The most uncomfortable airline seat design ever??

I’ve seen a lot in the world of airline seats, both on paper and in real life. And there are some absolutely awful designs out there which would almost certainly be miserable as a customer. So the new out this week that Airbus has applied for a patent on a seating design which has been called everything from torturous to a cattle saddle should, in theory, have me worried. After all, it is a seat which would be pretty uncomfortable as a passenger. And yet here I am, not at all concerned about such seats showing up on a plane any time soon (really ever, but that’s a long, long time). And I think I’m pretty well justified in that view.


The seat design is a lateral bar mounted to the floor with essentially bicycle seats on top. It has arm rests and a small back support as well. The seating portion flips down out of the way when no one is in it (important for being able to get in and out of the row, especially in an emergency) and generally speaking there is nothing at all which appears comfortable about it. Seems awful, right?

But here’s the other thing about such a design: It is almost certainly unlikely to meet the 16G impact test required for certification by the FAA and EASA. It would require a significant reengineering of the overhead bins portion of the cabin because passengers would be “taller” in the seats. And it would likely require changes to the emergency evacuation procedures and testing as the seating density increases to a level which would likely exceed the rated capacity of the planes today.

In other words, there is no way these are going to fly any time soon, if ever.

Don’t believe me? Take a look back through history at options like the Aviointeriors SkyRider seat. It was not just a drawing on paper; these guys manufactured demo models and brought them around on display to trade shows and conferences. It was every bit as awful as what the new Airbus patent presents (more in some ways, less in others). And 4+ years after it was presented as a real product – not just some ink on paper – there’s still no one legitimately considering installing it on a plane.

So, yeah, like many things this would suck if it happened. But it isn’t going to happen so there’s no real need to spend energy on it. I’m certainly not losing any sleep. If I’m going to get worked up over seats these days it’ll be based on stuff which is actually selling, like some of these I saw at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg earlier this year.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Why just not impale people on 2″ diameter rods that would secure the passenger sorta like those contraptions that are used to process rotesserie roasted chickens?

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