Fly in a two-story 'chaise longue': the Spanish invention that wants to make the most of aircraft space

Flying economy class has become an increasingly uncomfortable experience. The passengers become impromptu contortionists, fitting their legs into the compartment as if they were pieces of a meat and iron tetris. However, the curious invention of a Spanish student wants to change this annoying trend.

Twitter has turned the university project of Alejandro Núñez Vicente (Madrid, 22 years old) into a viral phenomenon. He wants to make it a reality. your prototype Chaise Longue Economy Seat has received worldwide attention. This foresees a cabin of seats in two levels, with rows with seats on the ground and others elevated. In this way it is possible to maximize space, increasing the number of seats on the plane, but also improving the comfort of the passenger, who will be able to stretch their legs until they are completely horizontal, as if they were on a divan or chaise longuehence the name of the invention.

Alejandro Nunez Vicente.

Alejandro Nunez Vicente.

Alejandro Núñez Vicente measures 1.90 meters. He is Spanish, but studied Engineering at TU Delft University, in the Netherlands. These data help to understand how and why it occurred to him to develop the Chaise Longue Economy Seat. “He would return to Madrid on weekends, travel for a few hours and have a terrible time, so I didn’t even want to imagine what it would be like to travel long distances on those planes. That’s when I started to give shape to the idea”, he tells The traveler.

Its design takes advantage of the limited cabin space of an aircraft in its three dimensions, daring to play with height. It goes through eliminating the upper compartment for luggage, which would be stored in compartments under the seat, and adds extra space for the legs of passengers who were located in the lowest row. In addition, since the seats are not one behind the other, the reclining capacity is increased, allowing the passenger to lie down without disturbing the one behind. “These seats can be reclined 125 degrees, 15 more than normal, there is none in economy have this recline”, says the engineer.

One of the side effects of shrinking space on planes has been the inability to recline seats without disturbing the occupant behind. The seats fell, from the first row to the last, like dominoes, until some insomniac passenger, someone perhaps who had things to write or to eat, decided not to. And a fight for space began that many resolved shouting, or pulling gadgets. Airlines such as United Airlines and Virgin banned so-called knee defendera tool that served as a stop and prevented the front passenger from reclining his seat.

Nunez began work on the Chaise Longue Economy Seat last year. He was 21 years old at the time and understood this as a university project. He proposed developing it to his teacher, Peter Vink, an expert in aircraft interior design. His nomination for the 2021 Crystal Cabin Awards, a major award in the aviation industry, made her rethink the dimension of his idea. “I didn’t win, but as if I had, because everyone knew about this project, a lot of articles came out and people began to talk a lot about it,” says Núñez now. The media attention has ended up deciding him to take the leap. Núñez has paused his master’s degree and has obtained financing to dedicate himself to his prototype full time.

Its biggest sponsor has been a Spanish company, Aircraft Interior Refurbishment Spain, AIRE. “This will be the first Spanish aircraft seat design,” says Núñez, although he regrets that projects like his have more chances of prospering abroad. In recent months, this engineer has traveled around the globe, presenting the project in New York, Germany or Spain… With 16 flights behind him, he admits to having it destroyed. He hopes that his prototype will help improve these types of problems.

The Incredible Case of the Shrinking Seat

The rise of low cost and airlines’ need to maximize profits has seen aircraft increase in capacity in recent years by reducing seat pitch. In the early 2000s, economy class rows were spaced about 34 inches apart. Now the average is between 76 and 78, according to Flyers Rights, an American passenger advocacy group. The space between the seats of the Núñez prototype is between 76 and 81 centimeters. It is not a revolutionary gain, but the sensation is of greater amplitude by being able to stretch the legs without limit in the seat below and recline the seats in both cases. It is a step forward in a field where so far there has only been setbacks.

The Chaise Longue Economy Seat.

The Chaise Longue Economy Seat.

“Since the fifties, the golden age of airplanes, until now the seats have become thinner, closer together, with less space for the legs…”, says Núñez. His seat intends to go in the opposite direction and “improve, for the first time in decades, passenger comfort.

Núñez answers the call from The traveler between meeting and meeting, within the framework of Aircraft Interiors Expo, an aeronautical furniture fair held in Hamburg. It was precisely there that the Skyrider 2.0 was presented a few years ago, an “ultra-density” seat more similar to a bicycle seat than to an airplane seat. The device was intended to increase the number of passengers that could travel on an aircraft by up to 20%. He did it at the expense of his comfort, since people had to practically make the trip standing up. It also went viral, but for the opposite reasons to those that have boosted Núñez’s prototype.

The Chaise Longue Economy Seat does not promise, in its current configuration, to increase the number of seats per plane, although with some modifications it can increase them between 5% and 10%, says its creator. It’s not his main concern. He says that he doesn’t want to put more passengers on planes, but rather to make life a little more comfortable for them. And this, for some reason, is revolutionary and innovative in the current aeronautical landscape.

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