It might seem as if airlines have left no space unused in their efforts to cram as many people as possible into planes, but one aircraft maker is demonstrating that's far from true.
Airbus, one of the top aircraft manufacturers, has designed a new way of seating passengers that will undoubtedly cheer profit-minded airlines while sending shudders of horror through even the most even-tempered customers. In Airbus' vision, passengers will be stacked on top of each other, with a second level of seats above the heads of those seated on the floor.
To be sure, the plans, which were filed with the the European Patent Office, may not ever become a reality, but they nevertheless demonstrate the desire among airlines to maximize profit at the expense of passenger comfort. Since the mid-1980s, airlines have redesigned economy-class seats to have less room, allowing companies to pack in more passengers and sell more tickets. Ironically, the seat-shrinking has happened during decades when Americans have added to their girth, making air travel increasingly uncomfortable.
"In modern means of transport, in particular in aircraft, it is very important from an economic point of view to make optimum use of the available space in a passenger cabin," the patent for the passenger-stacking system notes. "Passenger cabins are therefore fitted with as many rows of passenger seats as possible, which are positioned with as little space between them as possible."
Right, so flying is already bordering on hellish. But the patent points out that it plans to "still more efficiently use the space in a passenger cabin" by using the space above the heads of the poor souls sitting on the floor.
The patent includes several options for using the overhead space in the cabin, including some seats that would recline and allow passengers to lie down during the flight. That wouldn't be so bad, except the passengers below might need to watch out for falling pillows or water bottles.
Think it's bad enough when a seat-mate wants to get up to use the bathroom? In the stacked plane, the passengers stacked at the top would need to climb stairs or ladders to reach their seats above the rows on the floor.
Airbus didn't immediately return a request for comment. A representative told The Telegraph that the patent "does not mean they are necessarily going to be adopted into an aircraft design. This preserves the innovation and idea."