The Air Access Wheelchair is a great design that could improve travelling by plane for the less able. In the wake of the Paralympics, Priestmangoode have created a Air Access Wheelchair that will transform air travel for passengers with reduced mobility. Without wanting to oversimplify things, it’s basically an airplane seat on wheels but it’s much more stylish than that.

In our bumper air travel guide yesterday, we saw that, at the moment different airlines have different policies on getting wheelchair users from check-in to their seats. This could all change if the Air Access chair ‘takes off’.

Currently, some planes have wheelchairs that will fit down the aisles and some don’t, but none allow you to avoid having to go through an awkward transition on the busy plane. With the Air Access chair this process is removed. Although not yet in use, we thought it would be a good thing to highlight in light of our new guide.

This is how Priestmangoode say it works:

“The Air Access concept consists of two elements: a detachable wheelchair by which passengers can be transported onto and off of the plane, and a fixed-frame aisle seat on the aircraft into which the wheelchair is mated to create a regular airline seat. Ground services staff assist the passenger into the Air Access wheelchair seat in the departure gate or on the jetway, where there is ample space to manoeuvre. When seated, the passenger is wheeled onto the plane.

Air Access
The Air Access Wheelchair

“Once onboard, the wheelchair’s 360-degree pivoting wheels enable it to be slid sideways into the fixed-frame aisle seat without the passenger needing to get up. When the two elements are positioned, they are locked together for the duration of the flight. On arrival, ground staff simply unlock the wheelchair seat, slide it out into the aisle and wheel the passenger to the jetway or arrival gate. Once there, the passenger returns to his or her own wheelchair or zimmer frame, or transfers into the airport’s wheelchair.”

Paul Priestman, founding director of Priestmangoode, explains: “We have been designing aircraft interiors for over fifteen years and always work to improve the entire passenger journey, from home to destination. At present there are some accessibility regulations on aircraft, however they cater for only the most basic requirements. As a result, passengers with special needs often face considerable difficulties when travelling by air. “

“These difficulties generally go unnoticed – very few members of the public are aware of the anxiety and discomfort PRMs can experience when travelling. But it is a matter of equality that people with reduced mobility should have the same rights to a quality passenger experience that able-bodied people have.”

Air Access
Once attached it looks like any other chair

It’s not been put into use by any airlines yet but the Air Access wheelchair is a brilliant idea. It was nominated for the 2013 Design Awards but was beaten to the award by the ingenious Morph Wheels design that we have featured recently. Hopefully we will these seats in use in the not too distant future.

If adopted they would make it easier for wheelchair users to get onto the plane, go to the toilet during the flight and the chair could still be used by an able bodied person so there would be no loss of seating space.

Priestmangoode are one of the Britain’s leading transport designers and have designed the interiors for many aircraft. They do inspired work to provide stylish design within the obvious limitations of an aircraft cabin. These Air Access wheelchairs show that the importance of function doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style. We hope to see them soon.

Leave a Reply

  1. Paul Mounsey

    What a great idea. The sooner that this seat is put into operation the better.

  2. JenJen68

    Wow! This looks great, I really hope that airlines take this up.

  3. Leslie Donovan

    Any progress on this idea yet? I am a professor planning to take a group of college students to study in London in May 2014 and this would make my travel so much easier. Any news on this would be much appreciated!

    1. Fiona Jarvis

      Hi Leslie

      I have asked the designers if any airlines have taken this idea and will let you know their response.

      In the meantime take a look at our feature on air travel as mentioned in this article, as it tells you the ‘accessibility’ features on each airline.

      let me know if you need any specific advice and we’ll try to help.