From the Travel Desk: Row 100, seat Z -- could it come to this?

  • Article by: KERRI WESTENBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2014 - 7:02 PM

An Airbus A380 performs during a demonstration flight at the 49th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport, east of Paris, Sunday June 26, 2011.

Photo: Francois Mori, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

How small can an airplane seat get?

Airbus, the French airplane manufacturer, thinks that perhaps they can get quite small. As small as a bicycle seat.

The company made a patent application for a new style of passenger seat, one shaped like a classic bike saddle, wide at the back and narrow where legs descend.

The new seat design, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, has caused a stir in the flying community — and beyond.

No need to panic just yet.

As patent lawyers know well, companies apply for patents all the time, even for items they might never produce, to protect their intellectual property. (And that’s what this is, even if you think a bike seat on an airplane is pretty stupid.)

A patent is just the first step. Before any such seat wound up on an airplane, the Federal Aviation Administration would vet it for safety.

As designed, passengers flying in the new seat would get a tiny back rest, forgo a tray table and head rest and sit with legs slightly bent, feet fully on the ground. From the looks of it, it’s really more a perch than a seat.

Airbus is claiming the design — bike saddles on a vertical bar that stretches from the window to the aisle — would fit a lot more people onto a plane.

Yes, but those would be paying customers. Thank goodness for supply and demand. If we won’t buy the seats, they won’t be on planes.

Airbus, though, is hedging its bets that fliers will be willing to give up comfort for cheaper airfares, especially on short flights.

In their thinking, it comes down to this: People may opt to get squeezed onto a plane if their pocketbook is already squeezed.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters