Groundbreaking plane seat design will allow passengers to stay in their wheelchairs

Developed by Delta Air Lines and Air4All, the fold away seat will be able to accommodate motorised wheelchairs

Air4All and Delta Air Lines has created a seat prototype that will allow passengers to remain in their wheelchairs on flights. Photo: Air4All
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Delta Air Lines has unveiled a new accessible plane seat designed to accommodate passengers in motorised wheelchairs.

The US airline has partnered with UK company Air4All to create the prototype, which will allow passengers to remain in their own power wheelchair on flights – which has not been possible before due to space restrictions.

Currently, power chair users are often lifted in and out of their seats and transported onto planes in narrow wheelchairs while their own is placed in cargo.

“Commercial aviation is the only mode of transport that has no regulations to allow power wheelchair users to travel safely and with dignity seated in their own chair in an aircraft cabin,” Air4All said on its website.

“Airlines have been resistant to provide a wheelchair space as this would result in a loss of seat count.”

However, the new chair prototype, unveiled at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, this week, will change that.

When the space it not in use by wheelchair users, it will operate as an ordinary seat. However, when required, it can be collapsed down and easily packed away and adapted to create a secure area where a motorised wheelchair can fit.

A video demonstrating the new chair in action was shared on Twitter by aviation journalist Seth Miller, who described it as “the star of the show”.

While the prototype sparked excitement at this week’s expo, it’s likely to be some time before the seats are in use commercially.

In a statement, Delta said the product was still in the "early development stage", and needed to undergo stringent safety and regulatory reviews, likely to take at least 18 months.

"Delta will keep a keen eye on the progress of this concept being driven by our subsidiary – as we are always looking for ways to improve the travel experience for all customers," it said.

Updated: June 09, 2023, 10:04 AM