Think You're Uncomfortable Now? Check Out These (Possible) New Airline Seats


There may come a time when passengers look at this photo as the good old days of airline comfort (Photo: Thinkstock)

To answer a question you’ve probably half-jokingly asked on a flight: Yes, your coach seat could be less comfortable.

Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer that brought you plans for a “ Windowless Cockpit,“ has gone back to the drawing board for another airline innovation that’s sure to vex travelers. It’s for a new seat design that the Washington Post calls the “Most Uncomfortable Plane Seats Ever.”


Airbus submits a patent application for an uncomfortable looking seat (Graphic: Airbus/Espacenet)

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The U.S. Patent Application is for what Airbus calls a “Seating Device Comprising a Forward Foldable Backrest.” Judging by the illustration on the patent application, the new design aims to turn airplane seats into a slightly higher-tech version of the benches you find at your average high school football stadium. The seat design proposal has a row of three seats connected to a common bench, where each backrest can be pulled “towards the front and upwards when the seating device is brought to the retracted configuration.”

In other words, it’s a combination bench/folding chair.


The goal for the new seat design is to fit more people on planes by doing away with all the bulky cushioned seats (Graphic: Airbus/Espacenet)

This seems to be the latest example of a longtime obsession by aircraft makers and airlines: finding ways to get more passengers on planes. It’s easy to see the appeal of this new seat design. It would eliminate the cushiony airline seats that, while comfortable, are also bulky. Replacing them with these more streamlined seats — especially on shorter flights where you might get away with sacrificing some comfort — could lead to fuller planes and, of course, a richer bottom line for the airlines.

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But what about the passengers’ … umm, “bottom” lines? These seats look extremely uncomfortable. The patent application doesn’t seem to allow for tray tables. As for the Greatest Flight Innovation of the Century — in-seat TV monitors — those would be impossible. And let’s just say that in the unlikely event of a water landing, those seats would be absolutely useless as flotation devices.


No room for monitors on the new Airbus seat design (Airbus says don’t worry; it’s just a patent) (Photo: AP)

Before you get too up in arms, Airbus wants to remind you that there’s a big difference between a new airline seat and a proposed new airline seat. “It is just a patent,” Airbus Communications Manager Mary Anne Greczyn tells Yahoo Travel. She says Airbus files thousands of patents for the thousands of ideas batted back and forth between their design and engineering teams. “In order to satisfy the needs of our airline customers and their passengers, our industry looks into a future a year and a hundred years ahead,” Greczyn says. “The seat is a concept only.”

Still, perhaps it would calm some fears if airlines’ future planning revealed efforts to make seats even more spacious and comfortable, not less.

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