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Self-cleaning airplane seats are coming (but only for business class)

Self-cleaning airplane seats are coming (but only for business class)
[Photo: courtesy of Recaro]

Good news for travel-loving germophobes: Planes are getting a little less gross.

Recaro Aircraft Seating GmbH, whose clients include airlines such as Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., is developing seats made with a disinfectant that “destroys almost every germ on contact within seconds,” reports Bloomberg. The self-cleaning seats will somehow communicate their level of spotlessness with oncoming passengers, though its unclear exactly how this process will work.

“The best innovation doesn’t help if you cannot show it,” said Recaro CEO Mark Hiller in an interview with the publication.

Another challenge is how to bring antibacterial coatings, which are currently used for hard surfaces, to fabrics. The hope is that the coated fabric–along with the communication system–can combat the wild amount of germs setting up shop on planes. Tray tables reportedly have the highest levels of bacteria, with seat belts and armrests closely behind:

One square inch of a seat-belt buckle can be home to 1,100 viable bacteria and fungal cells, according to a January report that analyzed swabs from around the cabin. A 2014 study at Auburn University in Alabama found that MRSA–a super-bug resistant to many antibiotic treatments–can live for a week in the fabric of a seat pocket nestled in a small blob of saliva.

At the moment, such cleanliness is reserved for business class. The newly redesigned seats will also boast a slew of unique features: massages, temperature and noise control, and the ability to “predict backaches.”

Recaro says such futuristic travel is likely still a year or two away from implementation. Till then, keep your sanitizer handy.

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