James Park’s stacked sleeper bed revealed!

As someone who has great trouble sleeping, I am a fan of anything that can facilitate this basic of human needs. Warm milk, hot baths, sleepy time tea, prescription meds, I try them all in search of what is sometimes an ellusive goal. But even the heaviest dose of narcotics won’t put me to sleep if I’m sitting uncomfortably upright in an economy-class seat. That’s why I’m so excited about some of the new seating concepts being explored by major design firms.

These companies are working under a pretty tough edict from airlines – make new coach seats that are ultra-light and inexpensive but also a heck of a lot more comfortable than what is currently on offer.

This week we checked out the novel staggered seat approach being pursued by Thompson Solutions, and heard from Lufthansa Technik about its plan for a “revolutionary” new economy-class seat. I’ve talked to a number of other designers about their plans in advance of my interiors feature for Flight’s 16 December “festive issue”.

Among these, however, a concept from design firm James Park Associates (JPA) – known for its JAL Suite and the award-winning SIA A380 biz class seat – has really caught my attention. It’s a stacked sleeper bed, which was designed by the firm in 2001 but is only now being revealed!

Okay, the design was made for a business-class cabin, BUT stacked sleeper seats in economy is not out of the question, as one engineering firm in the DC area has discovered. I’ll be at liberty to discuss that solution when my feature is released, but until then check out the JPA design and tell me if you don’t think stacked sleepers can become a reality for us poor sods in the back of the bus. Then read on for some key quotes from James about the seat (we’ll hear more from him later about a new econo-seat design that JPA is currently pursuing).

JPA stacked sleeper 1.JPG

JPA stacked sleeper 2.JPG

JPA stacked sleeper 3.JPG


Key Quotes from designer James Park:

With respect to the stacked sleeper bed idea –

“We developed a stacked sleeper bed concept in 2001 and I think that it’s quite an interesting idea because it could make a lot of difference to how the airframe is constructed. It certainly has its attractions. It could save a lot of cost on the construction of the fuselage, and make much better, fuller use of the aircraft design and the available interior space.”

“One of the challenges, however, is how to get in and out of a stacked sleeper seat in an elegant way. How do you make it so that people wouldn’t feel awkward getting into the upper seat and out again. And how do you perceive the space – might it feel very claustrophobic?”

“Actually, there have been trains that had two tier sleepers that were quite good. The concept we developed showed that it is possible to design stacked sleeper beds for aircraft, but the question remains, would passengers feel comfortable using it? And, whilst our concept worked very nicely, it was non the less an exercise in creativity, rather than a short or medium term, business-led solution.”

I think if something like that were to be adopted it would have to be done at the time a new aircraft is on the drawing board in order to exploit the real  structural and special benefits. Keeping in view the distribution of cool air, and with the spine down the centre of the plane, lighting, wiring, the need for structural supports for the upper seats etc – too much would need to be changed or modified within an existing airplane.”

“What our stacked sleeper concept did highlight for me, however, was that it is possible to get much more out of the space that is allocated to each passenger and a more effective use of the interior volume if we can take a more radical approach to design solutions. I think that, given the way the industry is structured, the more aviation companies can cooperate in the development of innovative interiors, the more sense it makes in terms of getting a better result. It also means that, at the end of the day, the passenger gets better service.”


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15 Responses to James Park’s stacked sleeper bed revealed!

  1. Andreas December 5, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    I rather worry about this. Being able to fit 6ft6″ into a tiny seat is one repeated horror, but having to squeeze into a tiny bunk sounds even worse.
    How do you feel about this — it seems you’re pleasantly tall yourself?

  2. Mary Kirby December 5, 2008 at 11:01 am #

    Hi Andreas,
    I totally understand your concern. I’m just shy of 6ft tall and I often wear 3in to 4in heels for business (why the hell not, right?). The big fear is that a stacked sleeper would feel more like a coffin than a proper bed. I’ve seen an econo design – which will be published in the mag and extensively here – that hopes to remedy that concern. It has an open-architecture feel to it. There are other concerns, of course. Like – what if the person on the bunk above you has a bad case of gas? :)

  3. Bob December 5, 2008 at 1:11 pm #

    It might feel like being on a carnival ride at first, but I can handle that. Unlike RWG, at 6 ft tall I have not had any trouble sleeping in Economy seats, or sleeping at all, (although recreational medication helps too). Once my shoes come off and I stretch out my legs under the seat in front of me, I’m good for a while.

    I wonder if there will be a choice of window or NOT. Unless there will be a staggered up/down window configuration, which could make the aircraft look goofy on the outside and not to mention increased costs for those windows. Ambient light may be greatly reduced on day flights causing premature circadian factors to kick in and the entire passenger cabin to be more sleepy at the end of a flight.

    BUT, if I have a more comfortable seat, I’m good with that no matter what. That extra added privacy may trigger an increase in “mile high club” members also.

  4. Mary Kirby December 5, 2008 at 2:51 pm #

    Bob, that last point of yours deserves a blog all its own :) I wonder if SIA has any hard and fast (teehee) figures on how many times a flight attendant spots mile high action in the A380 double beds.

  5. Jamie Millar December 7, 2008 at 8:22 pm #

    as an aircraft engineer (a tall one at that) i can’t help but look at the maintenance aspect of the design. Unfortunately form over function has been my experience to date and this bold though it is concept would be a minefield. Another concern would be one of safety. Evacuation involving such a design with passengers having to climb down could present quite a danger. Just my opinion however

  6. Jose December 8, 2008 at 2:11 am #

    Shoot, Must be tough flying far. I was recently stranded in Thailand due to the whole Bangkok situation and had to basically go from everything from elephant, tuk tuk and public busses to make it to singapore and fly back to Nashville. I suggest Kolopin next time. Knocked the crap out of me the whole time!

  7. Andreas December 8, 2008 at 4:35 am #

    Mary, a tall girl needs tall heels, everything else is out of proportion.
    On flat shoes, she might end up a mere ‘taxiway-girl’.
    The topic raised by Bob is clearly another example of discrimination against tall people, bathrooms being notoriously too small most of the time.

  8. xpatjock December 8, 2008 at 7:14 am #

    I have two concerns with these designs, (leaving comfort aside).
    These are

    CRASHWORTHINESS. How would these things stack up (pardon the pun) in the real world of say a runway overrun or other such incident?


    If the plane and the cabin survives a crash, what are the chances of all the passengers getting out??. I could see top deck passengers trying to jump/crawl over the guys in the bottom bunks as they fight to get out. Somehow I think the 90seconds rule would go out the window.

  9. Middle East Man December 8, 2008 at 10:58 am #

    1 – The stack seat seems similar to the Capsule Hotel concept that initiated in Japan and has migrated to the west in the form of Pod Hotels

    2 – Regarding Bob’s point about the ‘Mile High Club’. Emirates A340-500 mini-suites certainly saw some action on the DXB-SYD routes a few years ago. The front and rear cabin camera’s (now removed) that could be viewed by the crew at the IFE control panel (CMT) provided great entertainment.


  10. Bob December 8, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    I agree with xpatjock and Jamie Millar, getting out of an aircraft with this configuration would be a nightmare. I can see knees from people in the upper bunks hitting the sides of other passengers already in the aisle. Good idea, bad design.

    Emirates does have a code of conduct for those in the double beds trying to join the mile high club. How SILLY! Pour all the free “champagna”, (“The Continental” on SNL), you want and then tell you not to do it? Those beds seem to take the fun out of getting away with it anyway. But then with a 6′ tall, long legged redhead in heels, you would need a little room to stretch out. The middle row on twin aisles that are not occupied work well with the armrests up. Just my opinion.

  11. jbzoom December 9, 2008 at 2:18 am #

    This would work for long haul premium economy – but the airlines would have to weigh the cannibalisation of business class fares.

  12. Me December 9, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    “But then with a 6′ tall, long legged redhead in heels, you would need a little room to stretch out…” More than a little, Bob :)

  13. David Celis June 25, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    The design consultancy I work for—Mexico City-based Airborne Hotel Systems—came up with a very similar concept back in 1996, which we patented in the United States in May 2000 (patent # 6,056,239).

    We have been pitching it to the aerospace industry since 2002 and, although there have been positive reactions and preliminary interest, we have not been able to market it as of yet. It seems the timing hasn’t been right in the industry until now.

    We were recently present at the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2009 in Hamburg, Germany; if anyone would like to take a peek at the mock-up we exhibited at that event, feel free to visit our blog at: http://airbornehotel.blogspot.com/

    For more information on the Airborne Hotel (abh) concept, visit: http://www.airbornehotel.com.mx/

  14. Mary Kirby June 25, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

    Excellent. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll check it out!

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