7 Innovations that Will Transform the Airline Experience


The Paperclip Armrest—it might be coming to an airline near you. (Photo: found on Paperclipdesign.hk)

We have seen the future of airline travel—and it could mean an end to armrest wars. The innovative Paperclip Armrest features a double-decker design that lets two people share without touching. Finally, there could be elbowroom, even in the middle seat.

The award-winning idea by Hong Kong-based Paperclip Design has taken flight—at least on the Web. ”The idea for the armrest came about when I was at a seminar in a crowded lecture room while studying at MIT,” the 30-year-old Paperclip Design Director James Lee told Yahoo Travel. “The guy next to me was using the armrest, and I had nowhere else to put my arms, and I realized if the armrest had more level[s] I could have rested my arm underneath his elbow.”

And Lee’s design isn’t a flight of fancy. He told Yahoo that he has been hired by an aircraft seat manufacturer to design an economy-class model that will go into production soon.

Lee isn’t the only one thinking about how to make flying less miserable. Here, six more ideas to make travel better.


The double-decker design may put an end to armrest wars. (Photo: found on Paperclipdesign.hk)

A better boarding pass: Another idea that we’d like to see soon: Peter Smart, a frustrated frequent flier, has created an easier-to-read boarding pass after a series of trips left him mystified by the code-filled documents.

More cushy seats in coach: Some airlines are giving passengers ways to get more comfortable—for a fee. Allegiant Air is offering giant seats in some rows of coach, for example. And Air New Zealand introduced “cuddle class” last year, so travelers can fully lie down in economy class.


The Skycouch in Air New Zealand’s cuddle class makes sleeping on a plane far more comfortable. (Photo: found on AirNewZealand.com)

More TSA Pre-Check at Airports: The TSA has expanded its Pre-Check Program to about 100 airports. Think of it as the express lane, allowing travelers the perk of waltzing through security without having to take off their shoes or remove their laptops from cases.

DIY Security: It’s possible that one day airport security could be handled by a machine instead of a TSA agent. Behold the Qylatron from Palo-Alto based Qylur. The artificial-intelligence screening machine “detects new threats,” according to the company, and doesn’t require passengers to do much more than shove their bags into a cubby, walk through the screener, and collect their stuff on the other side. The self-service screening is “five times faster, detects multiple security threats, reduces security costs with up to 50% less staffing,” according to Qylur. You had us at “five times faster.”

Board Like an Astrophysicist: Boarding a plane is a slow process that leaves many people silently seething in the aisles. Astrophysicist Jason Steffen wondered if there was a better way. By testing various strategies on computer models, he came up with an efficient system: boarding in alternate rows, from rear to front, and window to aisle. This system turned out to be about 30 percent faster when tested against Southwest Airlines, according to CNN.


The Meet & Seat program allows passengers to use social media to determine who is on the flight and who they might like to sit with. (Photo: found on KLM.com)

Make Flying More Friendly. KLM’s Meet & Seat program on some flights lets travelers choose seatmates with shared interests or business connections based on Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Since its launch in 2012, about 50,000 passengers have taken part. ”KLM is expanding its pilot [program] and others have jumped in,” Max Rayner, a partner of travel industry analyst group Hudson Crossing, told Yahoo Travel. “Whether this is about trying to close a sale or perhaps trying to get closer, I could not possibly comment, but it’s an interesting trend.”

We hope some—if not all—of these innovations really take off.