Business Class Comfort in Economy Class – Seriously?

Business Class Comfort in Economy Class – Seriously?

Extra leg room, more recline, comfortable seating in Economy class. This is what SE Aeronautics promises with its newly designed “morphing” seat.

The ultra-thin seat gives the impression of more space, and as it slides forward, passengers enjoy further reclining without affecting other passengers sitting in the rows behind and in front of them.

In principle, the idea has merit, unless it is used to place even more seats in an already crowded space.

Video Spotlight: See the CNBC video on the compartmentalization of Economy class seating

This post is based on the Forbes article, Is This the Airline Seat of the Future?, by C. Elliott, January 19, 2019; and the CNBC article and video, Airplane class wars have come to coach. Here is your guide to the new economy seats, by L. Josephs, December 22, 2018. Image source: ©Spaces Images/Blend Images LLC.

Discussion Questions:

1. Is the new design mentioned in the article a departure from the ‘shrinking’ seat in Economy class?

Guidance: Yes and no. Assuming that airlines keep the pitch between seats around 32 inches, passengers might indeed enjoy extra recline and leg room. The viscoelastic foam seat might even be more comfortable than the old-fashioned seats. It might also create the illusion that there is “more space,” even though there does not seem to be any change in seat width.

2. According to the Kano model, with what type of quality is the proposed product associated? Justify your answer.

Guidance: Most students will probably answer that the new seat design only satisfies a basic quality requirement because basic requirements for seat recline and leg room are not met currently. They may argue that the design improvement will produce a very limited increase in satisfaction since they would also expect wider seats and foot rests, especially for long flights.

Other students may view the new features as performance quality, but may point out that the low degree of enhancements is insufficient to boost satisfaction levels in a significant manner. Moreover, with time, these performance features will quickly become basic quality features.

3. Why do you think the airline industry has not been enthusiastic about the new design?

Guidance: As mentioned in the article, the new design may disrupt well established supply chains. Moreover, the seats do not seem to have been tested for reliability and comfort.

However, airlines may not care much about passenger comfort in Economy class. This is why Lloyd Weaver is trying to market the potential of extra revenue through increased fare without the extra space taken by the enhancements offered in Economy Plus or Premium Economy.


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