Return of the Skyrider: the saddle seat returns

It is the seat of dreams. Or nightmares. And, for some reason, the Aviointeriors Skyrider “saddle seat” made a comeback at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2018. Freshly finished in a bright yellow, the seats stood out on the booth, much like passengers are expected to effectively stand when using them. Perhaps the best news, however, is that they are incredibly unlikely to ever fly on a commercial aircraft.

Comparing the 2010 and 2018 versions of Skyrider: Minor tweaks but substantially the same product
Comparing the 2010 and 2018 versions of Skyrider: Minor tweaks but substantially the same product

Skyrider is not new. It first floated at trade shows in 2010, promising a lighter seat and significantly increased passenger count on board. Aviointeriors suggests up to 20% more passengers in a mixed class configuration. At 23 inches of pitch the number could potentially be even higher, but airlines will almost certainly need to keep some “normal” seats on board, whether around the exit rows or to help accommodate passengers who don’t fit in the Skyrider. Also, with a goal of increased segmentation having normal seats for passengers to buy up into means even better revenue for the airline.

Skyrider certification challenges

Before airlines start their Scrooge McDuck dreams of the increased revenue the Skyrider can deliver, however, the question of certification must be answered. Nearly a decade on from conception all indications appear to still point strongly negative on that issue. It is highly unlikely that Skyrider ever flies commercially.

The 2010 version of the Aviointeriors Skyrider looks slightly different but most of the same challenges remain
The 2010 version of the Aviointeriors Skyrider looks slightly different but most of the same challenges remain

To be certified for commercial service an aircraft seat must pass a number of regulatory requirements. Sufficiently protecting the head during a 16G event, for example, requires softer edges around the headrest so a sharp corner doesn’t break a passenger’s face. The seats must also allow sufficient space for passengers to get out to the aisle and head clearance from the bins service console above.

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Seats must accommodate travelers of various heights, keeping them properly belted in during a flight. That last issue may prove to be the hardest for Aviointeriors to overcome with the Skyrider product. The shape of the seats accommodate passengers of a certain height. Unfortunately the limited adjustments offered make it essentially unusable for shorter travelers. And for taller passengers the support is in the wrong places.

Finally, aircraft are certified for a maximum passenger count based on evacuation requirements. Typically the aircraft meets that number with 28″ pitch throughout the cabin. Exceeding it would require significant changes from the manufacturers and is unlikely to come to fruition. Presumably a carrier with Skyrider installed would max out on total passenger count and then offer more legroom for passengers in the “regular” seats as a premium offering. Still, the total count hits a limit well before an airline would sufficiently differentiate to gain the extra revenue.

A glimmer of hope for Skyrider

While certification remains unlikely on an international scale there is potential for a smaller country with a large domestic aviation market to consider such. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and India spring to mind as places with massive domestic airline operations where higher density seating is more generally accepted by consumers. Those markets also continue to see passenger counts grow at a significant pace.

Another v1 shot from 2010. Clearance to get in and out of the row is spectacularly tight.
The significant air traffic growth in these markets could encourage regulators to give Skyrider a pass

Airspace and airport congestion management will hinder growth at some point and allowing these seats to fly on the shorter trips could delay that massive infrastructure challenge a few years. It is not impossible, even if it remains incredibly unlikely. Especially because of the maximum aircraft passenger count.

Ultra high density seating means airlines can charge less for tickets, at least in theory. And on the shortest flights the comfort factor might not be too awful, though that remains debatable. Actually conducting that debate mostly seems a waste of time, however, given the near certainty that Skyrider won’t certify and fly.

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Seth Miller has over a decade of experience covering the airline industry. With a strong focus on passenger experience, Seth also has deep knowledge of inflight connectivity and loyalty programs. He is widely respected as an unbiased commentator on the aviation industry. He is frequently consulted on innovations in passenger experience by airlines and technology providers. You can connect with Seth on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .