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HERE’S WHAT MAKES FLYING SUCK, AND HOW DESIGNERS WOULD FIX IT

Ah, flying it’s been said before, and we’ll say it again: it’s an expensive, stressful, cramped, and utterly miserable ordeal. Doubly so, this time of year. And with U.S. airport security on high alert, you can bet air travel will be especially frustrating this holiday season.

Many of the biggest frustrations are design and engineering problems. Airlines operate on small margins, with an average profit of just $8.27 per passenger, so they must cram as many people onto as few planes as possible while maximizing the efficiency of each flight, usually by trimming weight from the aircraft to save fuel. Smaller lavatories, narrower seats, and dwindling amenities achieve these goals but present no end of challenges to designers who’d like to make flying more pleasant. We asked a handful of designers how they would improve the experience, given free rein to do anything they like, regardless of cost or practicality.

Gebbia—Airbnb co-founder, designer, and frequent flyer—says he’d create private spaces designated for zenning out mid-flight: “I’d upgrade the airplane interior to include a separated meditation or yoga area. Inside the space, replace the carpet with tatami mat, the scent of my neighbor’s body odor with incense, and the blaring intercom interruptions about credit card offers with a well-tuned mandolin. I’d forgo paying for a movie to pay for access to a quiet place for mindfulness. The airline would differentiate itself, and leave those who utilize it happier and healthier.”

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