With Paralympic athletes competing in London this week, the designers at Priestmangoode took the opportunity to rethink air travel for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM). The Air Access concept contains two elements: a wheelchair that can transport passengers onto and off the plane, and a fixed-frame aisle seat on the aircraft which can be mated to the wheelchair to create a regular airline seat.
Access to and from an airplane seat can be an awkward experience for any traveller, but when David Constantine, co-founder of international development organization Motivation, gave a talk at the Priestmangoode offices, the designers decided that something needed to change and that mobility challenges for PRM should be addressed. With over 15 years experience designing aircraft interiors, Priestmangoode is especially interested in the passenger journey—we've written about their Moving Platforms concept focused on getting people to their final destinations more seamlessly and if you've recently been in-cabin on Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, SWISS, Kingfisher, Qatar or Malaysia Airlines you'll be familiar with their work.
Air Access addresses the needs of 20% of the United Kingdom's adult population with some form of disability or mobile difficulty. The two-part design allows for:
- Ground services staff to assist the passenger into the Air Access wheelchair seat in the departure gate or on the jetway, where there is ample space to manoeuvre.
- When seated, the passenger is wheeled onto the plane.
- Once onboard, the wheelchair's 360-degree pivoting wheels enable it to be slid sideways into the fixed-frame aisle seat without the passenger needing to get up.
- When the two elements are positioned, they are locked together for the duration of the flight.
- The chair has a removable seat pad. Many passengers with serious disabilities, for instance spinal injuries, need to sit on their own purpose-designed cushions. Passengers can customise the Air Access seat to suit their individual needs.
- Passengers need only to unlock their seat and wheel to access the nearest toilet.
- On arrival, ground staff simply unlock the wheelchair seat, slide it out into the aisle and wheel the passenger to the jetway or arrival gate.
- Once there, the passenger returns to his or her own wheelchair or zimmer frame, or transfers into the airport's wheelchair.
More importantly, the concept could be seamlessly integrated into existing aircrafts without compromising seating space for carriers. The Air Access seat could be installed in every aisle seat of the aircraft and anyone can sit in the seat. As Paul Priestman notes, "As designers we strive to improve things, not just for the immediate future, but for the long-term. A demographic shift is sweeping across Europe: the population is ageing, life expectancy is increasing, obesity levels are rising and PRMs account for a larger proportion of the population than ever before. Air Access is a much-needed concept for the future of airline travel that will provide a pleasant experience for passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility."