Have you ever sat in a $200,000 chair that’s been laboured over by a team of high-paid engineers and designers? You mightn’t think so, but you have if you’ve ever flown before – those padded, reclining miracles can cost well in excess of $200,000 each! That’s a long way from the wicker chairs used in early commercial flights.

This article presents some of the greatest innovations in seat design that have drastically improved commercial flights. Keep these innovations in mind when booking your economy or business class airfares – specialist travel booking services such as FCm Travel Solutions can let you know if the airline you’re choosing has the latest and greatest technology.


The 1953 Lockheed Constellation was one of the first commercial aircraft to feature innovations in seating design that increased passenger comfort. Prior to the Constellation, seats on commercial aircraft were made of wicker or solid wood and were similar in comfort levels to porch furniture. The seats in the Constellation were heavenly in comparison, featuring overstuffed foam cushioning and recline functions.

Comfort has continued to be a significant area of innovation, with airlines competing to offer the most comfortable solution. There have been a number of solutions developed that put passengers in their own pods with private entertainment systems and oversized, sofa-like, fully reclining chairs. However, many of these luxury comfort options come with a price tag that means they’re unthinkable for most budget-conscious travellers.

Arguably, the greatest innovation in comfort has been Air New Zealand’s Cuddle Class chairs. This chair converts a row of three economy-class chairs in to a love-seat. Cuddle Class is great for stretching out or making play spaces for children. As it’s an economy solution, it’s also within reach for the average traveller.


Early inflight entertainment was fairly sketchy. The airlines considered your meal and drinks as substantial entertainment, so passengers had to rely on their own books or magazines. A projector was occasionally set up at the front of the plane during long flights.

The first real innovation came in 1985 when passengers were first offered personal audio players. Modern inflight entertainment really started to take off in the nineties, when communal TV screens increased in popularity before being surpassed by in-seat audio/video on demand systems.

The KrisWorld entertainment system offered by Singapore Airlines is arguably the pick of the bunch now. It’s built in to the chair and features internet access, over 80 movies, 180 TV programs, and a dozen radio channels.

Layout and Configurations

A lot of thought has gone in to how seats are arranged in the aircraft. It’s not just about comfort – improved seating configurations can increase capacity, resulting in a reduction in ticket costs. There are solutions that drastically change the layout of the plane that have not caught on though, such as creating a second story of seats or mimicking the face-to-face seating style of military aircraft.

The Thompson Aero Cozy Suite incorporates a simple innovation that greatly improves the configuration. Each chair in the row is slightly staggered, so that passengers do not sit directly next to each other. This gives passengers a little more privacy, without using more space than traditional, straight rows.

These are the innovations in seat design that greatly increased comfort, entertainment and capacity. Have you encountered a unique seat on a plane that made the trip a lot more enjoyable? Let us know in the comments.

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