Are these double-decker lie-flat seats the future of economy flights?

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Strap yourself in, flying in economy class is about to become a lot more comfortable if this start-up company has its way.

San Francisco-based start-up Zephyr Aerospace wants to make economy seating more spacious and comfortable for passengers, while giving them plenty of privacy to boot. The company has designed what they call the Zephyr Seat which is essentially a double-decker seat and bed combination that can be retrofitted into existing commercial airline cabins. What’s more, the design helps airlines comply with social distancing measurements as people travel in a Covid world.

A man with headphones lounges on an airline lie-flat seat
Passengers can utilise the seats to suit their needs ©Zephyr Aerospace

The seats can be laid out in airline cabins with all-aisle access across a 2-4-2 combination. Passengers could sit above and below each other in a sort of bunk-bed style, using a telescopic ladder to gain easy access to the upper level. The multi-functional seat design gives them the option to lie completely flat, lounge at an angle or sit upright with their legs fully extended.

A man sleeps on a lie-flat bed on an airline
The seats can be used as a lie-flat bed ©Zephyr Aerospace

Zephyr Aerospace CEO Jeffrey O’Neill came up with the concept after struggling to get comfortable while sitting in the premium-economy class on a 19-hour flight from New York to Singapore. He compared the experience to another long-haul journey he’d undertaken in Argentina by bus, which utilised bunk beds to give passengers room to stretch and sleep. O’Neill figured that design could work just as well on airplanes, providing economy class customers with similar levels of comfort to business class customers.

A passenger climbs the ladder of a bunk bed-style airline seat
A telescopic ladder will allow passengers to gain easy access to the upper level ©Zephyr Aerospace

“The Zephyr Seat delivers on all the needs of the modern traveler,” O’Neill told Lonely Planet. “I have made it my life’s mission to do all I can to bring this vision to life and permanently change the status quo of air travel.”

It’s similar to a concept being tested by Air New Zealand, known as Economy Skynest. The Skynest contains three rows of beds with two beds on each level, and looks a bunk bed or pod hotel.