This is what economy class could look like post-COVID-19

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Airlines are often trying to come up with innovative ways to cram together as many people on a plane as possible, especially in economy class cabins.

But the Coronavirus crisis is fundamentally changing this long-held tenet as airlines are bringing social distancing to the skies by sometimes even blocking middle seats. This could potentially even change the way seats are designed and arranged on planes post-Covid-19.

Italian design firm Aviointeriors, which specialises in designing aircraft cabin interiors and passenger seats, has proposed two new seat designs for post-COVID-19 travel that attempt to create some social distance between passengers on planes without losing seating capacity.

In one of Aviointeriors’ proposed designs, the middle seat is facing backwards and every seat has a plastic shield partially surrounding it. Dubbed Janus, after the two-faced Roman god, passengers on the aisle and window seats in this new s-shaped arrangement will continue to face the direction of travel.

Each seat is surrounded by a high shield that prevents the “breath propagation to occupants of adjacent seats.” The firm said the shield will create a protective barrier for passengers.

“Each passenger has its own space isolated from others, even from people who walk through the aisle,” said the design company. The new design does raise practical questions about safety, in-flight meal service and whether it will occupy a larger cabin footprint than the standard plane seat arrangement.

According to The Telegraph, rear-facing seats could be safer in the event of an accident or emergency landing as they provide better support for the back, neck and head. David Learmount, operations and safety editor at the aviation news website FlightGlobal.com told The Telegraph last year that airlines would be unlikely to support rear-facing seats due to costs and customer preference. Aviointeriors has also proposed another seat design for airlines for when travel returns after COVID-19.

The Italian seat-maker unveiled the Glassafe, a shield that can be added to each seat on a plane to create a barrier between passengers. This shield can also be “easily” installed and removed so airlines do not have to drastically change the cabin interior of the aircraft.

The firm said this transparent shield could “reduce the probability of contamination by viruses.”

“Glassafe can be made in an opaque material or with different degrees of transparency,” said Aviointeriors. Each plastic shield has a cut out for the passenger’s shoulders.