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Seat Concepts That Can’t Fly Today

Seat Concepts That Can’t Fly Today
Taylor Rains

Everyone knows flying is not the luxury it used to be. Narrow seats with less than adequate legroom can make even the shortest of flights miserable; however, that has not stopped some manufacturers from engineering ways to make the already small economy space even more claustrophobic.

Skyrider Standing Seat

The Latest 'Skyrider' Airplane Seat Still Looks Really Uncomfortable

Developed by Italian manufacturer Aviointeriors, the Skyrider would have people essentially standing, perched on a bike-like seat with their legs hanging down, for the entire flight. The seat has gone through various versions since its birth in 2010, with the Skyrider 3.0 being revealed at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in 2019.

When Skyrider 2.0 debuted in 2018, Avioninteriors said it was “the new frontier of low-cost tickets and passenger experience,” and if installed on aircraft, it would increase passenger capacity by 20% while still maintaining “adequate comfort.” However, people were skeptical of the Skyrider, calling it the “saddle seat” and describing it as a “crime against humanity.” One reporter even went as far as to call it a “torture chamber,” while others refused to think airlines would stoop to this level. Although surprisingly enough, low-cost carriers Ryanair, Spring Airlines, and VivaColombia have shown interest in standing seats, and Aviointeriors revealed they had received “great interest” in the design. Depending on the type of traveler you are, you could probably survive an hour or so flight in the Skyrider, but anything longer would not be worth the ultra-low airfare.

High-Density 31-Inch Spacing (HD31-3) Seat


Described as “atrocious” and “haunting,” Zodiac Aerospace’s (now known as Safran Aerosystems) HD31-1 is a beehive-like design that can fit up to seven people in one row on a narrow-body jet. Sounds like your worst nightmare, right? Well, it doesn’t stop there. The “economy class cabin hexagon” alternates between forward-facing and aft-facing seats (overlapping passenger feet and shoulders), has no armrests, and forces travelers to look at each other the entire flight. However, the manufacturer says the seat has benefits, including flip-up seats that make it easier to enter and exit the row, as well as additional leg and shoulder room. But let’s be honest, the honeycomb design is concerning, and not because the concept of giving passengers more space is bad, but because the execution is insane. Having two people in your peripheral, trying desperately not to make eye contact, can make for long, awkward flights. Not to mention the fact that it suggests airlines add a third dreaded middle seat to its configuration. So, for those of you that take the gamble of getting a randomly assigned seat at check-in, your chances for the middle just went up.

Fortunately, Zodiac Aerospace has abandoned the HD31-3 for other concepts. The company explained, “We are here to propose in the course of tradeshows some disruptive ideas (like HD31) to shake up to a conservative market with concept seats.” I guess they realized this seat wasn’t going to be all the buzz.

Airbus Bicycle Seat

Airbus Bicycle Seats

As if flying in Spirit’s hard, recline-less seats on a four-hour flight wasn’t torture enough, imagine making the journey on a bicycle saddle. Airbus’ patented “bicycle” seat design makes me cringe just looking at it, and honestly, it is barely even a seat. It functions like folding chairs at a baseball stadium and has tiny armrests, no tray table, no legroom, a barstool backrest, and a safety strap. Its sole purpose is to cram passengers into as little space as possible, and Airbus even acknowledges that it would make the flying experience incredibly uncomfortable. However, they seem to believe passengers would be willing to give up comfort for ultra-low fares. Airbus explains in the patent filing, “To maximize financial returns on aircraft for low-cost airlines, the number of seats in a cabin must be increased, to the detriment of the comfort of the passengers. However, this reduced comfort is tolerable for passengers in as much as the flight lasts one or a few hours.” Personally, on a hop from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, MAYBE, I’d opt for this seat, but not for any longer than that.

Zephyr Seat

Zephyr Lie Flat Bed 2

This concept may be an easier pill to swallow than the first three, but it still features a weird design. Zephyr is a double-decker, economy plus seat created by Jeff O’Neill. It is meant for wide-body jets and its goal is to combine the perks of business class into premium economy fares.

The design staggers the seats into a 2-4-2 configuration, offering aisle access for each passenger, and has a cubby hole for personal items. Furthermore, it can be converted into a lie-flat bed, although travelers would have to lie at an angle (and the cushions don’t look comfortable). Now let’s be clear, the Zephyr seat is not the worst seat design I’ve seen, but I cannot help but be concerned about a few things, including emergency evacuations and the potential drunk falling from the upper level. It also appears the concept lacks any mention of overhead bin space, or how flight attendants would be able to serve everyone in this configuration. Love it or hate it; this design is strange and requires a lot of tweaking before it should be considered by airlines.

What do you think about these designs? Would you fly in any of these seats in exchange for lower fares? Let us know in the comments!

View Comments (6)


  1. IBJoel

    April 21, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    Not going to lie, I’d try the Zephyr seat

  2. mc4bbs


    April 21, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    Yep, the Zephyr is the best of them. If an airline chose to include a “standing seat”, I would AVOID that airline at all costs.

    Of course, with “the new norm” of social distancing, ALL of coach ‘sardine’ seating is going to have to change.

  3. BC Shelby

    April 21, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    ..all, particularly the Zephyr concept, would pose serious issues for rapid evacuation of an aircraft (save maybe for the Airbus “bicycle seat”). The Zephyr idea just looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen even in general use.

  4. GregLeg

    April 22, 2020 at 7:32 am

    All of these designs are atrocious from the perspective of passengers with mobility issues. There’s no way my partner could get in any of those, except perhaps the end seats of the honeycomb pattern — and even there, without armrests for her to lean against, it would be hazardous at best when fatigue sets in.

  5. skidooman

    April 22, 2020 at 11:34 am

    The only one remotely acceptable at this point is the Zephyr – because this is the only one that actually enable travelers with a bit more, not less, comfort on long flights. The bicycle/torture designs are way, way out there in terms of acceptability, and I think 95% of people would finally NOT get on with the program, even if the airlines were to give this “service” for free.

    I am not sure if I agree with others about how this would affect evacuation any more than what it is now. I mean, do you really think that a B777 with 10-across seating that is jam-packed can successfully the plane on a timely basis by ordinary people, not trained actors? If so, I am not sure how the Zephyr would be any faster or slower. Sure, there is the ladder thing, but I would much rather deal with this than escape from one of the middle seats, my chances of survival would be far better IMHO.

  6. AndyPatterson

    April 23, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    Doesn’t the FAA require headrests etc. as support or restraining in case of a crash or collision? The Airbus Bicycle seat provides no such support.

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