I've came across on youtube a new design for stacking passengers in an airplane cabin, that looks at first sight interesting.

General view

Detailed view

What would be the advantages and drawbacks of such a design? Why this is not common in today's airplanes?

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    $\begingroup$ Ugh. It's bad enough having to contort myself into a seat designed for someone with significantly shorter legs and narrower shoulders than I have. That attrocity looks like it would add to the fun by requiring me to force myself into something also designed for people with shorter torsos and/or the gymnast class flexibility needed to contort myself into a leaning back seated position in the aisle without toppling over before sidestepping into the seathole. $\endgroup$ Aug 17 '16 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see this being viable for only a 6.4% seating capacity increase. The amount of extra weight alone would negate the extra passenger seats just in fuel costs. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 17 '16 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ @DanNeely: The seat are not "designed for someone...". The seat is designed to fit the available space; passenger be damned. $\endgroup$
    – JS.
    Aug 17 '16 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ To me, it is a huge warning flag that one of the articles attached to the video says, "Though he is a designer, Grégoire is not an industry-insider. He works in the bedding industry and came up with this concept on his own, as a viable solution to today’s limited horizontal cabin space.", but the video (between 0:25 and 0:35) describes the evacuation times and safety features. I really don't trust an industry-outsider with no aviation experience to design safety-critical components. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Aug 17 '16 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Laurent Please don't cross-post. $\endgroup$
    – cat
    Aug 18 '16 at 0:50

I see several challenges with this design, both technological and not:

  • Making that design safe enough will be difficult, the structure you add in the cabin would need to be strong enough to maintain rigidity in a crash. That much rigidity would add weight, and would add loads to the structure
  • The pod walls will make it hard to get by people in the single narrow aisle. In an open design you can squeeze by people in the aisle, in a walled design you'd have no place to go
  • This design would greatly limit carry-on storage to only what could fit under the seat in front of you
  • Parents with small children and families traveling together would have a hard time with this design as there's no more than 2 seats together, and limited space for sky cots
  • Access to a sick passenger would be restricted
  • Passengers with limited mobility would have a hard time getting into and out of these pods
  • Comfort is the biggest problem I see with this design. Anyone in one of those pods is spam in a can with limited visibility and movement. Personally I think it looks awful and I would go out of my way to avoid flying with an airline using it

The problems I can see with that design:

  • Increased structural weight: all things remaining the same, you will have less payload availability for luggage/cargo.

  • Cabin servicing you either add an elevated kitchen (more weight) or you have to go up those stairs with the carts every time you want to service the cabin.

  • Possible claustrophobia those modules look tiny, and the center rows are quite different from a car where you can open the window.

  • Possibly longer evacuation times you are increasing the passengers, making them lay down more (more time to get up/out of those compartments), and maintaining the same volume. And people will try to get their belongings from under those seats. You will have to demonstrate that this does not adversely affect the prescribed evacuation times.

Now that you have added screenshots, and that I have more time to look at them, I would add that

  • there is no consideration of the oxygen masks, where are they going to fit? For both bottom and top row there does not seem to be the required space.

The video shows the seat-pitch at 42". Current seat pitch is typically around 30-33". I'm pretty skeptical that you can increase seat-pitch by 10" and still increase seating, no matter how much seats are stacked on top of each other.

Also, the video shows seating in a 2-2-2-2 configuration, with 3 aisles. Typical wide-body seating is 2-4-2, 2-5-2, 3-3-3, or 3-4-3 with 2 aisles. This implies the seats would be even narrower than current seats. And current seats are already pretty narrow for most average sized people.

Typical wide-bodies have overhead bins inboard and outboard (4 overhead bins per row). This diagram shows the outboard overhead bins, as normal, but no inboard overhead bins. There is some small space above the upper-deck seating, but none for the lower-deck seating.

In my estimation, they're cramming more passengers into narrower seats, with less luggage space.

It is an interesting video, but I want to see Numbers and Math to back up the pictures.

  • $\begingroup$ For me the maths make sense: if you have two rows of passengers on top of each other, going from 33" to 42" can still increase the total number of passengers, even taking into account the increase in aisles number. AFAIU the width of each seat is the same in the comparison: 2-2-2-2 + 3 = 3-3-3 + 2 = 11 width "units" (assuming seat and aisle approx. the same width). $\endgroup$
    – Laurent
    Aug 17 '16 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ " I'm pretty skeptical that you can increase seat-pitch by 10" and still increase seating, no matter how much seats are stacked on top of each other." Huh? Increasing the seat pitch decreases capacity by only a third; having an extra deck clearly more than compensates for that. $\endgroup$ Aug 17 '16 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ As @yitzih said, (and it is worth repeating) it is unlikely that seat-pitch would actually be increased by 30%. Rather, it is much more likely that seat-pitch would remain the same, and 30% more seats would be packed in. :) $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Aug 17 '16 at 16:55

The depicted seating configuration wouldn't fit in a typical wide body aircraft. It would require a jumbo platform, such as the 747 or 380. A wide body aircraft can only do 2+4+2 seating, whereas this configuration requires another 15" aisle. Further, this configuration appears to suggest additional walls and structural components that would increase the width.

Wide body aircraft cross section

If you move to a jumbo platform, you find they're already stacking passengers in two levels, so there's no advantage there.

Further, there isn't enough height for the elevated aisleway without significantly impinging on the aircraft backbone. You may be able to convince the aircraft company to build a widebody with two separate backbones, but that would increase weight, assembly costs, and would limit the ability to route cables, hoses, ducts, and other necessary items through the area above the cabin.

Lastly, you'd have to increase the amount of wiring, lighting, ducting, and emergency equipment to support the additional passengers. This may involve more than simply space considerations.

This doesn't even begin to approach considerations for claustrophobia, evacuation, loading, and so forth.

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    $\begingroup$ The configuration example is intetended to be for a A350. The show a side by side comparision of a 3+3+3 configuration at 1:50 in the linked video. $\endgroup$
    – Taemyr
    Aug 18 '16 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ BA has nine abreast in economy on their 777s (3+3+3). Air Canada, KLM and TAM have ten across. I don't know if you can really squeeze in this double decker layout but you can certainly get more than eight abreast. (I'm glad I don't travel in economy anymore...) $\endgroup$
    – Calchas
    Aug 18 '16 at 11:55

I could think of 2 reasons not yet mentioned by the other answers.

1) The "passenger leg room and capacity increased by 6.4%" would turn into "passenger leg room unchanged and capacity increased by 9.3%" or some such thing. If an airline can stuff you in a bit tighter, they will probably try it. So really not much would improve for the passengers.

2) Airplanes are incredibly expensive to build. Many airlines are still using airplanes that are fairly old. This would likely only be possible if the entire airplane was redesigned to fit this which would mean it would only be seen 10 years in the future at the earliest.

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    $\begingroup$ Which part of the concept requires the whole plane to be redesigned? Cabins are already designed to be reconfigured for different airline layouts. It may take some work but existing planes should be able to be modified for even the larger parts here. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Aug 17 '16 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ The seats are not fixed into the cabins; airlines are often re-arranging them and adding and removing seats of different classes to try to optimise their return. Also, every time an airliner goes through a D check the whole interior is removed down to the metal framework. $\endgroup$
    – Calchas
    Aug 17 '16 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Calchas OK, so D-checks become more expensive because there's way more cabin to remove and it would be in bigger chunks. $\endgroup$ Aug 18 '16 at 10:24

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