Could These New Airplane Seats Make Flying in Coach Tolerable?

A new setup for commercial airline seats by British design firm Layer could ease the pain for customers stuck in the cheap seats.

byWill Sabel Courtney|
Could These New Airplane Seats Make Flying in Coach Tolerable?


It sometimes seems as though we Americans agree on very little these days. Politics, religion, sports, celebrities, the media—hell, even the weather divides opinion in 2019. But there is one area where it seems we can all agree, even today: Commercial air travel sucks. Sure, if you're lucky enough to travel in business or first class, it's a little more tolerable—but for the vast majority of us forced into coach, where shopworn pleatherette seats strip us of our basic human dignity by forcing us into stress positions and cramming us against hard surfaces and one another so tightly, it would qualify as a Geneva Convention violation if it were inflicted upon prisoners of war.  

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Great Britain-based design firm Layer have a mind about how to change that, however, with a revolutionary new concept for economy aircraft seating that melds high-tech design, smart materials, and an app that lets you control your chair without fumbling for buttons on the seat. Both the chair and the app that regulates it are called "Move," and while it's vaporware for now, it's the sort of forward thinking that the skies desperately need if they ever want to be friendly again. 

Thanks to the seat's construction—the seat fabric, which is slung over a composite frame of aluminum and carbon fiber, is made from polyester wool blend woven together with conductive yarn knitted into patches of various density—it can adjust the amount of support based on a passenger's weight, proportions, and position, in order to provide maximum comfort. Should passengers want to tweak their settings manually, they can dive into the smartphone app and adjust the temperature and tension of their seats, as well as choosing from pre-set modes such as "massage" and "mealtime." The app doesn't just take orders from the folks anxiously awaiting the arrival of the bar cart, however; it also provides suggestions regarding when to stand up, stretch out, and otherwise move around to prevent the onset of deep-vein thrombosis (or, more realistically, general aches and pains). 

Of course, anyone flying nowadays needs to be able to supplement their alcohol- or drug-associated chemical fix with a nice hit of addictive technology and media, so the Move seat also includes a uniquely-designed "island" integrated into the seat back that contains a tray table that can be adjusted for height and extended into either small or large sizes, an in-flight entertainment system, and a small stash pocket. There's also a pocket between the seats, one that will notify the occupant via the app if he or she leaves anything behind there after the flight ends. (Admittedly, that won't be much help if you leave your phone there, but hey, it's the thought that counts.)  

And one final blessing: The Move seat is fixed, thus forever banishing the curse of people reclining their seat to achieve a modicum of additional comfort while producing roughly seventeen bazillion times as much rage in the passenger behind them. Hey, Airbus: We say it's worth bringing this sucker to production for that alone.