After years of financial struggles, the nation's airlines are now collecting hefty profits thanks in part to industrywide efforts to squeeze more seats into the economy section of most planes.
But if you thought airlines were finished trying to shoehorn more seats into each plane, think again.
One of the world's largest airline seat makers, Zodiac Seats France, has applied for a patent to reconfigure the seats on airplanes so that every other passenger in a row is facing toward the back of the plane. That means that in a row of three fliers, the seat by the window and the seat by the aisle face toward the front of the plane while the middle seat faces toward the back.
To make it easier to exit, the seats flip up when a passenger stands, like the seats in many movie theaters.
This seat design — called Economy Class Cabin Hexagon — can increase the number of passengers who can fit on a typical Boeing 767 by up to 80 fliers, depending on the existing layout.
The nation's airlines may be running out of ways to align and configure seats, said Jason Rabinowitz, data research manager at Routehappy.com, a website that compares airline seats and amenities. Instead, he predicts that the industry will now focus on shrinking onboard bathrooms and galleys to fit more passengers.
As for the "hexagon" idea, he said: "It never hurts to have a design under your belt that you can use in the future."
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