Air Lair is a personal cocoon for the passenger with a double-decker configuration allowing for 30% more passengers within the same space. Within this enclosed environment the passenger is able to control their own personal space without disturbing other passenger or, for that matter, being disturbed by other passengers. Strategically placed lighting is used to set the mood, while an over-head projector provides the entertainment, and ergonomically designed lay-flat seat provides the comfort.
Adam White, Director of Factorydesign, describes the process of imagining the cabin more like a honeycomb than a grid.
“When we were approached by Contour, now owned by Zodiac, to come up with ideas that led to the Air Lair concept, they specifically wanted us to create something outside the ordinary, something that would be new. But at the same time, we knew we wanted something that we felt had a genuine intelligence in terms of [use of space].” This is what Factorydesign accomplished with the Air Lair, nesting the upper passenger between the lower passengers, not one right above the other, making the overall height of the pod a viable structure to fit in an airplane.
Is the Air Lair awkward to get into? That was the first thing we asked. White says, not really. “Drivers quickly adapt to getting in and out of a Ferrari, if they’re lucky enough, or a van, or large 4X4. The seat heights of those more extreme vehicles are not dissimilar to the seat heights of the upper and lower positions of the Air Lair.” Factorydesign considered this seating process suitable and acceptable, when weighed against the benefits of passenger distribution.
White acknowledges the Air Lair seats are not suitable to all passengers, such as passengers with mobility restrictions. In fact, the firm considered these limitations in their proposal, and emphasized that the Air Lair seat was not a sole cabin option. As White explains: “Our recommendation was that this should be used in conjunction with standard First or Business seats.”
Factorydesign proposed another future trend when developing the Air Lair: eliminating cabin class. A number of designers have pointed out that the idea of passengers seated by class is outdated. They suggest cabins should move to sections dedicated to passenger needs instead: cabins for families, cabins for those flying to work, luxury cabins and cabins for singles, etc. White calls these zones.
“You would have an A-Zone, a B-Zone, maybe down to five or six different zones in an aircraft. [The Air Lair] would be a restricted zone and it’s restricted because the nature of the seating is different and therefore the activity is different. You would only want to be in an Air Lair pod if you wanted to have no contact with other passengers. It’s a seat for single people. It is a private space.” Besides, the Air Lair was a concept seat. But, as White tells us, Factorydesign took (and takes) the concept seriously and considers it technically viable.
“It is correct that we were asked to do a purely conceptual design,” White says, “but for us, unless there was a possibility that it could be made..a degree of realism to the packaging and engineering, then it wouldn’t be something we would have wanted to pursue. When we created the design, we did a short investigation of how it would fit into aircraft on layout.”
“We did studies and found out it gave us a higher density than standard First Class seats in a like-for-like cabin space. It is a concept, but the Factorydesign codename for that project was: ‘This might just fly!’ We felt that any concept that we do has to be about having a vision and not just wild ideas.”
For anyone still concerned about being stacked on top of each other in the equivalent of flying bunkbeds, Orson has this to say: “Passengers should be reassured that there are a lot of checks and balances before any radical seat designs can make it onboard.” We already had bunkbeds (berths) on planes, back in the ‘Golden Age’ of aviation. More recent stringent safety standards waved those dubious concepts goodbye.