Have you ever sat in your favorite chair thinking; it doesn’t feel as comfortable today? Have you ever dismissed a potential new chair or a sofa as uncomfortable without even trying it? Why is that? 

When we enter a space, we unconsciously make an assumption about its level of comfort based on things like colours and materials used. Comfort is not only associated with haptics – touch and feel, but also visual aesthetics – whether something looks soft or rigid for example. Comfort will additionally be affected by the positioning of a seat within the space – whether it’s facing a window, a TV or a wall. 

In transport, passenger perception of comfort will vary from one person to another. It is often dependant on a number of attributes of the seat. But it’s also influenced by the overall travel experience and the emotions accompanying the passenger at that particular time.   

Additionally, since the covid pandemic, passenger expectations have grown beyond the simple aspect of comfort. Airline customers have grown to expect things like enhanced cleanliness of their seats and cabin in general. Not forgetting a growing emphasis on sustainability in the form of reducing the need to use Earth’s finite resources.  

The definition of comfort

The feeling of comfort relates to an emotional response meaning we all interpret it slightly different. In fact, what is comfortable to someone may not be to another, as everybody’s size, shape, touch and sensitivity will be different.  

When travelling this is also impacted by emotions i.e. excitement, tiredness, stress. Those emotions make our bodies react in different ways. And, while airlines aim to maintain optimal temperature in an aircraft, some passengers may feel hot or cold again, impacting their overall level of comfort.   

Can material alone make a seat comfortable? 

The truth is, when you’re sat down, you don’t experience the material alone. Material in transport seats (but not only) is fixed directly atop a foam cushion attached to a structure. Foams have a huge overall impact on comfort as they differ in density and thickness. 

In aviation (and public transport seating in general), material selection decisions are almost never made on comfort alone. They take into consideration other important aspects, such as material performance, weight, its overall cost and how easy it is to maintain and more.   

Indeed, silk is a nice, soft, luxurious material which represent comfort but is it suitable for passenger transportation? No, it is fragile, it would require much maintenance. Its cost of ownership would be too high to be a viable seating material for an aircraft.   

How transport operators select their seating materials?

This varies with respect to each operator and airline, but in general we find the conversation centres around some key areas:   

  • Haptics  
  • Cleanability and hygienic properties 
  • Sustainability 
  • Durability and performance capabilities 
  • Design flexibility 
  • Weight 
  • Cost of ownership 

 In recent times, sustainability (focusing primarily on carbon and waste reduction), has become increasingly important to airline operators. Customer expectations have also expanded across all areas of travel – from service, to seating – and include anything from comfort to environmental impact.   

Cleanability on long and short haul flight

Different materials are of different natures when it comes to cleaning. Coated materials are easily cleaned on wing, whereas fabrics usually require removal from the seat before cleaning. This adds cost – manhours, availability of spare covers, off site cleaning.  

 In terms of operator expectations, there is not much difference between short and long-haul flights. Perhaps there is more potential for spillages on a longer flight impacting the overall cleanliness of the seat. 

 We see short-haul flight operators looking to switch to coated solutions to help with shorter turnaround times between flights. Whereas long-haul flyers additionally consider how a material looks and performs, especially after prolonged periods of use. Early signs of material stress such as sagging or bagging are undesirable. Those operators are looking for the same level of cleanability but also a quality appearance that lasts. 

Comfort of ELeather

In aviation, ELeather is primarily recognised for its performance, lighter weight (leading to reduced cost of ownership) and sustainability (high-level of recycled content and reduction in carbon emissions amongst other).  

As an airline passenger, however, you’re more likely to be drawn to its leather-like appearance and comfort. Since ELeather is made with recycled traditional leather fibres it retains a lot of leather properties with the added benefit of improved performance and longevity.  

ELeather is THE sustainable, high-performance leather alternative.  

In transport, comfort is about finding the right balance between the different materials that make up a seat. To provide a space where passengers can relax and enjoy the experience. A space that feels personable but can be easily cleaned and maintained between passengers and flights.