APEX 2013: Recaro chief says comfort is high on priority list

Dr Mark Hiller (pictured), chief executive of Recaro, says that safety is the first priority for a passenger's inflight experience, but the next up is comfort.

He joked that most people think that economy cabins and comfort don't go well together, adding that comfort is all about perception.

"Comfort is a psychological experience," said Hiller. "It is about the passenger's total well-being and relaxation. Discomfort comes about from pain and fatigue. We need to work hard on many ergonomic factors to overcome that. But the aircraft cabin is a very expensive space and we need to use it wisely to make the most of it.

"Passengers normally want to do what they do at home – relax, read watch TV or sleep. But in business class they only have one square metre in which to do it, and in economy they have even less. There are a lot of other limitations too – we have to fit a lot of equipment in the seat, we don't have much aisle width and we have to limit the height of the seat so that the cabin crew can see down the cabin. We also have to allow for under-seat space as well, plus maximise the safety aspects of the seat and cabin," he said.

Recaro invests more than one third of its budget on safety factors and extensive testing is completed with crash test dummies, just as it is in the automotive industry. Its slimline seat has been designed to decrease the amount of space it takes up, so giving an extra two inches back to the passenger. By moving the literature pocket up from the knee area you can also increase the amount of space available to the passenger. Slimline seats also mean that airlines can add more too.

But what about making the seat comfortable for passengers trying to sleep? "You have to support people in all the right places and get the body angles right to ensure that no tension is created by the seat," said Hiller.

He said that modern aircraft seats now have more than 200 parts and all seats are different – depending on whether they are on the left, the right, a front row, a back row or an exit. The permutations are never ending.

Recaro has also spent a lot of time integrating support for the latest technology into the seat. The need for 5V USB power and higher voltages for laptops has grown in recent years.

He says that in the future, aircraft seats will also look more like home furniture. "Gone will be the 'technical look' and more aesthetic designs will start to make their way," he concluded.

Recaro has 1,700 employees in five sites and concentrates on luxury seats for both Airbus and Boeing. It is the only car seat brand name that is known widely by the public.

Steve Nichols, Inflight / Inflight-Online.com
Anaheim, CA, USA

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