These seats could be a thing of the past, if an invention Airbus is hoping to patent for a minimalist bicycle-style seat takes off.
Frequent fliers may have new seating arrangements to look forward to — that is, if elevated, cramped bicycle-style seats are what they had in mind.
Airplane maker Airbus has invented a new minimalist seating device designed to pack more passengers onto flights, while preserving comfort, and has applied for a patent for it.
The proposed new seat, which Airbus says will help "reduce bulk" of traditional seating, has a retractable "motorcyle-type saddle" for optimal leg room, along with adjustable back rest, according to the patent application.
One airplane seating expert, Dr. Fairuz Romli, says standing areas and space-reducing seats on airplanes are not completely far-fetched.
“The standing cabin concept has been proposed where the passengers are transported in a cabin of an aircraft in an upright position, similar to standing on buses and trains,” Romli wrote in a report on vertical passenger airplane seats at the Universiti Putra Malaysia.
But flight attendant and author Heather Poole, who chronicled her experiences aloft in "Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet," feels these seats are only asking for trouble.
"Looks like there are quite a few passengers seated in a row, which means a lot more middle seats, which equates to more battles for the armrest," she wrote in an email. "All I know is miserable passengers equate to bad flights. I wouldn't want to work it."
Poole doesn't think passengers will go for such space-reducing options. Comfort is still a priority for them, and someone would have to be pretty "desperate" to put up with such a seat, she said.
"I can't imagine being on a plane and sitting on a seat made for a bicycle without wearing a pair of those padded shorts — that I don't own — for more than 20 to 30 minutes," she wrote.
Pauline Frommer, editorial director for Frommer’s travel guides, can see consumers opting for cheaper flights but can’t see standing sections becoming a reality anytime soon.
“For short flights, it could drop the prices drastically. It would be more green, more fuel-efficient, so why not?" she said.
But she expressed doubts that such seats would pass muster with safety regulators. It could take upward of seven years for such an idea to be implemented, she suggested.
Airbus for its part said its seating device is not necessarily a priority, pointing out that it patents several hundred concepts and designs a year. “Not all of these ideas, new designs and technologies become final products. We do this to guard our team’s research efforts,” spokeswoman Marie Caujolle said.