Economy airline seat morphs into business suite

Butterfly seat design wins passenger innovation award

For the last few years, airline interior designers have been inventing new ways to cram more passengers into an airline cabin.

But the winner of an airline industry award for innovation broke from that tradition with an economy seat that converts to a comfy business-class suite.

The Butterfly design is a set of two economy seats, slightly offset from each other. The two seats can become one business class suite when the seat back on the window-side seat is flipped down, creating a flat couch area. It also reveals extra storage space above and below the seat.

The designer, James Lee of Hong Kong-based PaperClip Design, said the design lets carriers add capacity by turning business class suites into economy seats, if demand calls for it.

“Airlines will be able to boost capacity by up to 30% in some cases when facing extreme situations such as right after a snowstorm when thousands are stuck at the airport, which is good news for both airlines and passengers,” he said.

Lee said several airlines have shown interest in the seat but none have announced plans to install it.

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