This Airplane Design Enables Travelers To Fly in Wheelchairs — Without Reducing Seats

published Nov 27, 2022
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The airline industry has a long way to go when it comes to wheelchair accessibility. Upon boarding a plane, wheelchair users are lifted out of their own chairs into a slimmer model built to fit in between plane aisles, before being lifted into an already uncomfortable airplane seat that hasn’t been altered to accommodate disabled travelers whatsoever.

After all that, disabled passengers also face a disproportionate risk of having their wheelchairs damaged or lost altogether. According to the Department of Transportation’s 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report, U.S. airlines mishandled 7,148 wheelchairs last year (which translates to about 20 per day).

But thanks to a new design, air travel could finally become far more welcoming and accessible for all. Created by the UK travel design firm PriestmanGoode in collaboration with the nonprofit Flying Disabled, Air4All would enable travelers to fly in their wheelchairs — without reducing a plane’s total number of seats in the process.

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“Air4All will usher in a step-change in the industry and finally offer equal access to comfort, safety, and dignity for all passengers,” said Paul Priestman, Designer and Chairman of PriestmanGoode, in a statement. “The biggest barrier in the past has been that giving greater space to passengers in wheelchairs would have reduced seat count and resulted in a loss of revenue for airlines. Air4All solves this problem and has the added benefit of enabling airlines to retain the design of their cabin on every seat, ensuring brand consistency and a cohesive brand experience for all passengers.”

The Air4All design can be installed under a folding seat in the first row of the plane, allowing a wheelchair user to arrive in their chair, click onto the patented track via a small bracket added to the chair, and remain there securely from the plane’s takeoff to landing.

Right now, Air4All is still working with airlines to make this design’s implementation a reality. However, in September, Fast Company reported that PriestmanGoode is currently working with a “subsidiary of a major airline” to install Air 4 All on flights moving forward.