Self-cleaning business class seats will destroy germs 'within seconds'

By Businessweek, May 10 2018

The microbes lurking in airplane seats, hotbeds of infectious diseases, could soon be history.

Recaro Aircraft Seating says it’s developing a seat infused with a disinfectant that destroys almost every germ on contact within seconds.

These business class seats won’t just cleanse themselves, but will also somehow inform each incoming passenger how well it has done the job, Recaro CEO Mark Hiller said in an interview. The seats may debut within a year or two.

The innovation is in response to studies that consistently show almost everything inside an aircraft cabin is festering with bugs.

The quest for germ-free travel is part of an industry effort to make flying less taxing on the body as non-stop 17-hour marathons become common.

As the tube-like design of commercial jets has barely changed in decades, seating has become the focus of comfort and a key point of difference.

Tomorrow’s airborne chairs – at least in business class – will create a customized living area, Hiller said by phone from Hong Kong. As well as being sanitized, Recaro’s seats will give massages and predict backaches. Eventually, they might even have their own bar.

“Individualization is really the key,” said Hiller, 45. The goal, he said, is to create “a hotel room in the sky.”

Recaro, which competes with Thompson Aero Seating, Zodiac Aerospace and Rockwell Collins, makes about 120,000 plane seats a year.

Rockwell Collins offers seats with an antimicrobial coating, though they’re optional and not every airline chooses them, said Alex Pozzi, the company’s vice president of technology and seating development.

How seats can spread disease

As airlines fly ever-longer routes, passenger health has become a priority. Contagious diseases can be transmitted swiftly through a plane: After fliers on a 2008 flight from Boston to Los Angeles contracted diarrhea, forcing an emergency diversion to Chicago, investigators concluded norovirus had spread in just three hours.

One square inch of a seat-belt buckle can be home to 1,100 viable bacteria and fungal cells, according to a January report that analyzed swabs from around the cabin.

A 2014 study at Auburn University in Alabama found that MRSA – a super-bug resistant to many antibiotic treatments – can live for a week in the fabric of a seat pocket nestled in a small blob of saliva.

While anti-bacterial coatings are available for hard surfaces, Recaro is trying to achieve the same lasting result on fabric, said Hiller. The company’s still figuring out how the seat would tell passengers it’s clean, he said.

“The best innovation doesn’t help if you cannot show it,” Hiller said.

Recaro’s business class seats already cost as much as €80,000 (A$127,000). In future, they’ll offer more control over the noise, light and temperature in a passenger’s personal airspace, according to Hiller. A door or partition will provide more privacy, he said.

A seat might even be able to improve a traveler’s posture by warning a slumped passenger of impending pain, he said.

“There’s still more to do and more improvement possible,” Hiller said.

mb68

mb68

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 118

This is great news for us germafobes ... How bout the loos? germ transmission would have to be real high .. It still amazes me how many pax i see walking into a loo with no shoes on.

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 742

I still use my disinfectant wipes on seat and tray table.

grov

grov

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 149

Now if they could come up with a way to inhibit folks coughing all over adjacent passengers, that WOULD be impressive!

Gleung

Gleung

05 Aug 2014

Total posts 9

I really won't be too much excited about nor looking forward to it - an excellent excuse/justification for airlines to cut cost by reducing the frequency or extent of cabin cleaning. Someone may find it hygienic enough but sometimes it's not just the hygienic concern - to illustrate with an extreme example, just think about having your beddings in a hotel room sprayed with antiseptics but not changed after the previous room guest checked out...

Bollen

Bollen

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Dec 2017

Total posts 19

I'm with you Gleung. I hate it when a passenger nearby is snorting and coughing and all I can think about is that being recirculated through the cabin! Maybe they should include a Japanese style face mask in the amenity kits :)

JKH

JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 127

The real concerns are harmful microbe transmission via hands and in cabin air from coughs and sneezes, not from upholstery. Furthermore, not all microbes are harmful.

JKH

JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 127

Concerning the flight where many contracted diarrhoea, it didn’t spread from seats under people’s backsides and into their alimentary canals!!

Gfp

Gfp

11 May 2018

Total posts 1

Will it also kill the bed bugs which bit me on a flight last year.... probably not

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 742

My brother is an Airline Pilot and the stories he tells me about aircraft cleaning are unbelievable. Somehow I just dont buy slef cleaning seats.

DavidGC

DavidGC

Etihad - Etihad Guest

11 May 2018

Total posts 2

What effect would this have on the growth and global spread of antimicrobial resistance?

The article doesn't describe the type of "disinfectant" used in the seats, but I'd be curious to know the WHO's position on something like this.


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