What’s this? An airplane seating reconfiguration that isn’t designed to snatch every last inch of legroom from weary passengers? It’s true. We’re intrigued by this new development that says it will actually make boarding easier and—wait for it—more pleasant. The seats are slated to appear on select domestic flights by the end of this year. Want to see for yourself? Book your next trip with Orbitz.com and you just might!
The narrow aisles and long boarding process associated with today’s commercial jetliners are annoying but no clear solution has emerged until now. The Colorado-based Molon Labe Designs has come up with a way to temporarily widen aisles and get everyone on the plane faster during boarding — and maybe even make the middle seat desirable for once.
The Side-Slip seat, as it is known, features a middle seat that is set slightly lower and recessed behind the other two seats. The staggered design makes for dedicated armrest room — an improvement over the usual experience, where the person in the middle seat gets neither the easy access to the aisle nor the option to look out the window or lean against the wall. The middle seat is also three inches wider than the standard 18 inches.
So what’s the catch? Or the selling point for airliners, which are forever trying to cut down on space and fuel use? That fancy middle seat is designed to have the aisle seat temporarily slide on top of it during boarding. This nearly doubles the usually paltry aisle width of 20 inches (not even enough to carry a small duffel bag through, in this writer’s experience), allowing you to actually walk past the people in front of you, who are stowing baggage and fishing out laptops, and find your seat much faster.
The aisles in the plane will gradually get narrower as more passengers board, but not before saving time, fuel and money in a rare win-win for both passengers and airlines. Molon Labe Designs founder Hank Scott, who is an ex-pilot for the Australian Navy and an engineering professor at University of Colorado Boulder, calculated that the Side-Slip seat would shave about 10 minutes off of boarding time — and when every minute with the airplane on the ground costs airlines between $81 and $100, or 10 gallons of gas, that’s a big deal.
Scott has had conversations with 26 airlines about the seats, which are designed for flights three hours and under. They could be in flight as soon as the end of this year.
This article was written by Rachel Pincus from PSFK and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.