Saturday, December 24, 2016

Passengers can expect more comfortable flights and it's not because of the seats

Air travel in the future should be a lot more comfortable for passengers despite economy airline seats that are getting more cramped.

The newer jets that are coming online in the next few years will create a cabin atmosphere that mimics a lower altitude and keeps the air inside the cabin more humid than current planes.

Passengers can experience the more comfortable conditions on some newer planes already in use, such as the Boeing 787. But fliers should notice the changes more often now that the airline industry is going through an airplane-buying spree while profits are high and demand for air travel continues to grow.

“As planes come on board, people are going to find air travel much more comfortable,” said George Hobica, founder of the travel comparison site

The reason for the improved conditions is directly related to the new composite materials used to build the new plane frames.

To reduce the stress on the traditional metal frame, airlines now pressurize the cabin to be closer to the pressure outside. When a plane is cruising at 36,000 feet above sea level, the atmosphere inside the cabin feels like its 8,000 feet above sea level. For passengers, that can cause shortness of breath and fatigue.

But with new fuselages made of stronger, more flexible carbon-reinforced plastic composites, the plane can withstand more stress, allowing airlines to increase the inside pressure to a more comfortable atmosphere that feels like 6,000 feet above sea level.

Also, the new frame material is more resistant to corrosion, which means airlines can keep the atmosphere in the cabin more humid, reducing the dry eyes and parched throats suffered by passengers.

Boeing officials say flying is also becoming more pleasant because many of the newer planes, including the 777X, will have larger windows and wider cabins.

“Every day we are going to have more and more of these planes that offer this experience in service,” said Kent Craver, Boeing’s regional director for cabin experience and revenue analysis. “It’s something we have created that is important to the customers we serve.”

(Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times)

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