Airplane seats can be a tight squeeze for some people. But a new patent from Airbus suggests that one solution might be to make its seats a little more like park benches, to accommodate all kinds of widths of human being.
A patent application which describes a “Re-Configurable Passenger Bench Seat” has been filed to the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Airbus. It mainly describes a solution for the way seat belts can be attached to a bench seat so that they’re easily reconfigurable.
Essentially, it would use a fastening rail to attach seat belts where required so that, in the words of Airbus, it can be “adapted to the requirements of the operator” and “to the requirements of specific groups.” That includes senior citizens and overweight passengers, but also means the seating could squeeze in extra little people if required.
There are potential problems. From the application’s diagrams, it appears arm rests may be less adaptable than seat belts, so in some configurations you might not have anywhere to shove your elbows. And as anyone who’s spent much time sat on a bench will testify, the cosseting shape of a chair—however hard—is often more comfortable than a single continuous stretch of seating.
Still, it’s not as a grim a method for packing passengers in as a previous suggestions of stacking humans like some kind of Jenga stack. So this one may yet actually happen.