Radical new economy airline seat design could end knee-crush

By Chris Chamberlin, July 10 2014
Radical new economy airline seat design could end knee-crush

Could this be the economy seat we've all been waiting for?

Award-winning designer James Lee reckons his Meerkat concept seat could save your knees and your sanity, even on the longest flight.

Preserving limited but critical knee space, Lee’s revolutionary seat comes with a reclining backrest that doesn’t impact on the passenger behind.

It’s done by lifting part of the seat and propping a briefcase behind to create a sloping feel…

For added comfort, the headrest can be adjusted either up or down – the latter a point of difference from many of today’s best seats, which don’t cater well for short passengers.

That mid-flight refreshment is easily housed in a dedicated cup holder…

… and for either work or play, the tray table folds down to reveal a document pocket – although unfortunately the AC power outlet is hidden behind there too, so you can't charge your laptop unless the tray is down.

There's USB power as well, but when the tray table is closed, there's actually nowhere to store your charging phone, other than in your lap...

Below the AC power point is a small compartment that's perfect for reading glasses, although don't close the tray table and forget where you left them!

More bulky items such as blankets and large water bottles are held in place by a strap, which keeps them at the ready during the flight.

There’s a shared literature rack for magazines and the sort – although we’d suggest keeping anything private hidden behind that tray table of yours.

Explaining the new concept, the designer’s website reads: “Passengers today are far more focused on comfort. However, airlines need to balance costs with fancy facilities.

“Weight reduction is especially critical since it has a direct bearing on the amount of fuel consumed particularly on long flights. The Meerkat seeks to satisfy both sides.”

Providing a little extra space throughout the flight is that tray table, which can be locked part way down and sports a grooved edge to hold an iPad or other similar tablet.

Also for comfort is a double-storey armrest, which allows both passengers to use it simultaneously.

For female business travellers stuck economy, you’ll be able to powder your nose without heading to the bathroom, as a built-in and adjustable vanity mirror comes standard…

… but when you do decide to wander about the cabin, the headsets have an integrated hook to keep your space tidy – but we’d still suggest stowing them if they're not being used throughout the flight.

Down below, the seat frame and entertainment box are aligned to provide an integrated footrest for shorter passengers – maximising the utility of the space.

Lee’s forward-thinking design hasn’t yet been picked up by the airlines, but he’s hoping that the now-patented double tier armrest will also make its way onto commuter trains and even into a cinema near you.

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1390

Basically the fixed shell, slide forward design, but instead its only the back that slides forward, and you need to prop it open yourself.

Don't know about seats not catering for short passengers - I would say they equally don't cater for tall passengers. At 6'3 I can barely get headrests high enough to be comfortable whilst sitting back fully.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 232

Not sure this will pass the ergonomic test because with your body weight not being supported by you thighs and instead being focused almost entirely on your bottom I think this will lead to many cases of haemarroids forming.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

So let me get this straight. The pictures are all renderings, no photos. This suggests that this "designer" hasn't yet bothered to build a prototype, so nobody has the foggiest idea what it would feel like to sit in it for five, ten, fifteen hours.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 544

"There's USB power as well, but when the tray table is closed, there's actually nowhere to store your charging phone, other than in your lap..."

The cup holder would be a great place to charge a phone.

It does look quite snug though, and there's nothing to keep it in... the space above for glasses would be ideal, but it's covered up by the tray!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 26

That double armrest could be the idea of the century.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 177

Even the Millenium

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

as you 'recline' (as the seat back moves forward), it decreases the useable space of the full length single armrest (the aisle/window armrest),and with the 'duel use' armrest config, the lower armrest will be rendered unusable as the seat back comes forward...along with the decrease in available 'bum' space as seat back moves forward...but the seat base remains fixed, effectively meaning your bum may end up 'sitting' on the edge of the seat base..ouch!! ...and coupled with the laws of grafity, your feet will be bearing most of your weight as you are in this 'sitting'/sliding position... And of course all this depends on the thickness of your in cabin bag that you choose to 'wedge' between the fixed and moveable parts of the seatback...even the 'computer generated' passenger in the pics look uncomfortable...All in all...2 thumbs down from me

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

19 Apr 2014

Total posts 46

Lets face it...economy class was never meant to be comfortable 

09 Jul 2014

Total posts 31

The slide forward situation looks majorly uncomfortable. What a lot of pressure on the base of your spine. Not sure I want to be perched on the edge of my seat for multiple hours...

Didn't Cathay do this, which ended in disaster? Those Cathay sloping seats were much reviled.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

similar to Cathays...but cathays seat base also moved forward as the seat back moved forward, so at least on cathay, your bum had the same 'area' to sit on in a 'reclined' position...And cathays headrests stayed in a fixed position(doesnt move down with the seat back as it 'reclines'), which created a gap/uncomfy neck/head position if you reclined

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1243

Does the briefcase come standard with these seats?

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

no...the 'luxury' of 'reclining' will only be available to pax who carry on a 'suitable' bag to 'wedge' behind your back...lol..and if/when you do choose to 'recline', you must get out of your seat, and if in window/middle seats, disturbing your seat mates to get out and retreive your bag from the overhead locker to place behind your back..lol

OR yes... the airline will provide (insert number of Y/C seats here), bags 'somewhere' for use inflight..please ask one of the flight attendants for a bag if you require one to 'recline'.... lol

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

OR..the airline will provide a 'blow up bag' for you to place behind you... lol...oh, hang on...i smell an invention!!!...patent pending!!...i'll keep my mouth shut now!! lol

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 177

Hopefully JQ dont get this seat, then you'll need to pay to recline!

therealqueen Banned
therealqueen Banned

19 May 2014

Total posts 40

Hip subluxation and anal fissures

oh the joys of flying economic. 

Asiana Airlines - Asiana Club

09 Jan 2013

Total posts 2

This was a design concept proposed by James Lee and Paperclip Desin in 2012. Same as your previous article regarding Virgin Atlantic's clever new in flight meal tray. They're all initiated in 2012.

Would've been more interesting if you talk about the most recent concept propsed by Paperclip. Like the Caterpillar convertible business/premium economy class concept. 

07 Mar 2012

Total posts 5

This is interesting in that it does address the need for the knee space (under the chair in front) for long legged travelers.

However, having the seat back (lumbar area) as a substantially linear surface, not a graduated one, I believe will leave seated passengers sliding forwards and with sore backs.

I have developed and patented a 7 in 1 inflatable pillow. It can easily configure into 7 different support shapes from the 1 product.

It's compact, reusable and sells for just $19.95.

For long legged seated persons the pillow can be placed under the hamstrings to lift the knees higher thus using gravity to sit them deep into the join between their seat base and their seat back.

It is possible their knees will be touching but not pressed against the seat in front if it is reclined. This is always going to be better than having their knees pressed hard against the lower part of the seat in front as their whole body weight is sliding down and forwards. 

As you doze off the first thing to go is your seated posture. As you relax your core muscles you tend to slump into the seat causing you to lose the natural inwards lordotic curve of the spine.

This creates back aches.

Lifting the legs prevents this slump.

With 7 different pillows in the one product there are key features and benefits available to literally any sized person in virtually any seated scenario.

Shorter travellers especially will benefit from using the pillow as a foot support.

Window seat passengers will find the fully inflated pillow perfect to bridge the gap between their head and the window/wall; or as a under the arm pit arm rest.

I personally like to use one behind my back and one on my extended tray table as an arm support. No more arm rest wars for me.

I won't put my web address here but I will keep an eye on this post and would be happy to hear back from anyone who'd like more information about my product.

i am quite passionate about this subject.

cheers

Steve 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 177

Seems like a great idea.

07 Mar 2012

Total posts 5

I like where you're coming from #undertheradar.

My blow up pillow is called the Tri=Pil-Lo™

 

cheers

Steve

07 Mar 2012

Total posts 5

I like where you're coming from #undertheradar.

My blow up pillow is called the Tri-Pil-Lo™

 

cheers

Steve

07 Mar 2012

Total posts 5

I like where you're coming from #undertheradar.

My blow up pillow is called the Tri-Pil-Lo™

 

cheers

Steve

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2011

Total posts 54

"OMG" So anyone over 5.5FT will have no room to stick their legs or the butt!

No room to lean a little sideways!

No room to spread your arms as you have to fight with the person a long side you even for an arm rest!

Might be OK for 1 or 2 hour flights but in Australia 4 Hour & 5 Hour flights are very commen, to go overseas the shortest in 5 hours and the longets is 18 hours! 

The airlines need to rethink this otherwise the ocenliners will be getting a lot more business! 

Imagine 18 hours of being jammed up and with someopne tapping your seat back for 18 hours because they dont want to use the remote control!!!!

 

 

09 Jul 2013

Total posts 2

For female business travellers stuck economy, you’ll be able to powder your nose without heading to the bathroom, as a built-in and adjustable vanity mirror comes standard…

What a silly comment. It's not just women who use mirrors, you know?

As a male business traveller, I'm more than aware of that – although it does more closely resemble a makeup mirror than anything else.


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