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When “Basic Economy” was introduced to US airlines, there were a lot of misconceptions. One of those was that the seats would be smaller or have less legroom. So far, no US airlines have gone so far as to create a separate basic economy section, although American Airlines flirted with configuring a few rows with just 29 inches of legroom before backing away from the plan.
But there’s a seat on display at the Aircraft Interiors Expo that promises to provide a true basic economy experience. Using what its maker calls saddle seats, 23 inches of pitch and a foot panel to support part of your body weight, the Aviointeriors SkyRider is something quite special.
When I first saw the SkyRider, I originally imagined an aircraft full of these “ultra high-density seats.” Mercifully, that’ll never happen. Aircraft are certified to carry a certain number of passengers, and one with solely SkyRider seating would have far too many passengers to fly.
Instead, as a company rep explained, only a few rows of this seating would be installed. This would allow for more room in what he referred to as “premium economy” and business class.
I just had to experience for myself how uncomfortable the seat would be. So, I stretched my visit to the SkyRider for as long as possible, ending up with about 10 minutes in the seat, first in the front row and then the back. The front row wasn’t bad, but at 5 foot 11 inch tall, my knees were firmly planted against the seatback for the entire time in the rear row.
Perhaps that discomfort distracted me, but spending 10 minutes sitting in the saddle seat really didn’t seem to be bad. After all, as the director general of the seat manufacturing company was quoted as saying: “Cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle.”
While no airlines have signed on to install the SkyRider, Aviointeriors representatives noted strong interest in the seat during the show this year. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Sure, the seat wouldn’t be fun to fly. But, by installing these seats, airlines could maximize the number of passengers on the plane and providing even cheaper fares for those willing to put up with the half-standing saddle seat for a short (we hope) ride. Heck, if the fares were cheap enough and the flight under a couple of hours, I certainly wouldn’t rule out booking it.
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