It's a common problem. You're squeezed into a tight economy-class seat trying to eat a snack while working on your iPad or other personal electronic device. (Read more: Legroom Crunch: More Airlines Reduce Space, Add Rows)
With tray table space limited, you often have to power down and eat first. But one company has an ingenious and simple solution both airlines and travelers will love.
Smart Tray International launched a new tray table design at the Airline Passenger Experience Association exposition in Long Beach, Calif. last month.
A groove at the back of the tray table allows for hands-free use of Apple iPads and other electronic devices, while at the same time freeing up valuable space.
"When people stopped by our booth at the expo, they shook their heads and smiled saying, 'I wish I would have thought of that!'" said Stephen Schlachter, Smart Tray International's chief marketing officer.
With more passengers using mobile devices while traveling, the patented design of SmartTray couldn't be more timely.
Most tray tables have a short, three- to four-year life cycle as they're the most abused item on an aircraft, said CEO Nick Pajic of Smart Tray International, based in Phoenix, Ariz.
The company offers three different designs: the SmartTray X1 with a groove for passengers' own devices; and the X2 and X3 models specifically designed for digital devices supplied by carriers.
"The X1 costs about the same as the existing tray tables, so why not replace (them) with a tray table that makes it easier for travelers," Pajic said. The company declined to reveal how much the trays cost.
About a dozen airlines have requested product samples, though Pajic declined to name them. And at least one airframe manufacturer has also expressed interest, Pajic confirmed.
For more information on Smart Tray International, click here.