“Hooray, I’ve been assigned the middle seat!” said nobody ever… yet.
The middle seat on the airplane may soon be the roomiest, if a proposed design by Colorado-based startup Molon Labe Design gets approved. The team’s vision is a dynamic rethinking of what an airplane row should look like, and promises to make the tedious boarding process significantly quicker and easier than the current method favored by most airlines (proven, by the way, to be the slowest way to fill a plane.)
It’s called the Side-Slip Seat. Currently designed for shorter flights (three hours and under), each row comes in a staggered formation with the middle seat slightly lower and behind the window and aisle seats. The reason for this, as you can see in the video below, is so that the aisle seat can literally sit on top of the middle seat before boarding starts, then slide outward into place as customers begin taking their seats.
This retractable formation is a one-two punch of awesome. First, the compact row gives passengers twice as much room to negotiate the aisle while finding their seats and reckoning with their carry-on (roughly 40 inches of aisle space when both aisle seats in a given row are compressed, compared to the standard 20 inches on most planes). Molon Labe estimates that this broadened aisle alone could shave 10 minutes off boarding time, giving passengers the opportunity to move around one another instead of clogging up the aisle in queue. This is good for airlines, too: according to Fast Company, every minute an airplane spends on the ground costs them between $81 and $100.
Second, with nearly three extra inches of room added to the backrest, the staggered seat design makes the dreaded middle seat, suddenly, the widest seat in the row. Adding to the appeal, the stagger sets the middle seat a little further back than its neighboring seats, allowing extra privacy, and more space for everyone on the arm rests. Aisle wins. Window wins. Middle wins!
The pressing question that needs to be answered now is will airlines win? While the Side-Slip theoretically reduces the time each flight will spend at the gate (possibly even allowing addition flights to be added to the daily itinerary), the redesigned rows are about 5 percent heavier than the current formation used on airlines— and more weight means more gas money.
Still, Molon Labe founder Hank Scott, a former pilot with the Australian Navy, is optimistic that his team’s design will prove profitable for airlines and beneficial for travelers alike. He has spoken to several dozen airlines, including Boeing and Airbus, and says we can expect to find the first Side-Slip seats on planes by the end of 2017. So, get used to this phrase: “Awww, but I wanted the middle seat!”