As you’ve noticed, airlines are always trying to squeeze the most out of every available inch of space in planes. So why should they waste all that valuable headroom over the middle section of an airplane cabin? That must be the thinking behind a patent application from Airbus, which stacks seats–and the passengers in them–double height.
The patent application tosses around fancy concepts like “mezzanine seating,” and “split level,” evoking images of luxurious penthouse apartments. But we quickly get to the real reason for the design: to squeeze more people into a metal tube.
“It is very important from an economic point of view to make optimum use of available space in a passenger cabin. Passenger cabins are therefore fitted with as many rows of passenger seats as possible, which are positioned with as little space between them as possible,” says the pitch. “In order to even more efficiently use the space, [the patent] proposes an elevated deck structure [in the] substantially unused upper lobe of the aircraft fuselage.”
The diagrams tell you everything you need to know about the ergonomics of the setup. It’s a lot like those double strollers that squeeze one poor kid in under the seat of the other, only you’re trapped there for hours, underneath a slob who will undoubtedly spray crumbs and other filth down on you, languishing in the seat below.
It’s not all bad, however. While the new arrangement does squeeze in more passengers, the comfort level could actually be higher. In one iteration, the seats can recline flat. The illustration is pretty amusing, with passengers seeming to float, supine, like assistants in a magician’s levitation trick, but the idea of a fully reclining seat in sardine-class is tempting. Even better is that when these seats recline, they actually give more space to the passenger behind, not less.
Modern air travel is unlikely to be anything other than a nightmare anytime soon, unless they start giving out free martinis again, but at least Airbus has some passenger comfort in mind for this latest idea. Maybe it’ll make it into real planes, maybe not, but it’s better than the inevitable end-game of efficient passenger air travel: putting us to sleep and stacking us up like firewood.