Air Canada looks to stop gadgets from slipping into business seats

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Personal electronic devices have a way of slipping out of passengers’ hands and into the crevices of business class seats, which can create a headache for airline staffers, who must retrieve the PEDs; and in worst-case scenarios, a fire hazard if they are crushed within the seating mechanism before being detected.

Grappling with this common problem, Air Canada has launched an internal project to study ways to catch passengers’ gadgets when they disappear into the carrier’s lie-flat business class seats, Runway Girl Network has learned.

The airline is looking to add nets to the underlying structures of the seats “without impacting the product”, said Air Canada VP, products Andrew Yiu. “It’s easy to say, ‘get the flight attendants and they’ll get it’. But in most cases, it’s still very difficult to do so.”

Indeed, when your author was traveling last week in Air Canada’s Signature Class cabin on a Boeing 777-300ER as a guest of the airline, the chief steward warned passengers to hang onto their devices, or place them in the cubby where the wired touchscreen remote resides. He said some devices that slip into the seats cannot be retrieved until post-flight, at which point mechanics must be called in.

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The risks associated with Lithium batteries are well documented, particularly when it comes to fires. And industry has observed several high-profile events – including involving Qantas and Air France’s prior-generation business class product – where PEDs were crushed in seats. Instructions on how to handle a dropped PED situation are now part of the pre-flight safety videos on a number of carriers.

However, one of the reasons why aircraft seatmakers have not produced a universal solution to the problem, said Yiu, is because there is no standard seat “because everyone has a customized seat” so whatever Air Canada decides to do in terms of adding safety nets, for instance, “we have to get it certified from Transport Canada”.

He added: “I think it makes it a little more difficult for seat suppliers to say, ‘you know what, everyone is suffering, let’s do this’.” That’s why Air Canada is taking the initiative to find a solution that works for the airline, and its lie-flat business class seats.

Air Canada flight attendants urge Signature Class passengers to hold onto their PEDs or place them securely in the same compartment as the remote. Image: Mary Kirby

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4 Comments

  1. Amazing that this took so long to surface as something to mitigate. Ask any business flyer and their main gripe is where do you put things. Without well thought out pockets, cubbies, etc. passengers are left to stuff things wherever they can. Think of how many items of yours that have slipped through cracks or the all too familiar scenario of trying to free your power or headphone cables from the clutches of your seat.

    Armies of industrial engineers failed to catch what could have been caught by any moderately laden business traveler on a few trips. Too often the industry provider “think” PaxEx rather than take the time to actually “feel” it.

  2. KimmieA

    This exact situation happened to my husband on a BA flight. Once on the ground in LHR we alerted the crew that my husband’s iPad could not be retrieved until the aircraft went into maintenance, or the J class seats were updated

    Frightening to think that the iPad with active lithium battery could still be floating around on that aircraft.

  3. Sean

    United FAs made the same announcement on my last (true) Polaris flight as well — warning specifically if crushed phones and Li battery dangers, and require taking apart the seat to get our fallen devices. Sure made all 60 of us sit up and listen!