How far will the airline industry go to squeeze in more passengers per plane?
The question arises after France-based Airbus Operations submitted a patent in Europe for a new passenger seat that resembles a bicycle seat with a small backrest. It has no tray table, no headrest and very little legroom.
As explained in the patent application, the invention is meant to reduce the bulk of a typical airline seat, thus allowing an airline to pack more passengers onto a plane and, presumably, increase profits.
"In effect, to increase the number of cabin seats, the space allotted to each passenger must be reduced," the patent application states.
Each of the bicycle seats is fastened to a vertical bar, and the seats retract to increase space when not in use. Airbus officials say the patent request does not mean the seat will be used.
"Many, if not most, of these concepts will never be developed, but in case the future of commercial aviation makes one of our patents relevant, our work is protected," said Airbus spokeswoman Mary Anne Greczyn. "Right now these patent filings are simply conceptual."