The Future of Airline Seating? Let's Hope So

What if your economy-class airline seat could feel nearly as luxurious as first class? It would have a personal bin dedicated to overhead storage. It would be constructed in such a way that your space wouldn't be infringed upon when the person in front of you reclines their seat. And it wouldn't cost that much more than what we pay for economy class today.

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AirGo (so named because of the similarity to the word ergo, as in ergonomic airline seating) is the brainchild of Alireza Yaghoubi, a Malaysia-based undergraduate engineering student from University of Malaya who entered the design to the James Dyson Award, an international student design award running in 18 countries.

Yaghoubi said he had the idea for AirGo after a series of uncomfortable eight-hour flights to visit his family.

In typical flight experience, he said, the passenger in front of you reclines their seat, occupying "one-third of the space I have paid for. I now have this dilemma whether I should recline my seat too."

Another common scenario: A meal is being served and "the passenger in front does not want to wake up and my tray table is part of his seat so it is a lot closer to my face than it should be."

With AirGo, Yaghoubi said, every passenger has a minimum personal space which cannot be occupied when other passengers recline their seat. The screen and the tray table are now under the passenger's full control. The seat pitch has been increased to 41 inches, but has been designed in a way to occupy floor space minimally.

"Compared to a normal economy class, AirGo uses only an additional 16 percent of floor space thanks to the new nylon mesh design which replaces the bulky cushions in current seats, Yaghoubi said. "They are cheap, durable, recyclable and more comfortable, yet they are considerably thinner."

Yaghoubi concedes that the new seats would at first glance seem to come at a significant cost to the airlines. Because the seats do occupy 16 percent more floor space, the airline would have to sell 16 percent fewer seats. But, he said, there are others ways to make money - much the way Apple makes money by selling apps, airlines could use the bigger person screens to sell a multitude of "extras."

"The big screen for example can be used to encourage passengers to purchase a few dollar applications, movies, songs, games and books that could be used on their other devices elsewhere through cloud syncing." Yaghoubi said. "They [the passengers] can video chat with others and call home for small rates or they can choose to take part in surveys or watch advertisements to use these services free of charge. They can connect to the local network and play matches against other passengers. The possibilities are just countless."