Paul Williams, Zoeftig CEO and president, discusses the latest trends in airport seating
The design and layout of airport terminals have evolved significantly in the past 10-20 years. The growth of new airports in developing nations and new territories has been significant, and this growth has brought to the fore the demand for a range of seating solutions, to fit the varying needs of individual customers.
Some passengers demand areas for comfort and relaxation, while for others, where dwell time is much shorter, different finishes and comfort levels are needed – it’s the job of the supplier, alongside the architects and designers, to select the right mix to meet demand.
As demand changes, new trends emerge to keep pace with this change, and there are five that really stand out. The first is an increasingly requirement for a wider range of seating configurations beyond the linear norm. These include curved configurations, cluster seating, lifestyle seating and relaxed recliner seating.
These different configurations help airports to enhance the user experience, improving comfort and adding a range of environments – be it a relaxed feel, social, private spaces, a business/working environment, or an individual table solution.
Also, the mixing of more lifestyle type products (softer furnishings, for example) with a combination of different gate seating arrangements such as curved rows or business clusters can be mixed with traditional gate seating to create a less sterile-feeling environment.
The second major trend is the recognition, by all partners in the design process, that there isn’t just one type of customer, so shouldn’t be one type of seating solution.
Historically, the concourse layout was centered on trying to pack as many seats in as possible, with rows of units the preferred option in design terms. Increasingly, airports are breaking from that model and looking at mixing different types of seating.
Airport management teams today are eager to make the whole space much more inviting by creating a lounge-style experience, experimenting with color, fabrics and different configurations.
These factors lead us on to the third major trend, which is how seating is increasingly being treating as an integral part of the fabric of the airport.
Good seating is proven to have a really positive impact on passenger satisfaction levels at airports. There’s evidence to show that customer satisfaction scores have been plummeting when airports have removed areas of seating in favor of bars, cafés and retail outlets. A key fact here is that passengers want a choice on where to sit; they don’t like to feel pressured into sitting in areas that mean they’re required to spend money.
There appears to be a strong correlation between inadequate or insufficient seating (airports getting the balance wrong) and customer dissatisfaction – ultimately leading to passengers choosing other airports if they are able to. Findings like this are vital to ensuring that designers and manufacturers strike the right balance.
One of the biggest growth areas in the past few years has been technology, and the passenger demand for 24/7 connectivity. Integrated power is something that is now being widely specified.
Much like the choice of seat available, the range of power solutions available needs to be tailored to differing environments and customer needs, be it between-seat, under-seat, in-arm, on-table, or under-table options. Alongside simply supplying the right power solution, intelligent charging (delivering optimal device rate fast-charging) is expected as passengers may only have short windows of time to recharge their devices.
The final trend that we’ve noticed in installations across the globe is the need to future-proof seating. This is achieved by installing seating solutions that enable the user to change configurations through modular components and upgradeable elements. This is an area that we predict will continue to evolve as those charged with designing airport terminals demand more dynamic and flexible solutions.
March 5, 2015