who wants to get their carry-on out of the overhead bin. If it could be arranged that people with mobility issues would always sit on the lower level, no problem.

  9. pickledtink

    February 29, 2020 at 8:12 am

    I’d buy it. I’ve often wondered why airlines have not looked at the kind of offerings you can get on long distance trains which have seats which convert to beds and pull down beds with privacy curtain etc overhead. Even some long ride buses in SEA have stacked lie down seats which are easy to sleep in.

  10. Banthai

    February 29, 2020 at 8:19 am

    I hope the airlines have good insurance, i can see many accidents as frail or drunk people fall from above, im sorry but its just not practical and no airline in their right mind would do this

  11. awayIgo

    February 29, 2020 at 9:11 am

    Interesting. I see the new complaint will be the person above me is banging on their floor/ my ceiling! Maybe they’ll charge more for upper deck!

    Jimmie- how does emergency evacuation work from the second floor of a private house – or the 20th floor of a high rise. You’ll go down the stairs to the exit level!

  12. redrob

    February 29, 2020 at 9:37 am

    What about (overhead) locker storage? What about the danger of stuff being dropped from the upper level? How will the cabin crew serve F&B to those on the upper level?
    It all looks incredibly claustrophobic and the dummy used looks likes a contortionist when lying down!
    All very clever, from a design point of view, but practical? Hmmmm……..

  13. rjpjr

    February 29, 2020 at 9:59 am

    I guess these are going in A380s only. Otherwise I don’t see how it can fit height-wise on typical planes. Seems the airline’s bottom line does get hit if they have to change their long-haul fleet to a different plane. Either that or maybe the concept is they buy two or three planes and charge the economy passenger more for what does appear to be a comfortable configuration.

  14. mbgaskins

    February 29, 2020 at 10:27 am

    Ahhh. But the airlines will just use this to increase capacity and put the passenger in the same uncomfortable position.

    Doug Parker at al couldn’t care less about their customers or their comfort. All they care about is the bottom line.

  15. BC Shelby

    February 29, 2020 at 10:27 am

    @ JiminOhio: …good point.

    Getting out of the lower one would be tricky as well to avoid smacking your head.

    Also how would the person in the upper seat be served by cabin crew during the flight? Would the service person be required to climb the ladder with drinks and food in hand?

  16. pke

    February 29, 2020 at 10:46 am

    This is stupid. Who’s going to want to climb up and down a ladder to sit down or go use the restroom? I think that it’s best suited for plastic figures like the one shown in the video. Looks perfect for him.

  17. phkc070408

    February 29, 2020 at 11:08 am

    Is this going to be a problem for taller people? The man in the picture sitting in the bottom seat appears to be of average height, yet his head looks extremely close to the ceiling.

  18. Gizzabreak

    February 29, 2020 at 11:43 am

    “… we can build this seat at less than 50kg per unit.” Hmm. It’s difficult to find definitive weight numbers for current long haul economy seats … around 50kg per standard triple module (3 on common base) would appear to be well on the heavy side of desirable going by Recaro’s published 7 to 8kg per unit for their lightest seats … 50kg “PER UNIT” looks well ‘out of order’. I realize airlines want more more bums/butts on seats and that vertical stacking looks like the answer … but at a cost of 35 to 40kg per seat unit? And, with the current infatuation with ‘ultra long haul’, airlines are having to REDUCE the number of passengers carried (and charge accordingly) in order to carry sufficient fuel. “50kg per unit” … don’t expect to book one any time soon.

  19. dliesse

    February 29, 2020 at 11:51 am

    I can see right now that that gap in the cushions in the middle of the back is going to kill me after no more than an hour!

  20. FlyingHighlander

    February 29, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    Love it. Who cares about any downsides this has. Ban carry on luggage if that’s what it takes to make this the new economy. Cease in flight meals. I don’t care. Just give us space.

  21. jonsail

    February 29, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    I like this. My biggest discomfort with economy is risking being squeezed next to or between other pax. This offers great personal space. I think the biggest problem will be people climbing the ladders when there is turbulence. The upper deck would only work for fit people. I don’t know how the airlines get people to self-select for fitness.

  22. YVR guy

    February 29, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    If you don’t want it… then don’t buy it. But for the customers that are perfectly fine climbing a ladder to and from the seat (even in an emergency) then let us have this option. I think its a great idea and would gladly pay to enjoy this extra space.

  23. Megacookie

    February 29, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    What if you are traveling with babies or toddlers. Do you put in the bin above or him on top and you below? And if they need you to go to the bathroom and it’s a long haul trip, and they need you and you are asleep how do they reach you.
    Pretty stupid idea not to mention that when you wake up up you walk like a 60 degree angle.
    Better take two rows of every single plane in the world, make the seats more comfortable and put more flights or ask Boeing to build only 747 The Queen Of The Skies.
    Stop trading travelers that pay for tickets like sardines. I’m not going to even make the comparison during the Nazis.
    Cut the salaries of the executives and make traveling by plane like when Pan Am was elegant and comfortable. Your profits last year from the fees you charge even to use the bathroom is offensive.

  24. PDog

    March 1, 2020 at 11:22 am

    Love this. I, too, have always wondered why planes have not looked to trains for seating ideas.

  25. Dhamal

    March 1, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    I can see people falling off the stairs and where would people put their overhead luggage?

  26. jahason

    March 1, 2020 at 11:14 pm

    Can have bins on the side of each seat instead of overhead. Great idea.

  27. DCAFly

    March 2, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Love it. Who cares if the “lie down” seat isn’t as comfy as biz. It’s better than between squashed into the middle seat for 10 hours. I don’t quite understand how they make the claim about not losing capacity. Aren’t most widebodies now carrying 9 or 10 across? If this has a 1-2-1 configuration, that’s 8 across. In any event, I would definitely pay a premium for this. Probably would pay more for this than a premium economy seat.

  28. IBobi


    March 2, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    I actually LOLed when I saw the photo with the guy “sleeping” around the corner in that “seat.”


  29. scnzzz

    March 2, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    This is a premium economy concept, not regular coach. Even on A380s the premium economy cabin is no more than 8 across, so this actually does work from the perspective of density. No chance this will make it to coach.

    But yeah, the company needs to address storage, F&B and evacuation. Airlines can block lower level seats for ppl with limited mobility.

    In terms of weight I wonder what the benchmark is for premium economy seats. It’s not 7-8kg – that’s the cheap slimline coach seat…but 50kg seems a bit much.

  30. ruffio1

    March 4, 2020 at 9:47 am

    where do people put their 4 cabin bags they have hahaha. there you go nan just up that ladder. ridiculous

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