Personal space when we are travelling

The recent reports of disturbances on flights where passengers have had some robust “disagreement” over reclining their seats made us think about the meaning of and need for personal and personalised space when we travel.

There is a desire to be able to adjust our seat and space to fit us and what we want to do (eat, sleep, read, etc).  This also reflects the varying sizes and shapes we come in and is part of what attracts us to our cars – the ability to adjust the seat in many different respects to accommodate us as individuals.

The problem on crowded transport is that the adjustment one person makes potentially infringes on the space of another passenger.  And social norms in this area are often not as clear and globally transferable as some people would like to think.

The response of some operators has been to remove the adjustability – especially for things like short haul flights.  This has been the norm on most trains which generally also have shorter journey times.

However, this doesn’t meet our needs as passengers and doesn’t match what we get in our cars when modal shift is required.  So the challenge seems to be how can adjustability be provided that doesn’t affect other passengers, is reliable so seat mechanisms don’t fail and can work operationally.

Whilst thinking about this piece we came across one potential answer developed by Seymour Powell – the Morph seat – which is a finalist in the Innovation by Design Awards.  It seems to tick many of the boxes although we wonder if the usual race for the arm rest might get replaced by sneeky narrowing of your neighbours seat whilst they are asleep!!



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