words mary von aue | images boeing
Airline innovation is becoming more and more bizarre in its quest to deliver sleep. Personal space continues to shrink in the economy section, so the industry feels ripe for a game-changing gadget that will replace that once beloved commodity known as comfort. While we wait for the heroic invention to arrive, let’s sit back (but no more than 4 inches) and watch these contraptions unfold:
Remember the “Ostrich Pillow” that looked like a 19th century diving helmet made out of recycled sweatpants? It even comes with the extra perk of ensuring no one will want to talk to you on the flight.
As disturbing as the orb looked, it at least didn’t inconvenience other passengers like the “b-tourist,” which essentially was a tube scarf wrapped around two chairs. Sure, it let the user sleep on a suspended piece of fabric (the luxury!) but it also kept other passengers from being able to leave their seat. This 3-foot piece of fabric is the nightmare of window-seaters everywhere.
You may have tried the knee defender before it was banned or the bizarre neck brace known as the UpRight Sleeper. In a sea of inventions so bad you wouldn’t even find them in a SkyMall (RIP), Boeing thinks it can offer a solution. No, the solution isn’t more legroom, chairs that actually recline, or a seat spacing that exceeds 30 inches. Boeing thinks it can solve the sleep problem with another wacky innovation.
The company recently patented a sleep support system that unfolds into what looks like a massage chair. The device can be kept in a backpack stowed under the airline seat in that space where you used to keep your legs. Once removed from the backpack, adjustable support straps connect to the top of your seat so that you can lean forward on a headrest and sleep face down.
Many have voiced concerns about the patent. The headrest raises sanitary concerns and many are just unwilling to give up more legroom. There’s a good chance that the patent never makes it to the plane, but then these ideas seem like a lot of effort for a problem that can be solved with a little extra space (and wine.)