When it comes to cutting costs and squeezing in more people in the same space, airlines seem to have some very inspired seat makers playing on their team! The latest seat designed for the airlines called SkyRider resembles a padded saddle and allows them to cram 40% more travelers per each flight. Even though SkyRider has not been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration yet, or bought by any major airline, it generated a huge hype last week when it was launched at the Aircraft Interiors Expo at the Long Beach Convention Center in California.

SkyRider was not the only money-saving idea at the expo. Other attractions were an in-seat entertainment system with a built-in credit card reader, passenger seats and overhead bins made of lighter material to help cut fuel costs, and carpeting and seat covers that use up less resources to maintain.

“We would like to help an industry that is not making a profit,” said Fredrik Meloni, a sales manager for Italy-based Aviointeriors, the designers and manufacturers of the SkyRider seat.
“We feel extremely confident that this concept will … have great appeal to airlines for economic purposes,” added Dominique Menoud, director general of Aviointeriors Group.

While ingenious and definitely powered by cost saving principles, industry analysts believe such extreme measures will be limited to a few economy air carriers.

“I don’t think that most airlines … would even consider them, so consumers will still have some choices when it comes to comfort,” said Anne Banas, executive editor at SmarterTravel, an online consumer travel website.

The airline industry has taken a serious blow when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred. Just when they were about to get back on track, the recession hit them again back in 2007, when companies and individuals cut all unnecessary spending, all deciding to fly less or book cheaper seats. With a still shy demand for flights and more costly seats, the industry is still looking for ways out of a continuous crisis and back to profits.

This is probably the main reason why at the Long Beach expo many exhibitors unveiled lightweight airline cabin fixtures – seats, overhead bins and other interior modules – all designed to reduce fuel costs, air carriers’ second-highest expense behind labor.

Back to SkyRider, its makers state the seat is much lighter than traditional airline seats and is easy to clean. Plus the big plus of the saddle taking up very little space in a cabin. Definitely not as comfortable as other seats, as it puts passengers in a semi-standing position, it allows airlines to leave only 23 inches of space between each row of seats, while traditional airline seats are positioned 31 to 35 inches apart.

Company representatives suggested that the seats would be used only for short flights of up to two hours. The few lucky ones who got to try the seat at the exhibition were rather skeptical about SkyRider:

“When I first looked at it, it looked like a roller coaster seat,” said Dean Purcell, a sales manager for Massachusetts-based Draka Cableteq, a cable and wire manufacturer. Exiting a seat can be difficult, he said. “I would hate to be in the middle seat and have to go to the bathroom.”
“It’s built for people with short legs,” joked Gerard Melling, general manager for Mitsui Bussan Aerospace Corp. in Long Beach. “Even an hour in that seat would be tough.”

What do you think? Would you dare fly in such a saddle-seat?

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