Patent for adjustable aircraft benches created for obese flyers and families
Re-configurable passenger bench seat by Airbus (U.S. Patent Office / Airbus)
Published Tuesday, February 23, 2016 10:26AM EST
An aircraft manufacturer has come up with one possible solution for making obese flyers and their seatmates, more comfortable during their flight: installing benches.
The latest patent from Airbus, appearing on the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, calls for transforming traditional bucket seats divided by armrests, into one long bench that can be reconfigured to seat two obese adults or a whole family.
By designing one continuous seating surface, benches can adapt to different seating arrangements and passenger needs.
For example, the modifiable bench and seat belt system could be used to seat two oversized adults, or provide extra space for flyers with mobility issues.
The patent comes amid ongoing issues related to overweight flyers and passenger rights.
Last summer, a flyer sued Etihad Airways claiming he was forced to contort his body to accommodate the obese passenger who sat next to him during a flight from Sydney to Dubai.
South Pacific carrier Samoa Air also introduced a controversial policy in 2013, in which passengers pay for their airfare according to their body weight.
Along with oversized passengers and traditional three-seaters, the design could equally be modified to accommodate a whole family.
Patent designs show a modifiable seat belt system that can be arranged to seat two adults, for instance, and two small children, all on the same bench.
Meanwhile, the idea isn't far off a design by British firm SeymourPowell, which came up with a concept for customizable banquette seats in 2013.
In that firm's ‘Morph' design, passengers can adjust the width of each seat by moving dividers laterally and clamping them down into the seat fabric.
Meanwhile, in a separate patent from Airbus, the firm also reimagines seats doubling as storage compartments.
But, as pundits quickly pointed out, while extra storage space may come as welcome news for many, the patent dramatically reduces legroom for long-legged flyers.
Seat benches and seat storage compartments are the latest designs from the French aircraft manufacturer to reimagine the way travelers fly. They're also, perhaps, among the least controversial.
In 2014, Airbus filed a patent that turned seat cushions into bike saddle-style seats, reminiscent of those found on standing roller coasters -- a concept that the internet decried as a terrifying torture device.
The manufacturer also reimagined headrests doubling as virtual reality helmets, similar in vein to Google Glass technology, capable of diffusing music, movies and even smells to help flyers relax.