If any design idea should be tossed straight in the trash – especially in a pandemic world – this is it.
Introducing: The most horribly painful travel innovation since the Penny Farthing – an inward-facing configuration known as the “Flex Lounge” where four passengers face each other on an airplane.
Let’s file this, right under sneakers, and Vegemite 2.0 as things we never asked for and don’t want.
Designed by German aviation company, Heinkel Group, before Covid hit in 2020, they were still so confident in their design that they entered it into a competition. I would call them delusional, but they were pre-screened for their issues.
I have to ask, what other models have been entered? A two-seater without armrests? A bed in flight with nails?
The Heinkel Group explained their motivation behind the unfortunate design on Facebook as something positive, writing
“Our concept, the Flex Lounge, gives the possibility of reserving the first two rows of seats and making it your own little private space. Your time together begins after takeoff!
And although they stipulated it was for family and friends, I have to wonder if they understand how basic relationships work?
Because, if you’re a family, you know someone – most likely a child – is going to yell “bags aren’t sitting upside down!” and then they will fight with another child for the rest of your 18 hour flight, or until the child with the weakest belly vomits on you after sitting back.
As for friends, sure, that might be tolerable if you’re traveling from Hamburg to Paris — that’s 1 hour and 40 minutes of zero screen time, just the aggressive level of intimacy that comes from staring at each other nonstop . And maybe you like it.
But what happens when you travel from Melbourne to Paris? Friends don’t let friends stay awake on long-haul flights. What’s the result when you’re two deep sleepers and you accidentally lean so far forward that you fall?
What happens when one of those sneaky people – you know the type – those who have no concept of personal space on buses and trains – decides to make the little four-seater their home ? And you’ve reserved the seat across from them.
Congratulations, you can now see “Rodney” gulping down his defrosted beef stew between big gulps of hot red wine and intricate descriptions of his hobby train.
You try to smile pleasantly, but you’re hit in the face by an overpowering smell. Did Rodney break the wind? You wish. It’s his burp, slowly dripping from his mouth, like noxious gas escaping from a power station.
Call me judgment, but to paraphrase John Lennon’s song for world peace, To imagine, “I’m not the only one” – many people on social networks also expressed their disgust for this.
Emily Harding tweeted, “I’d rather be put in the hold than have to sit like this on a plane.” And she’s not wrong – at least in the baggage compartment you would have privacy.
billysbrain wrote on Instagram: “Awesome, now I can look into the panicked, desperate eyes of a complete stranger as the nose of our plane plunges towards Earth.”
But it’s the Instagram commenter, eddymesh’s very valid question that may hold the key to next year’s design winner.
“Are people’s faces going to play my movie?”
It is a conception that we could adopt.