There are only so many inches in each airline cabin, but the carriers themselves are always trying to figure out how many additional seats they can shove into limited space, and it seems like they’re not going to stop until the boarding process becomes a game of Human Tetris. So thank goodness there are other engineering and design firms trying to work in the opposite direction, by maximizing that square footage without sacrificing passenger comfort.
These are a few of the most promising (and one completely awful sounding) seating configurations or cabin designs that have been proposed or submitted for patents this year.
1. Side-Slip: This seating concept would not only improve and speed up the boarding process, but would also turn the middle seat into prime real estate, as it would be a full 2 inches wider than the seats on either side of it. The Side-Slip works just as its name suggests: the aisle seat slides up and over the middle seat during boarding and deplaning, widening the aisle from its standard 19 inches to 41 inches, allowing two passengers to walk or stand side-by-side, and even to allow for a wheelchair to be rolled through the cabin. Side-Slip designer Hank Scott told ABC News that his company is “preparing for production” of the seats and that, so far, 23 airlines have expressed interest.
2. B/E Aerospace Smart Seat Wireless Actuator System: This concept doesn’t have a catchy or memorable name, but if it really increases leg room, then they could call it the Wireless Boiling Garbage Stack and I’d be delighted by it. This economy-seating configuration would allow the seats to move forward or backward along a grooved track in the cabin floor, adjusting the amount of leg room according to the height of each passenger. The flight crew would control the system using an app on their tablets during the boarding process. The B/E Aerospace engineers said that there would only be a “modest” increase in the amount of legroom, but an increase is an increase.
3. SANTO Seat: The SANTO (Special Accommodation Needs for Toddlers and Overweight Passengers) Seat isn’t for everyone, but it could make flying more comfortable for both overweight passengers and the person seated beside them. The seat, which would be located in the rear of the cabin, is one and a half times the width of a standard airline seat, so it can either be used to accommodate a passenger of size or to hold a child’s booster seat. “The beneficiaries of this concept are both operators and travelers alike, as for a moderate surcharge, the safety of traveling infants can be significantly increased and the comfort of oversized travelers drastically improved,” Peter Miehlke of SANTO Seat designer SII Deutschland said.
4. Air Astana Economy Sleeper: This isn’t a new seating concept as much as it’s a repurposing (and rebranding and upselling of) the existing row of seats on Air Astana flights from Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, to London-Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris. If you’re willing to pay an extra $910 –$2,290 instead of a $1,380 economy fare – you will receive a mattress to place over a standard row of three seats, ensuring that you’ll sleep just as well as the guy who snagged the empty row at the back of the plane. But the Economy Sleeper is a bargain compared with Air Astana’s full-fare business class cabin, which would cost $5,565 for those same flights. Nothing makes me sleep more soundly than an extra three grand in my pocket.
5. The Economy Class Cabin Hexagon, aka The Devil’s Configuration: No. Just no. This proposed layout (which was pulled from a forgotten filing cabinet in the bowels of Hell) wouldreplace the traditional middle seat with a slightly offset rear-facing seat, forcing those passengers to either make or avoid eye contact with the people on either side of them for the duration of the flight. It would also make the boarding process even more awkward, as it seems like passengers would have to crawl on all fours to reach the window seat, so not only would you have to try not to look at that guy for an extended period of time, you’d also have the image of his bobbing hindquarters seared onto your already overworked retinas. Go home, seat designers. You’re drunk.