When settling in for a flight, passengers often want to make the space their own and have a place for their personal items. Airlines have accommodated this practice of “micro-nesting” in the design of their premium cabin interiors by ensuring that business class and first class seats have a number of cubbies for storing productivity tools, eyeglasses and bottles of water. But passengers in the economy class cabin have largely been left to their own devices, making use of the magazine pocket which can prove expensive for airlines since overstuffed pockets can become damaged and need replacing.
A new “A/B Seat” design collaboration between Sekisui SPI, TrendWorks, appLab and Rollon was born out of a discussion at a Red Cabin aircraft interiors conference. During a panel session, Alaska Airlines onboard experience manager Matthew Coder shared details of his dream economy class seat which would address passenger needs during various activities on board. The collaborators put their heads together to imagine a seat that met Coder’s wishlist and added other useful features.
“The A/B concept seat explores a number of different technologies with both traditional aviation materials and innovations. One of the key enhancements for the economy class passenger is to create a ‘micro-nesting’ solution to organize personal storage in a confined space, much as we would organize the console or drawers in a premium cabin. By moving the storage pocket higher on the seatback, we create additional legroom at the knees and provide a multi-pocket solution for phones, tablets, books, reading glasses, etc closer to the ‘Media Easel’, a convenient shelf and docking solution for the passenger’s electronic devices. This ‘soft storage’ is intuitive and flexible enough for a number of different tools, and creates visual interest when it is used,” TrendWorks trend & CMF specialist Elina Kopola tells RGN.
She notes that micro-nesting is also currently a phenomenon in the fashion industry, with TrendWorks seeing “parallels with urban-nomads using bags/carriers with multiple pockets/storage for phone, notebooks, eyewear and water bottle”.
While utility pockets that allow passengers to organize their personal space are an attractive idea, the team had to consider common issues with real-life applications. Producing a seatback assembly with pockets adds considerable costs and creates fresh vulnerabilities for tears which would require replacing the part. They found an elegant solution by designing a single ‘3D knitted’ assembly that has pockets for eyeglasses, pens, and a notepad or smartphone.
“With our joint background and experience at TrendWorks in textile and ID design we wanted to bring some of the benefits of textiles into the aviation cabin. 3D knitting is a cost-effective way to create a pocket structure in once piece, in other words the complete pocket comes off the knitting machine as one ready piece. This eliminates any need for secondary processes such as sewing and stitching and makes manufacturing faster and more efficient,” explains Kopola. “Knitting also allows for blending of colors to create a soft melange impression which was important for the homey furniture feel we wanted to create.”
The team worked with Austrian knitwear company Kobleder to create the aurora borealis-inspired pocket used in the A/B Seat. “Kobleder is a great partner because their innovation mindset…with years of experience in the fashion and furniture industry,” says Kopola.
There is definitely demand for economy cabin storage facilities. An entrepreneurial streak in some has led to creative micro-nesting economy cabin solutions finding their way to sites like Etsy, but having passengers “add-on” to the seat structure can sometimes result in trouble with parts becoming damaged or not functioning as intended.
Consideration was given to passenger personal storage on the new JAL A350 economy class cabin. The main seat pocket assembly features a series of utility pockets made of webbing, giving passengers somewhere to store a water bottle, pen and notepad or personal electronic device. Other innovative solutions include straps on the Safran Z400 seat, which allow passengers to store personal items including eyeglasses.
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