News: plane manufacturer Airbus has applied for a patent on folding chairs for commercial aircraft with saddles instead of seat cushions.
The European Patent Office has published details of a US filing by aeronautics giant Airbus for a "seating device with reduced bulk".
The design features a backrest and a saddle that pivots out and down in a circular movement to unfold into a seat. The backrest moves down when the seat is folded out, and the saddle tilts forward to reduce the amount of leg space taken up by the passenger.
"In order to reduce the bulk of the seating device in the retracted configuration and to reduce the distance needed to accommodate the legs of passengers between two rows of seating devices, the seating takes the form of the motorcycle-type saddle," said Airbus in the patent document.
"Still with a view for reducing the bulk of the device in the retracted configuration, the backrest takes the form of a simple lumbar support held at the end of an arm."
A raisable armrest is also included and is attached to the backrest support.
Airbus said the design was a response to recent demands from low-cost airlines to cram more seating into existing plane interiors – often to the detriment of passenger comfort.
It builds on three previous solutions that proposed producing narrower seats, reducing the legroom between them and paring down their overall bulk, all of which Airbus says have been pursued to their natural conclusion but now presented problems of accessibility.
"The present invention aims to mitigate the drawback of the prior art," said Airbus. "The backrest makes it possible to widen the access to the seating places situated behind when the seating device is in the retracted configuration."
"It also becomes possible to further reduce the distance between different rows of seating devices in an aircraft cabin."
Stripped of their cushions, the seats are mounted on a horizontal pole, with the drawings appearing to suggest a table football-style arrangement.
"In effect, to increase the number of cabin seats, the space allotted to each passenger must be reduced," said Airbus in the patent filing. "However, this reduced comfort remains tolerable for the passengers in as much as the flight lasts only one or a few hours."
The design has already been dubbed the world's "most uncomfortable plane seat" by British newspaper The Telegraph.
However, a spokesman from Airbus told the newspaper it was "unlikely" the seats would ever be used on passenger planes.
"We file hundreds of patents each year and it's all about protecting ideas," he said. "We are actually pushing airlines for an 18-inch seat width to come as standard on long haul flights – some aircraft have only 16.7 inches."
Earlier this week Priestmangoode presented a solution to prevent fights for luggage space in overhead compartments on crowded flights, while last month James Lee designed an armrest to end elbow grapples on the plane.