A redesigned, staggered middle seat could make flying “suck a little less”

Middle of the road.
Middle of the road.
Image: Courtesty Molon Labe Designs
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The middle seat is so loathed by passengers that travelers often pay to avoid it. One hotel in Santa Monica, California even offers free room upgrades as a consolation to passengers who can prove they traveled in the middle seat.

But the getting a dreaded “B” or “E” on your boarding pass isn’t always avoidable. One design firm thinks it has an answer: Stagger the seats.

Molon Labe Designs has unveiled a middle seat that is set back slightly from the window and aisle seats. The seat also has a curved armrest, making it nearly impossible for the passengers sandwiching you to steal your whole armrest (you can save the $30 spent on that armrest guard). And it’s 3 inches wider than a regular coach seat.

“You’re no longer sharing skin with a random stranger,” Hank Scott, Molon Labe Designs’ chief executive, told Quartz.

A version of the seat for short-haul flights could be in the air later this year. Scott said a Middle Eastern carrier and one European carrier are ordering the seats for their planes but he declined to say which ones.

The Side-Slip Seat.
The Side-Slip Seat.
Image: Courtesy Molon Labe Designs

This seat, which is called the “Side-Slip Seat,” could also speed up boarding because it allows for wider aisles as passengers get settled on board.

In an era where airlines and airplane manufacturers are lavishing their money on high-spending first- and business-class passengers, and redesigning planes to pack more passengers inside, a tiny bit of dignity in coach will go a long way with customers. Of course, there are still reasons to hate the middle seat:

  • You are still often seated in between two people.
  • Who’s going to pass that third gin and tonic to the guy seated at the window? You!
  • Getting to the bathroom is still a chore, especially if the aisle passenger is asleep. And if the window seat needs to relieve himself…

Scott is aware the design isn’t perfect.  ”There were a lot of problems I wish I could solve but I can’t,” he said. “Hopefully, we can make flying suck a little less,” said Scott.