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Airlines consider standing instead of sitting on planes

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The SkyRider, developed by Aviointeriors S.p.A. was unveiled at an expo in 2010. It features a "perching saddle," or standing cabin.

The SkyRider, developed by Aviointeriors S.p.A. was unveiled at an expo in 2010. It features a “perching saddle,” or standing cabin.

NEW YORK — It’s not some miserable dystopic movie scene about class polarization.

The vertical passenger seat — or “standing cabin” — may be the next big cost-cutting move in aviation, according to a new report whose author says the concept could be here within five years.

“I stumbled across the idea when I was looking (into) ways to reduce the flight ticket price,” Fairuz Romli, who authored the report published in the IACSIT International Journal of Engineering and Technology said.

Romli, an aerospace engineering professor at the Universiti Putra Malaysia, says his motivation is to lower the cost of air travel to a level competitive with buses and trains.

Using the popular Boeing 737-300 as an example, his study calculates that a standing cabin would lead to a 21% increase in passenger capacity while dropping ticket prices by as much as 44% among full-service airlines.

“I’m a frequent flier and most of the times during domestic flights, it feels like the flying time is very short that the aircraft is already descending for landing before you can unfasten your seatbelt after takeoff,” he says.

“Hence the big question came to my mind: in such a short duration of flight time, do we really need to sit down?”

Romli quickly discovered that the idea had already been researched — most notably by Airbus, China’s Spring Airlines and Ireland’s Ryanair.

The SkyRider, developed by Aviointeriors S.p.A. and unveiled at an expo in 2010, is a perching saddle, while Ryanair once flirted with the idea of a “flat-padded backboard” with a seatbelt over the shoulders.

Cost or comfort?

In 2012, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary floated the idea with his characteristic bluntness: “The problem with aviation is that for 50 years it’s been populated by people who think it’s a wondrous sexual experience when it’s really just a bus with wings.”

However, a spokesperson for Ryanair says the airline has since abandoned its vertical-passenger plans.

“We have no plans to trial or introduce standing flights,” says the spokesperson.

Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department voiced caution.

“There are very stringent requirements for the aircraft and the passenger seat to meet before the aircraft or the configuration is certified to carry passengers,” a spokesperson says

“This novel standing-room design and the mentioned restraint system are early concepts. It may take much time for them to materialize.”

Manufacturers have also expressed doubt about the concept’s feasibility.

“We don’t believe there are good market opportunities for this idea,” says Mark Hiller, CEO of Recaro Aircraft Seating, one of the world’s major suppliers of commercial airplane passenger seats.

“From our point of view, passengers will not accept to travel that way. Even if such a seat would pass certification tests, we would see it as a great sacrifice for passengers in terms of comfort and living space, even for very short flights.”

Fly, don’t ride

Romli, whose report contains some intriguing designs for vertical seats, thinks the concept still has legs.

“The idea seemed to be nixed before it was properly analyzed because I couldn’t find any published study about it,” he says. “After some initial study, it appears that this is not a bad idea after all and has some potentials to be highlighted.”

His study concludes that while savings increase as distances get longer, the concept is best optimized on short-haul flights, with tolerance for standing depending on the age and health of individual passengers.

“I’ve seen people stand on buses and trains before throughout a journey of maybe close to an hour,” says Romli. “So if that’s possible, then standing on an aircraft (shouldn’t) be a far-fetched idea.

“If the option available to reach my destination is either sitting on a bus or train for six to seven hours or standing for an hour and half on an aircraft, I believe there are many people who would opt for the latter if the flight ticket price is reasonably low.”

Romli admits his concept is likely to be greeted with skepticism, not least from aviation safety authorities who would have to sign off on the concept.

Nevertheless, he believes that his vertical seating concept could win approval in five or six years.

“Airlines like to reduce operational costs and given this option, I believe they have a big interest for it as well.

“The only major challenge is to obtain the approval from the aviation authorities and if the concept has proven to satisfy all necessary requirements in terms of passenger safety, there shouldn’t be much problem for it to become reality.”

11 comments

  • Shawna Ott

    i have rods in my back and a plate and screws in my ankle. do you really think i would pay to fly to stand up? what are they going to call it, the boeing sardine flight? no thanks. i would rather spend 3 days driving than 2 hours standing uncomfortably next to people. not to mention large people and very tall people wouldnt be able to. what about those with infants and little kids? GET REAL and stop thinking we are all that stupid.

  • Ali

    aside from the discomfort, i don’t know where carry-ons would go. There wouldn’t be room to put them under the person in front of you if the person in front of you just has a backboard rather than a seat, but you couldn’t have overhead bins or most people won’t be able to stand.

  • Test

    Sitting for long periods is bad for you, but most people can’t stand for hours either. Besides this guy is delusional if he thinks it will reduce ticket prices. Between inflation, fuel prices and an increasing lack of competition, prices will not come down.

  • Jeremy

    The airline industry is one of the big reasons the Grand United States of America does not have cross country high speed rail. If there was cross country high speed rail people may chose to take the train instead of flying because of these cost cutting games these airlines play. Except from Boston to Washington if you want to take alternative modes of transportation to get somewhere fast you pretty much have no choice but to fly and pay high ticket prices and airline fees. The airline industry in the Grand United States of America pretty much has a monopoly when it comes to travel thats why there are airline mega mergers such as United and Continental and American and US Airways merging because with these type of monopolies you have less choice and pay higher prices. If there were cross country high speed rail in the Grand United States of America it would hold these airlines in check with these games they are playing because if people don’t like what the airlines are doing they would be able to have another choice to get somewhere fast because they can take the train instead of flying. There needs to be some regulation again when it comes to what kind of price games they can play.

  • MrEddd

    After my last flight in May I have decided to forget the airlines and drive, unless it is an emergency. I waste the best part of a day dealing with the flight delays or diversions, baggage, ground transportation and car rental agencies. I can drive in two days and have my own car which is nicer than most rental cars. Generally speaking the solitude and chance to overnight in small towns is enjoyable for a change.

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