Wheelchair users and those who travel with passengers with reduced mobility know the challenges of flying – and how often things go wrong. But now there’s great news about an airplane seat that will let wheelchair users stay in their wheelchairs for their flights.
Aviation industry experts say that the number of mobility assistance requests at airports doubled in the last 5 years, with the number of wheelchair requests increasing by over 30% in just one year prior to the pandemic. And 55% of air passengers in wheelchairs say the biggest single cause of concern when flying was the fear of their wheelchair being damaged or lost.
Delta Air Lines’ flight product division is debuting a prototype of a groundbreaking advance – a one-of-its-kind airplane seat that lets passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) using powered wheelchairs stay seated in their own wheelchair for their entire journey.
No awkward transfers. No stowing your wheelchair in the baggage compartment and hoping it’s still all in one piece on arrival. No stress for passengers with reduced mobility who want the simple privilege of travel with dignity.
Delta has partnered with a consortium of industrial design, accessibility, air travel experience and regulation companies and organizations – called Air4All – all committed to bringing dignity in air travel to everyone.
They’ve patented a seat that converts a standard commercial passenger airplane seat to an accommodation for wheelchair restraint. It provides PRM’s access to a headrest, center console tray table or cocktail table – all of which adjust to serve passengers with their personal powered wheelchairs in place.
It means all the passengers on the plane can travel in comfort and safety.
“An innovation like this in air travel provides those with reduced mobility a safe and comfortable way for them to travel and remain in their own power wheelchair,” said the founder of Flying Disabled.
Implementation of the seat will also facilitate a more seamless and timely boarding and disembarking experience for PRM’s - and by extension, for other passengers and airline and airport staff.
The seat has a realistic chance of being implemented by airlines, too, since it was specifically developed to ensure it doesn’t require aircraft cabin redesign or a reduction in seat numbers.
It has already won innovation and accessible design awards. Testing and certification programs to install the seat will begin once it’s certified.
Air4All’s new partnership with Delta brings the innovative new seat one step closer to air travel reality. The head of Delta Flight Products acknowledged the seat “offers new possibilities for customers in wheelchairs to enjoy a travel experience they truly deserve.”