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Seymourpowell's Morph concept: Customizable airline seating for a price


November 18, 2013

The Morph concept would allow passengers to purchase additional sitting width

The Morph concept would allow passengers to purchase additional sitting width

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Economy airline seats have a one-size-fits-all design that seems to fit hardly anybody and often makes flights of any length into an extended exercise in discomfort. Last week, London-based design firm Seymourpowell presented Morph – a new concept economy seat for airline travel that uses stretched fabric sheets and movable supports to allow passengers to customize their seats and even purchase extra width.

Over the decades, economy class seats have kept getting smaller as airlines try to cram as many passengers as possible into "cattle class". These seats were supposedly designed around the “average” passenger, but, like many statistical constructs, this average person doesn't actually exist in any large numbers. So, according to SeymourPowell, instead of getting a seat that fits most people, it becomes one that fits almost no one.

The basic idea behind the Morph concept is a standard-design, ergonomic, economy class seat that allows for adjustment of the seat width, pan height, and pan depth without reducing seating capacity.

Seymourpowell head of transport, Jeremy White says, “Passengers who can afford premium, business or first class have a choice and hence some control over their own experience. For those who travel economy, there is a very limited choice of alternatives. Morph is a solution – a standard product that meets the needs of lots of different kinds of people.”

Instead of foam cushions, the seats consist of sheets of fabric the length of three seats, with one sheet of fabric making up the seat and another the back. These are stretched over a frame and formers press them into shape.

One obvious difference between Morph and conventional seats is that the back doesn't tilt. Instead, the formers slide backwards into the frame and the sheet reclines, so passengers behind don’t see a seat back suddenly tilting at them. Shifting the formers also allows the passenger to raise or lower the seat pan for comfort. Seymourpowell says that the design is not only more comfortable than conventional seats, but is safer and presents fewer health risks.

“A passenger’s size is only one factor;” White says. “Morph takes into account how people feel along with their emotional needs. The young female traveling alone, a mother nursing a child, an elderly or less abled passenger, or a family traveling together, all have specific needs; some desire more privacy or security, some are more vulnerable and require greater assistance, whilst others only need entertainment. These needs change too, depending on the time of day, the length of the flight and the reason behind the journey. On the way out, the passenger may need to work, whilst on the way home they may want to relax or sleep. Yet we are all shoehorned into the exact same format, one that has remained unchanged for years.”

But the concept's biggest selling feature is that the formers can slide sideways and clamp down to widen or narrow the seats. This offers passengers the chance to not only customize their seating arrangements, but also buy the amount of space they desire. People who want more space can pay for more, people who want to save money can buy less, and families can arrange a row to accommodate parents and children down to toddler size.

The idea is that passengers can buy only the space they need, sell or trade width with larger passengers, people who work while traveling, or those who desire more privacy. In addition, the three-seat economy row can be quickly changed to a two-seat premium row.

The video below shows the features of the Morph concept seat.

Source; Seymourpowell via The Verge

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

At 6'2" morph me some legroom please.

Mark A

Like we need to come up with more ideas to get them money hungry airlines to justify or even hand them ideas or excuses to increase their fares... Mark my words... when these seats become commonplace a 'normal' seat will hardly hold a child and for every cm extra you will have to pay extra. What is a normal width now will then be charged at a premium. Probably to the tune of 20% above the current price! Ideas like thus we need like a hole in the head!


ALLOW PASSENGERS TO BUY EXTRA SEATING WIDTH!! Automatically Swipes your card in your wallet. This would not work how you would even try to control this? Large people automatically take up more room, make them pay for two seats.

Furthermore all food consumption seems to have been eliminated since there isn’t even a cup holder forget about the tray!

Width is not the problem, getting in and out the seats and of course legroom. Today’s aircraft cram you into about 27 inch pitch, most armrests will fold down and if you are lucky sometimes I have had a full three seats across to lay down and sleep.

The seat incline is very limited with this approach as well, but it may actually save weight, if the frames are done right.

Bob Flint

In the example, two people buy 22" wide seats. Who's going to buy the 10" seat? Better yet when someone buys the 10", who's going to want to sit next to them? They have to spill out over their 10" width just like the 350 pound person does whenever I'm flying.


I have been envisioning something like this for years! Airlines need to adopt a price per square foot pound model and this would be the only economically viable way to do it! For people worried that this is just another way for airlines to greedily make money you disappoint me.... When airlines are able to offer more customizable options everyone is better off. Passengers get the room they need without having to pay for all the perks of a first class experience. Families are able to take up less space when traveling with children thus saving space and money. The reality of air travel is that it is a business just like anything else and needs to charge accordingly in order to stay in business.

Michael Johnson
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