Why, in an era of self-driving cars and Mars exploration, it has taken this long to develop is a question for the ages. But people who use wheelchairs are delighted that a system has finally been unveiled for in-flight docking of wheelchairs so that users can remain seated safely and comfortably throughout their flight.
Individuals who rely on wheelchairs for their mobility are often frustrated with the lack of accommodations for their devices in daily life, especially while travelling. Power chairs today, with customized seating and steering, can be costly, and passengers forced to check their chairs in cargo during flights worry about the real possibility of damage or theft, leaving them stranded.
According to a recent AARP report, Delta Air Lines recently released its prototype for an on-flight wheelchair docking system that would allow passengers to board the plane in their device and remain comfortably seated throughout the flight. The prototype, created in partnership with Air4All, converts an airline seat into a wheelchair docking system while allowing the passenger to still access tray tables, headrests, and other in-flight amenities. When not in use for a wheelchair, the seat can convert back to regular seating.
The project still requires extensive testing for safety and certification, as well as final design approval and validation, before it will be ready for commercial flights – which will likely be at least 18 months away. There are also questions of cost to be considered because the seats are planned to be installed in the front, first-class cabins.
Until the engineering and regulatory stages of the project are completed, disabled airline passengers will continue to struggle with air travel, tricky onboard wheelchair transfers, difficult bathroom trips, and the possibility of lost or damaged checked assistive devices. Trains, buses and cruise ships already have integrated systems to load, secure, and unload wheelchairs while in transit. The air travel industry is only now catching up to these standards.
Check out the prototype unveiled recently at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, Germany, provided by CNN Travel.