Wheelchair Users Are Excited About Delta’s New Design for an Accessible Airplane Seat

Delta Flight Products Wheelchair Airplane Seat Deployed

Photo: Delta Flight Products/Emma Martin

For years, disability advocates have been asking airlines to make travel more accessible for wheelchair users. And after last week's reveal at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, it looks like Delta is about to step up to the plate. Delta Flight Products debuted a prototype of a unique seat that would allow travelers using a power wheelchair to stay in their own wheelchair for the entire journey.

Created in partnership with Air4All, the seat can quickly be transformed to accommodate a power wheelchair. The seat gives users access to the headrest and a center console tray table and cocktail table. Importantly, the design doesn't require airlines to change their cabin layout, which will be key to wide adoption.

The reveal has been widely lauded by travelers with disabilities. “An innovation like this in air travel provides those with reduced mobility a safe and comfortable way for them to travel and remain in their own power wheelchair,” said Chris Wood, founder of Flying Disabled. “It has taken truly a collaborative effort to develop this seat and we believe this product provides an optimal solution for all parties.”

Cory Lee, an avid traveler who uses a power wheelchair, told CNN that he was “unbelievably excited” about the development. Lee has traveled to 43 countries and writes a blog about his experiences. For him, the possibility of flying without being removed and separated from his own wheelchair would be a game changer.

Lee shared that his wheelchair had been damaged twice during travel and that he'd almost been dropped several times while staff assisted him in and out of his seat. By being able to stay in his own wheelchair, he could retain control and avoid a loss of independence that he calls “scary.”

Delta Flight Products' partnership with the Air4All consortium—which includes aviation design company PriestmanGoode, advocacy group Flying Disabled, aerospace company SWS Certification and wheelchair design company Sunrise Medical—has made this advancement possible. It's only been about 18 months since the initial idea was transformed into the prototype. Critically, the group used feedback from the disability community to ensure that they got things like the height of the center console right.

Now, after the big reveal, the accessible seat is off to the next phase. First, the design will be finalized and validated. Then, once it's certified, the organizations will begin testing and certification programs for installation.

Delta Flight Products revealed a prototype for an airplane seat that accommodates a power wheelchair.

Wheelchair User Testing Delta New Wheelchair Airplane Seat

Photo: Delta Flight Products/Emma Martin

The seat easily transforms to allow disabled travelers to use their own wheelchairs.

Delta Flight Products Wheelchair Airplane Seat

Photo: PriestmanGoode

Delta Flight Products Wheelchair Airplane Seat Folded

Photo: PriestmanGoode

Delta Flight Products Wheelchair Airplane Seat Deployed

Photo: PriestmanGoode

It was developed in partnership with Air4All, a consortium of design and advocacy groups.

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Air4All.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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