In an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office, Airbus has sought a patent for an innovation in airplane seating—hinged bike saddles.
The European airplane maker filed the application–officially named “Seating device comprising a forward-foldable backrest”—with the USPTO on June 12, 2014. Among the application’s claims is the seat’s ability to “avoid providing an excessive necessary distance” between seats—AKA legroom. Among the application’s omissions is a tray table (or even a cup holder).
More seats on a plane can mean more revenue for an airline even after a ticket-price reductions to account for the less-desirable seating arrangement. (Current regulations in the US and European Union require certain numbers of cabin crew per passenger, so there would be higher labor costs for cramming in people this way.)
There is also no guarantee that such a configuration would pass muster with aviation safety authorities. European discount airline Ryanair in 2012 said a regulator thwarted its plan to sell standing-only airplane tickets and provide handrails and straps for passengers.
A spokeswoman for Airbus told the LA Times that the filing is conceptual and “Many, if not most, of these concepts will never be developed, but in case the future of commercial aviation makes one of our patents relevant, our work is protected.”
Airbus is not the only company thinking about new ways squeeze more passengers onto a plane. Other recent ideas include adjustable-width “hammock seats,” seats that keep a passenger partially standing, and configurations that are lofted over another.
As the success of Ryanair in Europe and Spirit Airlines in the US has shown, many passengers are be willing to give up traditional comforts while flying for a cheaper fare. These seats might be just what the budget traveler are looking for.