London-based Factorydesign has worked with Acro Aircraft Seating to develop a new premium economy seat for Icelandic leisure carrier Primera which adds greater physical comfort for an up-market offering.
Runway Girl Network spoke with Factorydesign associate Matthew Fiddimore, who worked on the project. He shared insights into what makes the design of the new Primera seat unique, and his views on both the future of premium economy, and the prospect that seat size will be regulated.
A core principle of Factorydesign and Acro seat models, Fiddimore notes, is to ensure that all components of the seat, including metal fixtures, can stand alone, and be attractive without cladding. This saves weight as well as bulk, and allows the designers to play with the shape so that it is better fitted to the contours of the body.
“Acro’s philosophy has been that they manufacture aircraft furniture,” Fiddimore says. All seats are modeled on ergonomic principles. Cushions relieve pressure points so that the occupant is comfortable when seated for long periods of time, but form takes on the greater burden to maximize room and cradle the body.
The Primera seat was the first foray into premium economy for Acro and Factorydesign and presented a unique opportunity to expand Acro’s aircraft furniture platform. A contoured shell back structure offers back and lumbar support, without pushing the passenger forward and compromising legroom. The tray table insert between seats increases passengers’ personal space.
Fiddimore says Factorydesign had originally presented a concept for a 19.5 inch-wide seat, leaving more room for personal stowage, but Primera wanted to offer passengers 21 inches. That kept the stowage limited to a recess magazine rack in the central unit.
“You have to sacrifice something,” Fiddimore explains of the challenges of maximizing limited room in the cabin. “You can’t invent the space. You can only use it slightly differently.”
There are not many complications in the seat, because Primera espouses BYOD entertainment on board. “It gave us the freedom to concentrate on the seat comfort rather than try to make it a Swiss Army knife, with every possible component,” Fiddimore says. “It’s a very honest product.”
Simplifying requirements also encourages creativity, Fiddimore adds. “That’s why you see so many cloned products on the market. Once you create a baseline checklist, because an airline is going to ask for it, they all start to look very similar. You see the same kind of tables, monitors, handset locations.”
Fiddimore believes that, as airlines introduce product tiers to the economy cabin, we will see more product diversification.
“There will be plenty of passengers who will travel on the cheapest fares that they can get,” he says. “But there seems to be a quite a lot of segmenting that market, with airlines offering different grades of economy so that the line is becoming slightly blurred..there’s room for innovation over the next few years.”
“You can only take it so far,” he says. “I’m not surprised that it’s reaching a point where regulators are going to be involved. There are all of the technical considerations of crash testing at minimum pitches…in the traditional seat architecture we have reached the tightest we can get. That will probably be semi-enforced as a minimum standard.”
But Fiddimore tells RGN that setting a fixed regulatory minimum would be too limiting.
“It forces a seat to be treated and designed in a particular way,” he says, perhaps stifling designers’ drive to optimize form and function. Ultimately, design is about setting the mind free to make the most of what you have to work with.
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