Imagine flying while seated like this.
A five-hour flight in coach from New York to Los Angeles is enough to make most people cringe, but imagine doing so upright in a bicycle seat. Sounds like corporal punishment, doesn't it? But based on a patent application filed by Airbus Industries last December, this may indeed happen (via The Los Angeles Times' Hugo Martin).
The seat design featured in the patent is barbarically sparse, without even basic necessities like a backrest, tray tables or any leg room to speak of. In fact, the seats don't even appear to function like seats; instead they are designed to prop up the flyer in an awkward semi-upright position to reduce the space required between rows.
Airbus' "bicycle" seats would function like the folding seats in a movie theatre or a ball park. They would fold down when in use, and flip back up when unoccupied.
Airbus knows that being stuck in a cramped space on a plane is uncomfortable, and admitted as much in the patent filing. But the company apparently believes passengers would be willing to handle the discomfort in exchange for a cheap flight.
"[To maximize financial returns on aircraft for low-cost airlines], the number of seats in a cabin must be increased, to the detriment of the comfort of the passengers," stated Airbus in the patent filing. "However, this reduced comfort is tolerable for passengers in as much as the flight lasts one or a few hours."
The patent filing represents what is perhaps the most extreme solution thus far for the airline industry's quest to cram as many seats into a plane as possible. Fortunately for flyers, an Airbus spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that the seats may never make it into production.