Why Armrest Innovation Is the New Passenger Experience Battleground

Credit: skift.com


Inflight Peripherals’ Nexus Integrated Seat Arm. The company’s design takes into account the fact that seat size is shrinking. IFPL

Skift Take: With the seat pitch in economy class getting smaller, designers are being forced to innovate using minimal surface area – perhaps that’s why the humble armrest is receiving so much attention.

— Skift

Until recently, the armrest seems to have been a forgotten element of the airline seat, its role in providing comfort to passengers overlooked and taken for granted. However, with ten and 11 abreast layouts in economy on the horizon for larger aircraft types, any extra surface area passengers can rightfully claim as their own is becoming a priority – even if it is meagre compensation for a shrinking seat pitch.

A year ago now, FlyersRights.org, the largest U.S.-based airline passenger organisation, appealed the FAA’s denial of its rulemaking petition to halt further shrinkage of airline seats and legroom until minimum passenger space standards could be set. It came to nothing, and now it looks as though rather than conceding, airlines are trying to distract passengers from their discomfort by refreshing other elements of the seat.

In the lead-up to the Crystal Cabin Awards (CCAs), which take place during the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, the aviation industry gets an insight into the minds of those creating the passenger experience of tomorrow – and it seems it’s the armrest’s time to shine.

It’s interesting to note that armrest designs, which garnered attention in 2016, are continuing to be explored. Armrest concepts previously shortlisted for the CCAs include the Wishbone armrest, which divided lengthways into two slimmer versions and looked like; you guessed it, a wishbone.

More successful was Soarigami, a patent-pending consumer travel product rather than something airlines have to certify. Based on the design of a paper aeroplane and made of recycled cardboard, the product was entered into the 2016 CCAs already having taken home $25,000 and first place at the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Passenger Innovation Awards in 2015.

This year, the armrest is making a come-back at the CCAs, but this time with a more technological focus.

Inflight Peripherals (IFPL) has come up with the Nexus Integrated Seat Arm concept, an idea which came from the fact that although seats are shrinking, an increasing number of passengers expect to be able to charge their devices while travelling.

“IFE vendors build IFE systems and seat providers build seats – they never really pay too much attention to each other’s game until they’re working with an airline who says, ‘I want you to integrate this IFE system with this seat.’ It’s an afterthought,” said David Thomas, IFPL’s VP business development.

The company’s hoping to show that by designing technology into the seat from the ground up, you can enhance both its aesthetic and ergonomics. As well as including a USB port somewhere you can find it (rather than in the dark under the seat), the armrest also incorporates passenger control functions such as the attendant call bell and light, which means no more awkward stretching over your neighbour’s head.

These same design principles were applied during IFPL’s work with Mirus before it was announced at AIX in 2016 that the latter’s Hawk seat – featuring a USB port in the seat arm – was to be installed on AirAsia’s existing and new Airbus A320s, totalling 312 aircraft.

Thomas says the Nexus armrest concept further demonstrates what can be achieved and that the design can be altered depending on an airline’s specific needs.

Elsewhere, there’s Armrest 2020, a concept created by Johannesburg-based Mark Lentin.

Lentin’s lightweight creation provides one armrest with split levels to accommodate people of different sizes, but it also does more than that. “When you look at a basic product, it usually fulfils one function. When I design products, I like to maximise their usability as much as possible. There is nothing that says an armrest should be just an armrest. It should also be a passenger’s control centre,” Lentin said.

Rather than continue with the inclusion of a bulky tethered handset, Lentin’s design offers a simple track wheel which can be used to control the IFE system and play games. This is probably why the entire armrest only weighs 450 grams (just under half a kilo).

“Although today tethered handsets are mostly used to interact with in-flight entertainment systems, they were originally intended for making phone calls. Armrest 2020 still offers a telephone console, it’s just built into the armrest,” Lentin said. “All that’s needed to communicate with other onboard passengers or make phone calls is a microphone headset which can be handed out by airline stewards, depending on whether the airline offers that service.”

Like IFPL’s Nexus offering, Armrest 2020 allows external devices to plug into the armrest via USB port.

The concept has several patents pending and according to Lentin, several airlines have already expressed interest. His first prototype doesn’t have a working track wheel, but Lentin hopes to have resolved this by the middle of this year.

Top Stories

Travel Habits of Americans: 42 Percent Aren’t Taking a Vacation This Summer

Unless there's a flood of last-minute vacation planners who will book trips in the coming days, weeks or months, many U.S. travelers are saying that they're hunkering down for another summer of little to no time away from the office. -Dan Peltier
  • 1 day ago
  • 14

What Ctrip Looks For When Buying Other Companies

Zhou's comments point to more deals for companies outside China, similar to the one for Skyscanner, and with plenty of money to spend it looks like it could be a very busy few years. -Patrick Whyte
  • 1 day ago
  • 12

Wellness Executives Question Hotel Chains’ Capabilities in the Sector

Everyone in hospitality, it seems, is focusing on more wellness offerings, whether through mergers and acquisitions, partnerships, or enhanced programming — but what do the wellness vets think? Does this trend have staying power or is it just a fad? -Deanna Ting
  • 1 day ago
  • 12

Air Canada Reverses Course, Leads the Charge to Bring Loyalty Back In-House

There was a trend over the last few years for airlines to try to spin off their loyalty programs into ... Read More
  • 19 hours ago
  • 10

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s stylist talks about that giant Michael Cinco gown

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan went to Cannes, hit the red carpet like a pro, had a mother-daughter style moment and she is back. Each year the actor travels to the French Riviera to represent L’Oréal as a global ambassador and her sartorial choices on the red carpet become talking points for days after. We spoke Rai […] The post Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s stylist talks about that giant Michael Cinco gown appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 17 hours ago
  • 9
farawayyachtingcharters - Easy Branches
botoxfillerveintheraphyinphuket - Easy Branches

Latest in Travel

Long-Delayed Baha Mar Resort Is Finally Open, But Atlantis Isn’t Worried

Well, that only took a few years. It'll be interesting to see how tourism to the Bahamas changes now that the long-beleaguered mega resort has finally opened. -Deanna Ting
  • 25 minutes ago

Travel Tech CEO Series: SITA Rethinks the Passenger Experience

Airlines and airports own SITA, but the two groups are at odds over who controls passenger data. New CEO Barbara Dalibard shows signs of having enough finesse to keep the company unified. -Sean O'Neill
  • 25 minutes ago

Where UK Political Parties Stand on the Big Tourism Issues

Party manifestos should be treated with a healthy degree of skepticism. Still it is revealing to see who what they priorities are and perhaps more importantly what they decide to leave out. -Patrick Whyte
  • 1 hour ago

Airbnb’s Latest Role Is Destination Marketing for Sweden

Sweden is in a unique position to tell a story that few other countries can. While Airbnb may be able to build a new revenue stream in destination marketing, it's also interested in getting bookings from its listings in the country. -Dan Peltier
  • 1 hour ago

Chefs+Tech: Tech and Dining by the Numbers, According to OpenTable

Robots aren't going to take over restaurants, ever (you heard it here first) — but tech is creeping into every aspect of dining out, and OpenTable's report proves consumers aren't afraid of it. -Kristen Hawley
  • 2 hours ago

Video: TUI’s CMO on Growing an Established Brand in a Fragmented Market

TUI Group has a big job on its hands during its move away from country-specific brands, but the prize is a substantial one. If it manages to create a global superbrand it will make it much easier to expand into new areas and markets. -Patrick Whyte
  • 2 hours ago

Brazil May Have the World’s Biggest Destination Marketing Potential

The highest gap between potential in tourism in the world and what's been realized so far is Brazil. Despite obstacles, better marketing and more private-public coordination could boost visitors. -Sean O'Neill
  • 5 hours ago

Hotel Union Questions Anbang’s Motives During Contract Negotiations

It was probably for the best that Anbang didn't wind up triumphing over Marriott to buy Starwood, especially given the confusing nature of its ownership structure. -Deanna Ting
  • 6 hours ago

Japanese Tourism Could Be Boosted If Foreign Casino Construction Is Okayed

Japan is loosening its laws around foreign casino ownership. But it needs to coordinate its strategy if it wants to woo Las Vegas Sands, MGM, and other companies to build resorts that might rival Macau in popularity. -Sean O'Neill
  • 7 hours ago

Marshall Mid Bluetooth Headphones Offer Travelers 30-Hour Battery Life [First Look]

Join Vagabondish on Twitter and Facebook. With 30+ hours of playtime on a single charge, the Marshall Mid Bluetooth headphones are a solid personal audio choice for travelers. The post Marshall Mid Bluetooth Headphones Offer Travelers 30-Hour Battery Life [First Look] appeared first on Vagabondish.
  • 12 hours ago

Cathay Cuts 600 Jobs as It Tries to Get Costs Under Control

It might please investors to cut jobs but Cathy Pacific's problems run much deeper. It needs to work out where it fits in an airline environment that is rapidly changing. -Patrick Whyte
  • 14 hours ago

Six skincare rules everyone should follow

Before you even consider reaching for your foundation or swiping on some mascara, it’s important to be confident and happy with your canvas – your skin. Our skin care needs and problems are totally unique to us but one thing is for certain: if you’re not looking after your skin it is going to be […] The post Six skincare rules everyone should follow appeared first on VOGUE India.
  • 16 hours ago