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This new aeroplane seat helps you social-distance in the skies

PlanBay’s protective shields offer a cheap and practical way to keep passengers apart on flights

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

In the months and years to come, many of us will want to get out and explore as much of the world as we can. Some, however, may be put off going very far if they have to spend hours cooped up in a plane with other humans.

To reassure passengers the future will be safe (and socially distanced), many airlines are now boasting of new hygiene policies and even air filtration systems. Fast-acting design firms, meanwhile, are proclaiming theirs is the pioneering seat layout that will most definitely take off in these bizarre and uncertain times. 

The latest, from French company EarthBay, could be the frontrunner. Its PlanBay model is designed to fit on to the middle seat in economy class and so help maintain a safe distance between passengers. It consists of two protection panels: one taking up the middle seat, and one at the back separating the row of seats from passengers behind.

Beyond the current distancing imperative, anyone fed up with the lack of personal space in economy class would be pretty chuffed if this arrangement became widespread:

EarthBay’s new socially distanced seat design Photograph: EarthBay

EarthBay founder Florian Barjot thinks airlines will prefer temporary solutions like his to wholesale cabin redesigns, and says his structure is cheap, easy to produce and simple to install. He told CNN: ‘The idea of a removable kit makes sense when the need for sanitary measures is temporary and/or limited to a geographic area.’

Barjot says he has had talks with aircraft interior suppliers about his blueprint going into production, but there are concrete plans to roll it out just yet. 

In a slightly more out-there (and perhaps less feasible) design, one Italian firm last month proposed an arrangement in which the middle seat would face the opposite way. Their second idea, similarly designed not to reduce airplane capacity at all, involved fitting a removable shield around each and every seat.

Whether or not any of these designs will be introduced any time soon is unclear. Current measures being trialled, like leaving the middle seat empty and the obligatory wearing of face masks, may be as far as airlines actually go towards overhauling the way we fly. But it’s nice to think outside the box, eh?

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