Modular, Wheelchair-Friendly Airplane Seating Concept
Air4All – a new modular airline seating concept from British design firm PriestmanGoode and UK campaign group Flying Disabled – aims to simplify the air travel for people who use wheelchairs. Solutions like these are essential for creating a more inclusive travel industry, as we outline in Tourism’s Accessible Future.
Most standard airline seating requires people who use wheelchairs to transfer from their own wheelchair into a narrow aisle wheelchair and then into the airline seat – a process that can be uncomfortable and lead to wheelchairs damaged in the baggage hold, among other problems. Air4All streamlines this process with its modular, foldaway seats into which an aisle wheelchair can be secured. Flight attendants remove the seat’s back cushion, then fold up the seat base, before securing the wheelchair into place using a proprietary locking mechanism.
A prototype of Air4All will be released in December 2021 and PriestmanGoode says the seats can be retrofitted into pre-existing planes. Initially, the solution will only be available for the first rows of narrow-body planes, though there are plans to introduce models suitable for more aircrafts. This concept also still requires passengers to have compatible wheelchairs. British wheelchair manufacturer Sunrise Medical is retrofitting chairs that integrate with the Air4All locking mechanism, as well as designing new flight-safe motor-powered chairs.
Inclusive seating solutions like Air4All are long overdue. Between 2010 and 2019, the amount of passengers at UK airports requiring assistance increased more than 80% (National Geographic, 2019), yet 46% of Brits who use wheelchairs still felt unsafe when flying (Which, 2020). Implementing seating solutions like Air4All is a critical step for airlines to make in ensuring that all passengers feel welcomed on board.