The gaudy, long-leg flying seats of a few decades ago may become a distant memory by the end of the century.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian predicted that business-class seats on commercial aircraft will be curved and legroom will extend up to 42 inches by 2025.
“Passengers have been asking for this for years,” Bastian said. “We’ve decided to make that a reality.”
To keep costs down and provide space for passengers to stretch out, business-class seats will have less bulk, be lighter than current coach seats and will be built to fold into the floor.
The new design also includes a monitor at the top center of the seat, where travelers could stay in touch with their social media.
The airline started talking about creating a “winglike” seat just two years ago, with a view to the future, said Alan Callahan, a senior vice president at Delta.
Business-class seats on planes today are about 30 inches across and recline into the seat that passengers sit in. But next year, the Delta team plans to introduce a reclining seat that reclines into a 120-degree angle, while maintaining airline-approved legroom of 36 inches.
The seat – which will cost passengers about $5,000 – is only one of several innovations being considered.
The company is also designing a seat with headrests that automatically bring the head and face of each passenger up to meet each other. This reduces turbulence and is supposed to save fuel. But it’s been a long process. The design for a headrest was first launched in 2007.
Earlier this year, Delta experimented with designs based on natural curves, with a bend front to back for passengers to face each other. These passengers also might be able to move their heads around to look away from the front of the seat.
Delta was one of the first airlines to introduce multiple rows of padded business-class seats, in the early 1990s. But by the late 1990s, the seats got too cramped, and Delta moved to a layout where seats were stacked.
Delta expanded its business-class offerings by introducing two sets of fully lie-flat seats in 2008. These, Bastian said, are partially inspired by Scandinavian airline seats.
In a similar vein, Virgin Atlantic is also developing a curved seat – with 14.5 inches of legroom – for its first-class section.
SkyCouch, a British company that makes business-class travel pillows and blankets, has added shoulder rests and has an in-flight blanket dispenser as well.
The airline also recently began installing more legroom in coach seats, which are also about 30 inches long, so that students, business-class fliers and premium-paying fliers will have more room to stretch out.