While WHO’s recommendation to reduce the spread of a virus is through the alteration of passenger behaviour and that actually aircraft – with their HEPA filtration and regular cleaning – are relatively clean already; there’s still passenger perception to overcome which is sometimes deeply rooted in emotional based reasoning rather than scientifically proven facts.
It’s this very reason that airlines are looking at utilising the recent drop in their load factors to provide passengers with the illusion of additional distancing from their fellow passengers by blocking off middle seats during this temporary downturn. However, Factorydesign has actually gone one step further, creating a middle-seat ‘Isolation kit’ concept that can be inserted between seats not just to provide a screen between passengers, but a personal table for additional storage and comfort.
Still in development, the concept is refreshingly simple, with a lightweight table top that attaches to the existing seat and supports a vertical screen ‘fin’ in translucent thermoplastic to “allow light to pass through and maintain an airy cabin.” It’s also super simple in design, with no visible seams or crevices to attract dirt to easily keep clean.
There is also a holder with provision for a personal amenity kit with a mask, hand-sanitiser and disinfectant wipes to deliver the a more hygienic flight experience. Over time as passenger habits settle down, the space for these kits will find a second life. Many seats now have in seat power below the seats, so this seems a logical place to keep mobile devices as they power up, removing the obstacle course of charging cables.
With future in mind, the product also has been considered with a lightweight thermoformed foam screen with cleanable leather trim which offers added privacy – so when placed on the aisle seat it turns the row in to private seats for two (or even a pseudo ‘throne seat’ perhaps!). We look forward to seeing what materials could be trialled with such a product. Eagle eyes might note the copper style trim, a nod to the research that showcases certain materials – like copper, are more hygienic than others.
Whether for the short term, or the long term, this is a solid solution to a current situation, which could become an optional – even chargeable amenity in the future. It’s simplicity seems to also be its dexterity – useful on both narrow and wide bodies alike. While it doesn’t fix the exposure we are potentially subjected to, it does provide some sense of safety and security, and if that kick-starts the airline industry once again, we’re behind (or sat beside) it.