This Invention Could Make Your Flight Even More Like Bus Ride

Illustration of bench seating from an Airbus patent application.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that airplane manufacturer Airbus is devising new ways to make your next flight uncomfortable.

A filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicates that the company is exploring the idea of passenger bench seating for their planes, apparently to accommodate people of different sizes more efficiently. (Or, maybe we didn’t get enough of bench seating in our Buicks in the 1970’s?)

As designed, the seat would have a single surface for the seat, and another for the back. Fold-out armrests are embedded in the seat back. The seat portion would have up to four seat belts. In illustrations accompanying the filing, it shows how the bench could be configured differently to accommodate different numbers of people depending on their size. It envisions a bench seating two large people with an armrest between them, three average-sized adults with armrests between them, or two adults with two children sitting in between them. (Kind of creepy-looking children, too, if the illustration is a guide.)

The design raises all kinds of questions and potential for awkward moments. While it might allow for more comfort for plus-sized people, how would it work when buying tickets? Would you be required to give your waist size and/or shoulder width? Would they have a gate agent standing by with a tape measure assigning people to seats? Would you need to pay extra if you’re on a two-person bench?

And, what happens if one passenger on the bench wants to recline and another doesn’t?

This is just a patent filing, and the airplane industry, like many others, often files for patents that never see the light of day. So maybe don’t worry just yet, but perhaps keep this in mind the next time you complain about your flight — it could be worse!

What’s your most recent experience with flying? Do you think there could be advantages to bench seating? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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