A new visionary double-decker design by Zephyr Aerospace and designer Jeffrey O’Neill aims to become an airline game-changer in the wake of COVID-19. But will it fly?
The Zephyr Seat offers a double-decker airplane interior concept and is the creation of designer Jeffrey O’Neill from San Francisco.
Speaking to CNN Travel about his revolutionary idea, O’Neill says: “We believe that new types of travellers will require privacy or will want to pay extra for that as much as they would pay for the ability to sleep,”
The design could create double-decker seating in a 2-4-2 configuration which, O’Neill says, would allow the majority of global airlines to maintain the same seating density as offered by their existing premium economy cabins.
Great timing in the wake of COVID-19 and many airlines moving away from gas-guzzling Airbus A380’s.
O’Neill’s idea and lightbulb moment came when we was on a long haul flight seated in premium economy and says he realised he “wasn’t going to get any shut-eye,” on the journey.
“I’m on probably the best-rated airline in the world, and I’m getting wonderful service, and the food is edible, but I can’t sleep,” he recalls. “This is uncomfortable. Why is it so difficult to find an affordable way to lie flat on a flight that’s 19 hours?”
So instead of drinking more wine to get him to sleep, he started crafting a design solution to the problem.
O’Neill remembered a long-distance bus journey he’d made in Argentina. The bus had comfy bunk beds, and he’d slept far better than on his ostensibly more luxurious air journey to Singapore.
It occurred to him that maybe that was the solution.
That was two years ago, and O’Neill says his idea’s since graduated from a back of a napkin drawing to a life-size mockup, which he says proves its feasibility.
Zephyr’s double-decker concept utilises the space that exists between a standard seat and an overhead bin.
“We basically retrofitted a whole other seat on top of another,” explains O’Neill. “So it’s essentially two levels, it’s not as tall off the ground as people might imagine, it’s only four and a half feet off the ground from the entry point to the lower seat to the upper seat.”
Jeffrey O’Neill, Zephyr Aerospace
The result, O’Neill says, is more passenger legroom without the airline being forced to sacrifice space or reduce passenger headcount.
The idea’s still in its infancy, although O’Neill says he’s identified an engineering partner — and he’s been in conversation with four major airlines, including US carrier Delta. However, there are no firm commitments right now.
He’s also crowd funding the project.
The next stage would be passing the product through the required safety tests, which could be a three-year process.
Find out more: republic.co/zephyr-aerospace
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