You won't believe the airline seats Airbus has designed

Just when you thought it commercial air travel couldn’t get any worse, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has filed a patent application for what could be the world’s least-comfortable airline seats.

Perhaps taking a lesson or two from the Marquis de Sade, Airbus filed a U.S. Patent Application in June, proposing airline seats that consist of a seat that resembles a bicycle saddle, with retractable backrests and armrests.

Illustration from the Airbus patent application
In its patent application, Airbus acknowledged that “some so-called ‘low-cost’ airlines seek to increase the number of passengers transported on each flight … to maximize the return on the use of the aircraft,” even while it admitted that, “In all cases, this increase in the number of seats is achieved to the detriment of the comfort of the passengers.”

The most popular ways of stuffing more seats into airplanes – making them narrower and placing the rows closer together – have reached their limit, “[B]ecause of the increase in the average size of the passengers,” Airbus said.

Enter the new bicycle-style seats, “[A] seating device with reduced bulk for the aircraft.”

By virtue of their design, Airbus pointed out, the new seats make it “possible to obtain four rows of seating places in the length in which only three rows of aircraft seating [of the current style] were able to be installed.”

The seven-page patent application is available here.

Although Airbus said in a statement provided to TheTravelPro that, "We recognise the importance of comfort in aircraft cabins." However, it admitted in its filing that current – and likely future – aircraft seating isn’t exactly comfortable, but “[T]his reduced comfort remains tolerable for the passengers in as much as the flight lasts only one or a few hours.”

In its statement, Airbus said it files several hundred patent applications each year, of which the majority are for day to day innovations in aerospace. The saddle seat falls into a category the aircraft maker called "aspirational ... providing a basis for further development" and protecting intellectual property.

"In its current form, it would be unlikely to find its way to market," the manufacturer said.

Whether the proposed seat in any form finds its way onto an airplane is a decision made by the aircraft purchaser, which is usually an airline.

Boeing's design for the Dreamliner entrance
There are numerous examples of great ideas proffered by airline manufacturers that were either summarily or eventually rejected by the airlines, ranging from the piano bars aboard the first Boeing 747s (NYSE:BA) to a grand entrance on the 787 Dreamliners.

Of course, some have survived: both Air France and Emirates have bar/lounge areas and showers in the upmarket cabins of their A380 SuperJumbo jets but the creature comforts intended for the masses by the manufacturers have, in the main, failed to materialize.

Understanding that the airlines and not the manufacturer are the final decision-makers, I’m afraid such seats or a variant of them may well be a reality for tomorrow’s flying public. 

We’ll have to wait to see what happens here, but I’m not optimistic.

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