Why the dreaded middle seat on a plane could soon be the most popular
The only thing worse than enduring economy class on a long-haul flight is finding yourself consigned to the middle seat for the entire journey.
But one US company has proposed a new design that could make the middle seat a more desirable option than both window and aisle.
The “Stagger Seat”, by Denver-based airline interiors firm Molon Labe Designs, sees the middle seat positioned a few inches behind and below its neighbours. It is also three inches wider than the window and aisle seats, offering a little more breathing room for fliers.
While previous cabin designs have proposed wider middle seats, Malon Labe’s staggered layout doesn’t “steal width” from the adjacent seats, Hank Scott, the company’s CEO, told Apex, ahead of the design's unveiling at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this week.
The seat’s extra girth also allows for a larger in-flight entertainment system (around 18 inches wide), comparable to those offered on business class flights.
The middle seat’s slightly offset position also allows passengers to claim both armrests and avoid starting an elbow war at 35,000ft.
“If you’re in the aisle or window seat, you couldn’t possibly steal the entire armrest – your elbows would be behind your back at a weird angle,” Mr Scott told Wired.
Other features of the new middle seat include washable seat cushions in a bid to reduce maintenance costs, Apex reports.
The Stagger Seat works in rows with an odd number of seats, so won't fit every aircraft model, but the company is said to be developing a solution to address this issue.
The design has yet to be approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration. The company is also awaiting approval for its “Side-Slip Seat” design, which was first unveiled in 2013 and is expected to be certified and installed on planes by the end of this year, having already passed its initial crash tests, according to Mr Scott.
The sliding aisle seat is designed to shift up and over the middle seat in a row of three, widening the aisle space, so passengers can board more rapidly. Once passengers are ready to be seated, the seat would slide back into place.
The company is hoping to install the Stagger Seat on planes in two years or less, and various major carriers, which he declined to name, have express their interest, Mr Scott told Wired.
Molon Labe isn’t the only company offering to help ease middle seat misery. Air New Zealand also showcased a new wider design for the unpopular middle seat at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo.
Last month, the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, California offered a free room upgrade to passengers flying into Los Angeles International Airport who find themselves assigned a middle seat.
Back in 2015, a new app – Seateroo – promised an escape route for the unlucky middle seat fliers, allowing travellers on the app to track down someone else on board willing to give up their superior seat for financial compensation. The two parties will be able to discuss the swap using the free app, even before they board the plane, and reach an agreement over the fee.