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Could these double-decker plane seats be the future of air travel?

Zephyr’s two-tier seating would increase legroom and privacy in premium economy – without reducing capacity

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

Over the past few months, the global aviation industry has effectively come to a standstill. Most flights have been cancelled, and even now, as countries around the world lift travel restrictions (and experts assure us that planes are safe), many of us are wary of the potential downsides of spending several hours sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of strangers.

Enter a whole host of canny design firms looking to revolutionise the way we fly. Already we’ve seen this protective shield that occupies the dreaded middle seat. Then there was another, similar trick from a rival. One Italian company has even designed a cabin where every other passenger faces the opposite way.

But in perhaps the most impressive post-’rona cabin design yet, an American startup has unveiled a new design for double-decker lie-flat seats that – crucially for cash-strapped airlines – don’t involve any reduction in flight capacity.

Zephyr seat designPhotograph: Zephyr

Designed to increase comfort and improve social distancing in premium economy class, Zephyr Aerospace’s seat layout would allow every passenger to lie flat, or sit upright with their legs fully stretched out, in individual compartments.

Of the increasing demand for more personal space in the new world orderJeffrey O’Neill, Zephyr’s founder, told CNN: ‘We believe that new types of travellers will require privacy or will want to pay extra for that as much as they would pay for the ability to sleep.’

The company is currently in talks with four major airlines, including Delta, about installing the double-decker design in cabins. None have confirmed they will trial it yet. And even then, if airlines do get involved, the seats will have to pass multiple safety tests, which could take up to three years.

Still, we can certainly get behind anything that means more legroom – and more privacy – for air passengers. Whoever said flying had to mean constantly waking up to let your neighbour go to the toilet?

When will flights resume? Here’s what we know so far.

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