Airbus's retractable bicycle seat patent aims to maximize profits

Passengers who already feel crammed into shrinking airline seats aren't going to be happy with Airbus.

Passenger discomfort means the seats could only be used in short flights, airline's patent reads

Airbus filed a patent in December 2013 for a new airplane seat design that would have travellers resting on bicycle-like seats for short-haul flights. (Airbus/US Patent & Trademark Office)

Passengers who already feel crammed into shrinking airline seats aren't going to be happy with Airbus.

The company flirted with the idea of fitting its planes with retractable bicycle seats at the expense of passenger comfort.

Travellers would sit on bicycle seats with a small backrest behind them.

Low-cost carriers aim to maximize profits by cramming as many passengers as possible into a single plane, the patent application acknowledges.

Airbus's retractable bicycle seat design manages to add extra seats by reducing the width of passenger seats and travellers' leg room, and minimizing the bulkiness of current airline seats.

Since this setup would create passenger discomfort, it would only work for short-haul flights lasting from one to several hours, the patent application reads.

The smallest seat width on a short-haul flight is now 41.28 centimetres, while the smallest seat pitch — or the distance from the same point on one seat and another, often referring to legroom — is 68.58 centimetres, according to Seat Guru.

An Airbus spokeswoman told the National Post that the seat is unlikely to become a travelling reality. Each year, Airbus files hundreds of patents and this is just one of the company’s concepts, she explained.

It's not the first time an airline has experimented with unique seating designs.

In 2010, an Italian company showed off its standup plane seats at an aviation conference. A year earlier, Ryanair proposed bar stools as an alternative plane seat to enable it to charge customers less for flights.

Airbus filed a patent for its design in Dec. 2013, but it was only made public over the weekend.