Article April 20, 2016

A Weighty Topic

Airlines are never short of innovative new ways to maximise their profits. For most of us, budget airlines have become the new norm – gone are the days of complimentary beverages, ample leg space and dulcet-toned stewardesses. Now we are herded like cattle by a jolly Jordy, and made to graze off soggy overpriced toasties. But what if you’re a tad weightier than the rest of the herd? Is it fair that you should have to buy two seats? Whilst attitudes towards obesity are often controversial, the fact that we are, on the whole, getting heavier is indisputable and a topic of much public debate.

In the long-term, fuel prices are bound to rise, and so plane manufacturers and airlines must find a way of making flying more efficient and profitable – that’s done through a combination of technology innovation and cramming more passengers in. The ever expanding width of the average passenger is obviously something of an impediment to this goal, especially as a 2 stone toddler and 20 stone middle aged man pay the same price for the same size seat. The sizing guideline is also based upon measurements set out in the 1960s, when our post war predecessors, fed on spam and prawn cocktails, were considerably thinner. Simply increasing the average seat width would mean fewer seats on the plane, fewer passengers and less money for the airlines. So what to do?

A recently filed Airbus patent seems to have found a neat way around this sizeable problem. The patent, entitled a “reconfigurable passenger bench seat,” could accommodate not only larger passengers, but small children as well. Seat belts and arm rests would be adjustable according to the respective widths of the passengers, and presumably tickets would be sold on the basis of how much width you require. Of course, Airbus have also filed patents over recent years for stackable seats and part standing seats, none of which seem to have taken off, and this could be just another invention that falls by the wayside… If you’d like to read more about the patent, CBS News have written a great piece on it here: