Airbus seeks patent for 'airplane benches' that adjust for passenger size

Airbus, a French airplane manufacturer known for patent ideas that on occasion both amaze and horrify, has a new idea to toss your way. Envision this: benches on a plane.

It's an aviation benchmark — one size fits all, more or less

In its patent application, Airbus proposes a bench that could seat three people, or two large people who need some extra space. (U.S. Patent Office)

Airbus, a French airplane manufacturer known for patent ideas that on occasion both amaze and horrify, has a new idea to toss your way. 

Envision this: benches on a plane.

Instead of three average-sized people complaining about three different seats, two large people could complain about one long bench. 

Or, alternatively, one bench could support an entire family, happy or otherwise.

There's room for the entire family on one bench seat. (U.S. Patent Office)

The patent application for a "Re-Configurable Passenger Bench Seat" was published by the U.S. Patent Office on Feb. 18.

Consumerist suggested that it's unlikely these benches would be used for the average flyer's convenience and comfort. 

"We don't expect to see flight attendants going around making tweaks at customers' demand," wrote Consumerist's Chris Morran of the patent application.

"Instead, this is likely being seen as something that airlines could use as an upsell: Want to fly in a row with your two young kids and your spouse? Fine, but that will be $X for seat customization."

Another possible use is to accommodate overweight passengers who are especially uncomfortable in airplane seats, or to better fit the needs of elderly or disabled people.   

This latest idea fits in among the company's other notable patent applications: Retractable bicycle seats (but on a plane) and a system that transports people in cabins designed like storage containers.

Another Airbus patent application from the last two weeks is for a storage space inside a seat, instead of below it. 

Disappearing leg room

Consumerist noted that a drawback with this design is that it would eliminate some precious leg room. 

Since the 1970s, leg room (defined as "seat pitch") has decreased from 35 inches to 31 inches on average. The width of the seat itself hasn't fared much better, tightening up to 16.5 inches from 18, according to Forbes. 

Meanwhile, an amendment that would have regulated the amount of leg room available per passenger failed to pass through Congress two weeks ago.

Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, declared that poor leg room could be more than just uncomfortable for passengers. 

"It is about safety and health. The FAA requires that planes be capable of evacuation in 90 seconds or less, but the FAA hasn't conducted emergency evacuation tests on airlines with a distance between rows of less than 29 inches," said Cohen, according to The Economist. "Some airlines fly with rows as close as 28 inches apart."


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