The seats aren’t likely to find their way onto a major airline anytime soon – if ever.

But that hasn’t stopped the Internet from exploding with stories about an airplane seating plan that would force passengers to face each other in alternating directions.

What’s prompted all that talk? One of the world’s largest airplane seat manufacturers has patented such a plan, which would allow carriers to squeeze more passengers into the economy cabins of their planes.

In its patent, Zodiac Seats France – a division of Zodiac Aerospace – calls the seating arrangement “economy class cabin hexagon.” On planes where coach cabins have middle seats, the layout would turn the middle seat backwards to – in Zodiac’s words – “increase cabin density while also creating seat units that increase the space available at the shoulder and arm area by creating an overlap in the shoulder areas of adjacent seats.”

The seat-maker has issued renderings and diagrams of its proposed seating arrangement. For now, the idea is just an “exploratory concept.” And even with the patent filing, it’s unclear when – if ever – such a configuration might make its way into the cabin of a major passenger airline.

Despite the potentially awkward face-to-face arrangement, Zodiac claims the layout does have some upside for fliers. For example, Zodiac suggests the alternating seat direction would end up giving fliers four extra inches of legroom.

“It’s a different way of travelling, with people facing each other,” Zodiac vice president Pierre-Antony Vastra says to The Australian newspaper. “We can have nice conversations.”

Already dozens of stories on the topic have surfaced on the Internet, appearing in publications across the globe. The reviews are both over-the-top and generally negative.

Among those, Wired magazine called it “the most nightmarish idea for plane seating ever.” The reputable Globe and Mail of Toronto says the seating idea is “horrifying.”Conde Naste Traveler says the seat design “will haunt you forever” while worrying about “unavoidable eye contact, … hand-holding with your neighbors” and general all-around awkwardness.

There’s more. Tech site Gizmodo? It chimed in too, saying the design “almost seems like a sick joke or some misguided reference to the fear of an unknown serial killer.”Vox struck a similar theme, saying the proposed cabin layout “looks like something from a future Mad Max sequel.”

For now, though, fliers should take a deep breath and relax; this “exploratory concept” is unlikely to fly with a major carrier anytime soon, if ever.

Those hard plastic seats look about as comfortable as a park bench – Yan Baczkowski

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