Take A Look At The Future Of Economy Airline Seating

Contorting your body to fit into cramped economy class airline seats is bad enough without the person seated in front of you invading your space. Reclining seats have been a point of contention amongst fliers for years and as seat pitch gets smaller, the problem has only gotten worse with some passengers even coming to blows over the issue.

Other passengers take a more passive aggressive approach. Remember this traveler who took matters into his own hands and rigged the seat in front of him so it would stay in the upright position? Or what about the Knee Defender, the invention we told you about last year, which is designed to keep airline seats from reclining?

Well, finally, someone has come up with a solution to the seat reclining dramas. The AirGo is an economy class seat designed by an engineering student for the James Dyson Award. Alireza Yaghoubi took first prize for his design concept, which aims to give fliers control over their limited seat space, even when the passenger in front of them reclines.The seats are designed with individual bulkheads, so each passenger has their own area to stow luggage. Suspended from this are the tray table and TV screen, which aren’t affected if fellow passengers recline. The seats themselves are made of a nylon mesh designed to minimize sweating and are fully customizable to suit each traveler’s posture.

While the seating concept does take up 16 percent more space than a regular economy class seat, hopefully the benefits will sway airlines to get onboard.

Check out pictures of the AirGo seat below.

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[Photo credit: Alireza Yaghoubi]

5 airlines with great in-flight services in economy class

in-flight services economy class

Last week, I spent 13 hours desperately trying to fall asleep on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to London; my economy class seat didn’t have a personal entertainment system and the cabin monitor was pitch black from my angle. The week before, my sister took a red-eye United Airlines flight from Honolulu to San Francisco without the benefit of a pillow, blanket, or snack.

For many airlines, it looks like in-flight services in economy class are going the way of liquids on board. But thankfully, there are still some airlines that understand that service, entertainment, and even a few extras are a part of the customer experience, even for the peons in coach. These five are leading the pack.

Virgin Atlantic
Not only does Virgin offer one of the best personal entertainment systems I’ve ever experienced, they also offer a uniquely British flight experience on their Heathrow-JFK service. From complimentary English publications like Hello and Tatler in the waiting room, to free toiletry kits with socks and eyeshades, to a high tea service with scones and clotted cream, the attention to detail is there.Singapore Airlines
Rated by Zagat as the best international airline for both premium and economy seating, Singapore Airlines spares no expense with their amenities, offering all passengers luxurious Givenchy socks and toothbrush/toothpaste kits. If you happen to snag a seat on their Airbus A380 (say, through this sweet deal) or Boeing 777-300ER planes, you’ll also be able to read digitized versions of publications like the Wall Street Journal and Elle Magazine on Krisworld, the airline’s award-winning inflight entertainment system.

JetBlue
Though it’s a budget airline, JetBlue’s little extras make the flying experience one of the best in the U.S. Their entertainment systems offer 36 channels of DIRECTV programming, while their complimentary snack selection runs the gamut from Terra Blues chips to animal crackers (who doesn’t love animal crackers?). Plus, their Shut-Eye Service on overnight flights from the West includes free eyeshades and earplugs, plus hot towels and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee upon arrival.

Virgin America
Yup, Virgin again. Their American cousins offer sexy dim cabin lighting, standard and USB plugs at every seat, and the ability to easily offset the carbon emissions from your flight through a credit card swipe donation to Carbonfund.org. Plus, from now until January 15, passengers on flights departing from San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston, Chicago, and New York JFK can enjoy free in-flight WiFi on new Google Chromebooks through the Chrome Zone pilot program.

Emirates Airlines
I first flew Emirates Airlines from Tokyo to Dubai when I was 12 years old, and it still sticks out as one of my favorite travel experiences. At the time, I was blown away by one of the first economy class personal entertainment systems in existence, as well as the extra Swiss chocolates snuck to me by the charming flight attendants. These days, Emirates offers 1,200 channels of programming plus telephone, SMS, and e-mail services on their ice entertainment system; regionally inspired multi-course meals with locally sourced ingredients; and cabin lighting specially designed to ease jet lag. I’m betting those chocolates are still there too.

[Flickr image via Richard Moross]

Gadling Gear Review: SOLE Softec Response Footbeds

Anyone who has ever spent a day walking around Rome, Tokyo, Paris or any other cobblestone and concrete jungle knows that comfortable shoes are essential. But sometimes your favorite shoes aren’t always the best for your feet. Or, they’ve worn a tad thin and no longer provide the comfort that you need for a long day of sightseeing, shopping and meandering on foot. That’s why insoles and footbeds can be vital pieces of gear that keep you going even after a full day on your feet. We recently tested the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds to see if they can keep our tootsies happy while pushing pavement in New York City.I chose to test the SOLE footbeds in my Converse Jack Purcell sneakers for two reasons. Firstly, they are my favorite pair of shoes and I wear them daily. Secondly, they provide little support on their own and have recently resulted in a tremendous amount of back pain. I was hoping that the SOLE footbeds could salvage my favorite pair of shoes and make them comfortably usable. If they could that that, then they’d be worth the $44.95 price tag.

The SOLE Softec Response Footbeds come in a variety of sizes and then must be cut to fit your shoes. I removed the insole from my shoes and placed them on top of the SOLE footbeds. Using the insoles as guides, I used a regular pair of scissors to cut the SOLE footbeds to fit inside of my shoes. SOLE’s instructions are careful to warn users not to cut the footbeds too small. If you leave a large gap between the footbed and the edge of the shoe, you will be uncomfortable.

In order to mold the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds, you must heat them in your oven. Thankfully, they only require a rather mild 200-degree environment, so you won’t be handling any scolding materials. The pads must be placed on a baking sheet. If you’re a clean freak, I suppose you’ll want to wrap the sheet in foil first. As you can see from the photo to the right, I let any germs and bacteria bake off in my oven.

Rather than having to guess when your footbeds are ready to be molded, they come equipped with a color-changing thermometer (see photo below). When the circle on the sticker turns black, your footbeds are ready to be served molded. The footbeds reached the appropriate temperature in under ten minutes. They were warm but not too hot to handle when I removed them from the oven and easily slid into my sneakers. I put on the shoes and then stood upright, heals back, feet shoulder-width apart for the recommended two minutes to allow the footbeds to mold to my feet.

After that, the footbeds were ready to roll. Or step. I spent the last ten days traversing New York City in my sneakers with the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds and have experienced a noticeable difference in the comfort of my shoes. My back pain has subsided, my feet feel less sore after hours of walking and the sneakers themselves seem more durable overall.

That comfort could also be attributed to the relative thinness of the footbeds, Unlike other insole products, the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds are relatively slim. This allows you to use them without making your shoes suddenly feel tight and ill-fitting.

The footbeds are partially made out of recycled materials while seemingly making no sacrifices in dependability and comfort.

Let’s get to down to the basics:

Pros:

  • Easy to cut to a customized size
  • Heating and molding takes under 15 minutes total
  • Thin footbeds maintain proper fit in shoe
  • Comfortable and durable

Cons:

  • Cutting footbeds leaves room to make an expensive mistake
  • Expensive

The SOLE Softec Response Footbeds do everything that the company promises. While the price seems high, the footbeds are said to last for roughly a year. If you extend the life of a pair of shoes for another twelve months, $45 may be much cheaper than buying a new pair of shoes. SOLE also offers a “Truth in Comfort Guarantee.” If you are unsatisfied with your SOLE product at any time, you can contact the company to arrange for a refund or exchange.

I recommend the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds if you are looking to enhance the comfort of your shoes and do a large amount of walking. If my disappearing back pain is any indication, these footbeds fulfill their promise. They are available for purchase directly from the SOLE website.

Dry and uncomfortable in your hotel room? Bring a humidfier!

While strolling through the aisles of the local Bed Bath and Beyond yesterday (which is a bad idea this time of year), I came across this fantastic little ultrasonic humidifier.

The Air-O-Swiss “AOS 7146 TRAVEL” is a tiny box, with a water bottle screw thread on top. Instead of relying on a gallon sized water container, you simply attach a regular water bottle to the top of the unit, plug in the power adapter, and it instantly starts blowing out nice humid mist.

The humidity (or lack of) in most hotel rooms has always bothered me, and I’d often wake up in the middle of the night with a dry throat, so this device just went on my Christmas list.

The AOS 7146 costs $59.99, but most people will probably have a large stack of 20% off coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond lying around, bringing the price down to a very reasonable level.

The unit comes complete with an international power adapter with foreign plugs as well as a travel bag. At just 0.7lbs, it is small and light enough to accompany you on your next trip, and hopefully make things a little more comfortable. If you don’t have a store in your area, you can order it on the Bed Bath and Beyond web site,

Small yet significant tips to make your long-haul flights better

All my life I have traveled Economy Class (only once did I get lucky and got an upgrade to Business Class). In my opinion, flights of up to 7 hours in Economy are tolerable, but more than that and the all the fidgeting and frustration starts getting to you.

Having lived in Australia for 3 years, I dreaded the 14 hour flights to and from Dubai (30 hours if you include transfers and waiting); that’s when I realized how seemingly trivial things could drastically change the quality of your flight.

MSN just published an article listing some of these small yet significant tips, of which I think these are the most important:

Be comfortable:
Wear loose, warm, long, comfortable clothes. Stick to flat shoes, preferably ones you can wear socks with. Being warm and comfortable in your clothes will change the nature of your flight. (It’s such a basic point, I don’t understand why so many people choose to make a fashion statement on board at the expense of being comfortable. Perhaps they should stop making movies that make people believe they will find “the one” mid air.)

Bring lip-balm: Even if you have never-cracking lips, on a long-haul flight darling, they will crack! I carry lip-balm everyday, everywhere I go, and always have it on a flight. Once I forgot it and my lips chapped like tree bark. (Yes, ouch). I kept going to the bathroom and putting that disgusting hand-lotion they keep in there on my lips. Didn’t work, and yuck, never again.


Trail-mix:
I never thought of carrying trail-mix on a flight, and I am queen of trail-mix! I always have some on me. Muesli, raisins, walnuts, and M&M’s. Simple, energetic, healthy, and tasty — it’s a great idea to carry some on a flight.

Meal choice on board:
I eat everything and am generally easy with food. But on a flight I always get the not-so-good option (or maybe it’s just that the other food looks better because I don’t have it?). So the MSN article suggests to ask the air host/hostess to pick for you. Why? Because they eat that food too so they have a good idea which meal is better. Doh!

Here are some other tips from my side that are also gold for long-haul flights:

Choose a plane with Video-On-Demand:
If you can watch movies whenever you want, and can start them anytime you choose, you will not realize how quickly time flies. Video-On-Demand is becoming more and more common in-flight these days, but it’s worth double checking whether your flight has it before booking.

Don’t put the hot towel on your face:
Yes, yes, I know it feels awesome, but don’t forget how your skin feels after! It gets super dry and unless you have moisturizer or very greasy skin, the towel on your face can leave your skin quite uncomfortable for a while.

Chew gum to keep your ears from blocking: Well, they will still block, but to a lesser extent if you chew gum as you take-off and when landing, so keep some handy!

Getting into Business/First Class when you have an Economy ticket:
Caution — try this at your own risk. I have never done this and cannot guarantee results, but I have a friend who does it often and he often gets away with it.

Wait till the last, last, last boarding call. Then go running in pretending you are late. When you enter the flight, everyone has taken their seat and if there are empty seats in First Class or Business Class, odds are that those seats are free. That’s when you go and sit in one of them. If you are unlucky, it could be that the passenger who should be in that seat is in the bathroom before take-off, but key is to think positively and act confident. What’s the worse thing that can happen? You will be asked to go to your seat and you will suffer 5 seconds of embarrassment. No big deal.

Hope these tips help! Happy long flight!