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Modern air travel is becoming more and more unpleasant and uncomfortable as the airlines keep shrinking seat sizes in order to fit more passengers on their planes.  This is particularly true when it comes to economy class. 

However, not all airlines are taking this approach.  Many of them in fact are using new innovation to increase comfort for their passengers.  From cabin filtration systems for producing cleaner air to coach seats converting to flat beds, the following are 10 things that airlines are doing to make coach flights more comfortable and enjoyable.

Coach seats that convert into flat beds.

Via businessinsider

Usually economy class has uncomfortable cramped seats following a standard row format.  However, that is something that is starting to change.  Several airlines are introducing economy seats that convert into flat beds.  Some are taking this concept even further.

Skycouch by Air New Zealand enables a row with three economy seats to convert into a flat bed by just pushing a button.  The seat arms retract, as the seat belts lengthen and seat base extends to provide you enough space to recline. Two people are able to recline together.  You do this by lying against the wall and horizontally.  It has been dubbed "Cuddle Class."  Each seat costs the standard price, with the third shared seat going for half price.

On Air New Zealand's flights, two people in economy are able to lie down on the flat seats.

Several other airlines have copied the design of Air New Zealand.  An economy class called Family Couch is offered by China Airlines.  It has three economy seats that can be adjusted into a flatbed for accommodating friends or family.  These seats come with blankets, pillows, a mattress protector and even a toy for the youngsters.  The seats also have an in-flight entertainment system and features "Seat Chat" as well, which enables you to message with one another and share music and movies.

Air Astana offers its Economy Sleeper.  It enables passengers to have three seats in a row on a long-haul flight.  This Economy Sleeper features folding arm rests along with priority check-in, complimentary amenity kit, duvet, pillow and mattress.  The only drawback is these seats are expensive.  They cost around half of what the business class flights cost.

Airlines are designing new creative seating arrangement for economy class.

Dreaming up new ways to lay economy class seating out is something that Air New Zealand is thinking about.  Air New Zealand Space Seat, which is offered on the 777-300 Premium Economy, provides passengers with privacy and space with its couch-style, curved seats that are able to rotate to allow you to face the person who is next to you so you can share a meal.  For privacy, you can also turn away.

These seats are a great option for individuals who might need privacy for catching up on sleep or doing some work.  This seating is offered in the premium economy class, providing an option for seating that is comfortable without need to pay for a business class seat.

Economy class has more leg room.

Via businesstraveller

Lufthansa designed slimmer seats made out of mesh fiber rather than traditional foam padding.  This allows for more leg room.  Also, the magazine slits can be found on top of the seat's back, proving you with additional space for your knees.  A premium economy class is also offered featuring plenty of leg room for a slightly higher rate than the economy price.

Economy comfort class is offered by Delta Air Lines, and includes priority boarding, four additional inches of leg room, 50% more recline, with adjustable footrests and headrests.  The premium economy class seats offered by Singapore Airlines are 19 1/2 inches wide, have 8 inches of recline, and increased leg room with foot and calf rests.

Movable bases have been installed by Qantas on its A380 seats.  They recline to provide premium economy passengers with more comfortable sleep.  There is also a net below the footrest, which offers you a foot hammock that provides continued circulation flow and optimal relaxation.

Virgin Atlantic refited its Boeing 7474 airplanes flying out of Glasgow, Manchester, Gatwick and London, to include premium economy seats.  These offer seat pitch up to 38 inches and width of 21 inches.  Premium economy seats from these airlines do cost a couple hundred dollars more at least than regular economy.  However, they aren't as expensive as first class or business class.  With most airlines, this service also comes with baggage handling, boarding and priority check-in.

Even Southwest Airlines, the budget US carrier, recently added an extra 0.7 inches of extra room for their economy class seating.

Travelers are choosing their seatmates through using social networks.

KLM allows travelers to choose their seatmates through accessing social media networks.

Travelers are offered the option by KLM to choose seatmates based on connections or shared interests through LinkedIn and Facebook via its Meet and Seat program.

This program was debuted in 2012.  Passengers interested in this option connect their social profiles with their booking.  They are then given seat maps showing where others sharing their information are seated.

In-flight entertainment is improving.

Via being42

The in-flight entertainment system from Virgin America offers seat-to-seat chatting, allowing you to message with other people on the plane.  Also included are Google Maps, digital shopping, games, a music library, satellite TV and in-flight movies.  You can also order drinks and food from the system.

A similar system from Singapore Airlines includes the most recent radio programs, games, TV programs and movies.  Some even have a USB port, enabling you to use their system as a PDF reader, photo viewer or personal media player.  The system comes with language learning programs, hundreds of audio books and CD and as many as 80 movies.

Emirates offers over 1,500 channels of games, music, TV shows and movies along with the BBC's world news direct.

The Oryx Communications system from Qatar Airways allows you to choose from more than 2,000 entertainment options.  These include typical games, audio, TV shows and movies in addition to providing on-board Wi-Fi for certain flights to allow internet access as well as MMS and SMS sending.

In-flight iPad rentals are available.

Airlines commonly offer the ability for streaming content on your mobile devices or iPad.  However, some airlines are now providing in-flight iPads as well.

OpenSkies provides free iPads on its New York to Paris flights.  Qantas provides the option for streaming on your device or using their iPads.  it is offered some A330-220 aircrafts and all 2-class B717 aircrafts.

There are also several airlines offering iPads that can be rented for a fee.  Brackets have been integrated by Jetstar for iPads.  They can be rented for $8.40 and then snap on the back of the sets, offering personalized television-like screens for accessing music, e-magazines, interactive games, TV shows and movies.

You can rent an iPad for $15 from Philippine Airlines on select Middle East routes including Dubai, Riyadjh, Dammam and Abu Dhabi.  You can also rent an iPad at $15 pre-flight from Hawaiian Airlines.

The interiors of airplanes are brighter.

Some of the Boeing planes comes with ceiling panels that are lit with LEDs, making the aircraft appear brighter and larger.

Included with the Boeing Sky Interior are curving overhead bins, big ceiling panels that are lit using color LEDs, as well as LED sidewall lights that make the aircraft appear larger.

American Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines are some of the airlines adopting this model.  The color sky blue is normally used on daytime flights.  In the evening, a pink hue that resembles a sunset is used.

Breathing is made easier by filtered cabins

A state-of-the-art cooling and filtration system is installed in the airline cabins of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to provide fresher and cleaner air.  A HEPA filter is used by the system to clean out viruses and bacteria.  There is also a gas filter for ridding the air of odors.

Rather than having the typical 7,000 feet cabin pressure, the Dreamline has 6,000 feet pressurization.  Customers say that makes it easier to breathe because the air isn't as dry.

Airline moisture and pressure can affect the way foods tastes as well on a flight.  Predictions from scientists are that more moisture in the air will make the food taste better.  United, Royal Air Maroc, Air India, JAL and LAN Chile are some airlines flying the Boeing Dreamliners that come equipped with the special filter system.

 

Menus for airline meals are being created by Michelin-starred chefs.

In an attempt to make in-flight meals more appetizing, airlines are starting to introduce meals on longer fights that have been created by Michelin-starred chefs.

Singapore Airlines has a team of Michelin-starred chefs for preparing menus for all of its classes.  Their economy class menus have appetizers like a potato salad and baby shrimp, desserts such as strawberry mousse cake and entrees such as wok-fried chicken with bamboo shoots and sesame oil.

When you are flying Premium Economy, you can use the airline's Book the cook service for special ordering meals ahead of time in the event you don't like the pre-selected options that are offered.

Passengers are provided with free amenity kits

An amenity kit is just a small gesture offered by an airline, however they do really help with improving passenger comfort.  Although amenity kits are offered by most airlines to business and first class passengers, some have started to offer amenity kits to its coach passengers also.

 

Via virgin-atlantic

Virgin Atlantic offers updated amenity kits including eye shades, wipes, a pen, a toothbrush and earplugs.

 

Passengers on Singapore Airlines receive toiletry kits containing socks, toothpaste and toothbrushes.  On their Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A380 planes, you receive e-magazines, include Elle Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.  There are also complimentary writing kits and playing cards.

The Shut-Eye Service from Jet Blue on overnight flights comes with free Dunkin Donuts coffee, hot towels, earplugs and eye shades.

A Sleep Tight amenity kit is offered to all of Etihad Airways long-flight passengers.  It includes an eye mask, earplugs, a toothbrush and socks.  On longer flights, a pillow is offered that converts into a neck pillow to provide more comfortable sleeping.

Summary

There are so many ways that airlines are now making it more comfortable for their passengers, but what we can see is that essentially many of these are paid features and while they are much cheaper than first class or business class seats, they are do in many cases come with a cost.  But getting to your destination in comfort is important for quite a few travelers, especially if you have a long trip or if you have trouble sleeping on planes.  So next time you take a flight just check to see if there are any ways that they can make it a better experience.

Written by Luke Duggan — September 17, 2015

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