Delta Air Lines is taking a major step toward making travel more accessible for all. Insider reports that Delta Flight Products – a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines – and Air 4 All – consortium based in the UK – are collaborating to launch a first-of-its kind seating option for wheelchair users.
As of right now, airlines require electric wheelchair users to use a wheelchair distributed by the airline when navigating the airport and boarding their flight. Once they make it on to their flight, travelers must make one more transfer from their airline-issued wheelchair to their seat on the aircraft.
Not only is this process tedious, but it is known to have detrimental outcomes for travelers’ personal wheelchairs. When not in use, personal wheelchairs are checked by the airline and put into cargo hold. Unfortunately, there are horror stories of chairs getting damaged in transit. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s February 2023 Air Travel Consumer Report, 11,389 wheelchairs were mishandled by U.S. airlines in 2022.
The proposed seats by Delta and Air 4 All would eliminate this, however, by allowing passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) to remain in their chair for the entirety of their travel experience.
The patented seat features intentionally designed features that would allow it to convert into a space that can fit a wheelchair. The back cushion of the seat is removable and the seat itself can flip upward, which will then easily allow a wheelchair to fit into the space and be securely attached. Wheelchair users will still have access to a headrest, center console tray tables, and a cocktail table. The 2022 Crystal Cabin shortlisted design can also be used by a non-wheelchair user if a PRM passenger is not onboard.
British design studio PriestmanGoode, consultancy Flying Disabled, wheelchair manufacturer Sunrise Medical, and cabin certification company SWS Certification make up Air 4 All. Because the design was created by organizations that work closely with the disabled community, the thoughts, opinions, and suggestions of people within the community directly influenced the partnership and the seat’s creation.
“Offering equal access to comfort, safety, and dignity for all passengers has always been our objective for Air 4 All,” PriestmanGoode director Daniel MacInnes said in a press release.
Chris Wood, founder of Flying Disabled noted that “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.” Air 4 All’s seats, however, don’t require any reconfiguration to the aircraft and don’t impede on other seats.
“Air 4 All will facilitate a smoother boarding and disembarking experience for PRMs and will also significantly reduce the number of wheelchairs that are damaged through poor handling,” Wood said.
For more information visit air4all.net.