The trend for coach seats in the airline industry has been to squeeze leg and hip room to pack as many paying passengers as possible into each cabin.
But now a division of the European airline manufacturer Airbus has applied for a patent for a seat design that can offer extra space for overweight fliers.
Airbus is suggesting that airlines use a bench seat, the type of seats you would find in the cars in the 1950s and '60s before they were replaced by bucket seats.
In a bench seat, all the passengers share the same long seat cushion and backrest. According to the Airbus patent application, the advantage of a bench seat is that the seat belt can be moved sideways along the length of the seat to fit between two and four passengers.
The disadvantage is that the seat back can't recline, and in the configuration for four passengers, the two fliers in the middle don't get an armrest.
In a statement, Airbus said it files hundreds of patent applications each year, adding, "The vast majority of items and processes patented never become fully realized technology or products."