Air 4 All is a new concept that allows passengers with reduced mobility to remain in their own wheelchair for the entire flight. Jenny Southan reports
Design firm PriestmanGoode, Flying Disabled and SWS Certification have together unveiled Air 4 All, a patented design that allows airlines to increase access for passengers in wheelchairs whilst retaining the existing seat count.
Air 4 All has been initially designed for a 2+2 configuration on a narrowbody plane. The Air 4 All system is designed to convert front row seats and install a wheelchair guidance and locking system to the aircraft, allowing for up to two wheelchairs per row to travel on a single flight.
Air 4 All system is designed to be compatible with a wide range of airline seats and powered wheelchair types, and the creators are currently working with “a subsidiary of a major airline” to bring the product to market. A debut prototype of the Air 4 All system is expected in December 2021.The launch coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Air Carriers Access Act, passed by US Congress in 1986 to guarantee that people with disabilities would receive consistent and nondiscriminatory treatment when travelling by air.
Air 4 All works in a similar way to ISOFIX/LATCH standards in passenger cars. Both the airline seats and wheelchairs facilitate an installation and attachment system, enabling them to be securely installed in the aircraft cabin.
The system is designed so that different powered wheelchair types can be certified for flying and will be able to interface with a wide range of airline seats. If no wheelchairs require access, the seats function as regular airline seats.Paul Priestman, designer and chairman of PriestmanGoode, says: “Air 4 All will usher in a step change in the industry and finally offer equal access to comfort, safety and dignity for all passengers. The biggest barrier in the past has been that giving greater space to passengers in wheelchairs would have reduced seat count and resulted in a loss of revenue for airlines.
“Air 4 All solves this problem and has the added benefit of enabling airlines to retain the design of their cabin on every seat, ensuring brand consistency and a cohesive brand experience for all passengers. Air 4 All will facilitate a smoother boarding and disembarking experience for passengers with reduced mobility and will also significantly reduce the number of wheelchairs that are damaged through poor handling.”
As well as driving practical improvements to the aircraft cabin and overall aviation transport experience for severely disabled people, the team behind Air 4 All wants to “disrupt the air travel industry and create a new standard for the provision of accessible air travel”.The consortium will be working alongside Sunrise Medical to establish those powerchairs that would be fit to fly, as well as to retrofit and create new standards for powered wheelchairs, thus enabling passengers with the most challenging disabilities to travel.
Chris Wood, founder of Flying Disabled, says: “Air 4 All is the first system that has been developed jointly by a design agency, a certification body and with input from the disabled community. With a leading global wheelchair manufacturer as well as the subsidiary of a major airline on board to develop the product, it’s a truly collaborative project.
“We’re actively working with all the necessary parties, including initial discussions with some of the key National Aviation Authorities, to ensure our solution is harmonised and fit for purpose, thus significantly improving the travel experience for severely disabled passengers.”