We all have experience standing on a cramped train or bus, just wishing the journey will end, but more recently the concept of standing tickets on planes has begun to be discussed. For many, the thought of standing for the whole duration of a fight is the stuff of nightmares, while others can see a few benefits. But will this idea ever take off, or will it just be one of many fleeting ideas, like having to pay to use the toilets, that airlines have come up with to gain more money?
When did the idea emerge?
The idea really can to light when the Italian seat manufacturer of Aviointeriors created a seat that means that passengers will almost be vertical. In fact, it is not much of a seat at all as the design makes passengers so far upright that they are almost standing. Aviointeriors first demonstrated the SkyRider 3.0 at the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2018 in Hamburg, with the aim of allowing airline to achieve ‘ultra-high’ density, getting as many passengers in their planes as possible. The reintroduction to this standing seat may have sparked the discussion of this concept again, it is not the first time that the idea of making passengers stand up has been discussed.
Airbus actually proposed the idea of standing room flights way back in 2003, so the concept has actually been floating around for a while. The concept was known as the ‘vertical seat’, and was canvassed to Asian carrier in 2006 and then also promoted by Ryanair. Despite the idea being promoted by these airlines, the configuration was not approved by regulatory agencies.
In 2010 Ryanair then promoted the use of a vertical seat in their aircraft, but it was rejected by Boeing as they believed the design would not meet the 16G regulatory requirement.
What is the standing seat?
The design of the ‘vertical seat’ is sometimes compare to a ‘bar stool with seat belts’, where all passengers would be perched on a narrow shelf, but most of their weight would still be taken up by their legs. You would be held upright by a paddled support saddle connected to a pole, attached to both the ceiling and floor with a back support.
CNBC explain about how the contraption allows installation of the seat at a reduced pitch, which is the distance between one seat and the next. In the U.S, the average leg room of economy class seats is between 31 and 32 inches, which already is pretty snug. The company have not yet revealed just how much smaller the ‘leg’ room will get, but as the purpose of the standing seats is to allow airlines to cramp more rows in, it is likely the space between each row will be dramatically reduced.
Passengers will be pleased to hear that at the moment, despite it being showcased at the expo, no airline is yet to purchase the standing seat known as Skyriders, designed by Aviointeriors. However, in the past, budget airline have not been afraid to sacrifice comfort for cost saving measures, so could this change in the future?
What are the problems with standing seats?
The standing seat design has been created for short flights only for several reasons, such as the lack of comfort. There is no way that someone could be expected to stand up for 10 hours straight without being about to sit down, especially those that are older or have leg or back problems. For even the healthiest individual, it is inevitable that legs will start to cramp or ache and the harder seat may be more uncomfortable to perch on.
Secondly, there is no in-flight entertainment or tray tables in sight, which means even more of the limited comfort that economy class has will be removed. People will struggle to do something as simple as put their drink down or do a puzzle book, which has lead to the question, would be even want to pay a reduced rate when the discomfort and awkwardness is so great?
Other problems include the fact that there is nowhere obvious to stow your belongings other than above you head, as there are no seats in front of you. Yet, as the seats are more upright, it makes sense for the overhead storage space to shrink due to lack of room. The standing seats would shorten the distance between the passengers heads and ceiling, which according to safety regulations must be a certain height. People have begun to question where people will possibly be able to store their belongings, as even small hang luggage sized bags may present a problem. It has been suggested that there will be hooks to hang a jacket on the seat in front, but this will take away some of the already cramped leg space, adding to the discomfort.
The flight risks were some of the main reasons that the idea if yet to get off the ground. For example, there are fears that the increased density of passengers would mean that evacuation would be slower in an emergency. Many people also question just how safe the seats would be when people have to get in the brace position and how secure passengers will feel during times of turbulence. Due to how new the design is, people will not know the answer to these questions until after the concept has gone through rigorous testing, which will take a lot of time and money.
Are there any benefits?
Despite all the problems with the standing seat, it does also have its benefits. Yes, people complain about the service on budget airlines, but this is why they are cheap. Standing seats may make flights even cheaper as the airlines are able to fit even more people on the plane. Born2Invest suggests that costs can be lowered by as much as 44 percent, and the number of passengers would be able to increase by 21 percent.
From a safety point of view, people are also suggesting that scrambling out your seat from a standing position would be quicker than that of a seated position, but there is no proof that this is true.
Another benefit is that standing on a plane is arguably better for you than seated for several hours. Mobile legs pose a health threat to even the healthiest travellers, as stagnant blood can pool in your legs which heightens the risk of a blood clot. This is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Although the risks of developing DVT are very small, it is still worth taking DVT preventative methods if you can, such as using simple stretches or purchasing travel gadgets such as the travel hammock. These stretches are much more easily achieved if you are already standing, and standing seats will give you this advantage.
Forbes states that a spokesperson from the company has said that seat has multiple benefits for the airlines as well as to the passenger. Firstly, the passenger number can increase by 20%, allowing for increased profits for the airlines. The company also claims that the SkyRider 3.0 weighs 50% less than standard economy seats, which is another cost saving factor for the airlines.
Why is the standing seat a thing of the future?
For a start, there is already many ultra-low cost airlines and air fares out there if you know where to look. Therefore, if the SkyRider did reduce the cost of flights, how much of a saving could a passenger truly make? The answer is not much at all, and it is likely that most people will be willing to pay the few dollars or pounds more to have the comfort of sitting for a few hours.
The seats would also have to go through detailed safety testing before the concert could possibly be introduced to flights. The Civil Aviation Authority, the company that governs the British skies, has claimed that the seats would have to be 100% safe to be viable (Forbes). Bill Waldock, a professor of safety science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, claims that packing a plane with more passengers could make it difficult to meet a US Federal Aviation Administration rule that requires a plane to be able to evacuate in 90 seconds (Stuff).
There is also the problem of shorter passengers. At the moment, all seats are at a certain height, meaning that there is the very real possibility that shorter people and children will have their legs hanging, not touching the floor at all. A very painful journey that surely would not be allowed.Currently, no airline shave placed an order for these seats, with the pitch being the most complicating factor. Although we may see standing seats in the future, it is looking likely that it will not be any time soon.