WASHINGTON — When this coronavirus pandemic is over, some things will not be the same for a while, and that includes the way we travel. As some airlines make changes to operations, an Italy-based company that specializes in interior designs for aircraft is thinking ahead.
The creative minds behind Aviointeriors, a company that designs and produces aircraft cabin interiors and passenger seats, have been busy thinking of ways to make travelers feel more comfortable in the air.
“We want to help airlines restore confidence to help people get back to flying,” said Aviointeriors CEO Paolo Drago, whose been sharing the company's ideas with other businesses that specialize in aircraft products. “It’s no time to compete…we’re working together against the virus.”
Aviointeriors, which has more than 40 years of experience, recently unveiled two ideas for airlines as the pandemic slows down. The first design is called the Janus seat, which features a reversed middle seat and high shields between each passenger. There is also a shield on the end seat to create more isolation from people walking down the aisle.
Retired Lt. Col. Michael Hales is the Director of Aviation Programs at Delaware State University. He trains the next generation of pilots. He shared his thoughts on the proposed design.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this,” Hales said. “The only drawback I could think of is, 'would a person have some sort of issue with vertigo riding backwards?'”
The second design is called Glassafe. This design looks similar to a standard row on an airplane. Each seat would have a shield that can be easily installed or removed. The shields, on both designs, come with different degrees of transparency. The material would be easy to clean.
“When you throw in these [shields], you’ve got a problem for the person who’s sitting in the seat close to the window,” Hales said. “How would they get in and out if they have to go to the lavatory or if they’re just trying to get into their seat. “
We took the question to Drago who said the shields would not cover all of the space in front or to the side of a passenger. He said there’s still an opening for people to get up and out of the seat safely.
Drago told us that several airlines have shown interest in the designs and that prototypes will be ready by the end of May. He said it would take two months to produce the Glassafe and 10 months for the Janus seat.
As concerns loom about travel during and after the coronavirus pandemic, airlines are making adjustments. Delta and JetBlue are among other airlines that require employees and passengers to wear face coverings. Similar to American Airlines, Delta has limited its food and beverage service encouraging passengers to bring their own food. Special meal service and alcohol have been suspended.
“As states open up and loosen travel restrictions, people will be reticence about flying in close proximity of each other, and that will take a while to overcome,” Hales said. “This is not something we could have predicted in aviation or having to contend with in some way shape or form.”