Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of taking a six-hour flight in coach, stuffed between a fellow passenger and the drink cart that keeps bumping elbows and knees down the aisle, can understand the draw of a more comfortable flight. The standard airline seats are not exactly a picture of comfort.
However, there is a new idea in the works that could change every bit of that.
Enter the AirGo.
AirGo airline seats are the brainchild of Malaysia-based engineering student Alireza Yaghoubi. They are a low-cost, ergonomic approach to economy class cabin design. Today's standard reclining seat models, which have incidentally not had a major design upgrade since the 1960’s, leave little space if the passenger in front of you decides to lean back, dumping them square in your lap.
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To solve this problem, AirGo seats sit in their own independent space for each row, but they cleverly designed in a way that takes up just 16 percent more space than the standard seating already occupies.
Last year Yaghoubi, who currently studies at the University of Malaya, won the Malaysian national James Dyson Award, an annual award run by the British inventor's foundation, for his groundbreaking design in airline seating. He says that he was inspired to come up with the elegant seating design solution after a series of cramped and uncomfortable eight-hour flights back home to visit his family.
“Ergonomic features in economy class seats nowadays are limited to a mere reclining ability,” said Mr Yaghoubi, which, he explained, causes more problems than it solves. He told ABC News of a typical flight experience in which the passenger in front reclines his seat, taking up “one third of the space I have paid for.”
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“In addition to the uncomfortable space invasion standard seating already presents, these bulky space robbers also take screens and fold out tables out of suffering passengers' control because of the way they are fixed to the seat in front of you,” he says.
“It gets worse when the person in front decides to recline his/ her seat and the screen as well as the tray is then no more in your control,” he said.
To solve this problem, Yaghoubi designed AirGo not just to give every single passenger their own minimum amount of personal space, but also give them full control over their own monitor and table without affecting others who are seated behind them.
This was accomplished by coming up with a completely new design, separating the seat's tray and screen from the seat in front of it. The AirGo innovation seating instead has each screen and tray table floating from the hand luggage locker directly above the passenger.
The back support of AirGo is made of flexible, but strong nylon mesh that readily molds to the shape of the passenger’s body. This kind of personal molding helps to avoid fatigue, while also preventing sweating. A set of three motors within each chair allows passengers to customize the seating position, perfectly fitting their own posture - helping them to avoid neck and back pain. Additionally, instead of having a footrest on someone else’s seat, the AirGo footrest is part of the passenger's own seat and can be personally controlled to maximize comfort.
The entire system is controlled by a central touch-screen monitor that is also meant for entertainment purposes and independently fixed apart from the seats. This is so that the passengers can easily move the arms and configure positions. The tray table has a similar mechanism.
While AirGo seats taking up 16 percent more floor space may indeed leave airlines with 16 percent fewer seats to sell, Yaghoubi says the bigger screens could allow companies to make up for their lost revenue by selling a range of in-flight “extras.”
“The big screen for example can be used to encourage passengers to purchase a few dollar applications, movies, songs, games and books that could be used on their other devices elsewhere through cloud syncing,” he told ABC News.
“They [the passengers] can video chat with others and call home for small rates or they can choose to take part in surveys or watch advertisements to use these services free of charge.
They can connect to the local network and play matches against other passengers.
The possibilities are just countless.”