One year after launching a first-class seat option that allows passengers to remain in their wheelchairs during flights, Delta Air Lines is introducing an economy version of the seat along with an accessible lavatory designed to fit an onboard wheelchair and up to two attendants.

The announcement comes ahead of the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, Germany. Delta Flight Products, in collaboration with AirforAll—a consortium including PriestmanGoode, Flying Disabled, SWS Certification, and Sunrise Medical—has developed two seat configurations. These seats can function traditionally or fold up to make space for wheelchairs.

The new economy-class seat maintains the comfort and safety features of the first-class version and doesn’t reduce the number of available seats when installed in the first row of an aircraft. Daniel MacInnes, Director at PriestmanGoode, emphasized that the design was shaped by community feedback. Recent efforts by airlines to improve accessibility have included tools to help passengers find aircraft that can accommodate larger wheelchairs. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 25.5 million Americans have travel-limiting disabilities.

The new seats provide access to the headrest, center console tray tables, and cocktail tables in both configurations, a safety feature crucial for certification. Chris Wood, Founder of Flying Disabled, highlighted the pioneering nature of this solution.

Space constraints, especially in regional jets and narrowbody planes, have often limited the accessibility of airplane bathrooms. Next week, Delta Flight Products will debut an accessible forward lavatory with a unique door design to maximize privacy. Located near the boarding door, the lavatory features a fixed panel that can be unlatched to accommodate an onboard wheelchair while ensuring maximum privacy from the cabin. The lavatories also feature touchless controls, allowing passengers with reduced mobility to access the sink directly from the toilet before transferring back to their wheelchair. Custom lighting supports individuals with low vision or color sensitivity.

Delta Flight Products is also considering future improvements, such as a “smart mirror” to provide closed captions for overhead announcements and display tactile symbols. Rick Salanitri, President of Delta Flight Products, emphasized the importance of these advancements, highlighting their commitment to making air travel more inclusive for all passengers.

These new developments from Delta Air Lines demonstrate a significant step forward in making air travel more accessible and comfortable for passengers with disabilities.

By Impact Lab