Airbus has reportedly filed a patent showing a second tier of seating in a split-level business-class cabin, a bit like a mezzanine floor.
Reports of the development are circulating in outlets as far afield as the Dallas News in Texas and Britain’s Daily Mirror, complete with diagrams of the proposed arrangement from the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The designers see the higher seats reclining into a lie-flat bed. The new tier of seats would be located in business class, with the higher level accessed by stairs or a ladder.
If adopted, the design would let Airbus fit more passengers into wide-body planes that now seat six people abreast in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration.
The new seating arrangement was created by Airbus’ designers in Germany.
“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,” Airbus wrote in the patent filing.
An abstract of the patent at the European Patent Office gives a synopsis: “A passenger seat arrangement comprises at least one first seat arranged at a first lower level, and at least one second seat arranged at a second elevated level.”
The Daily Mirror recently conducted a survey in which 84% of respondents said they feel aircraft are too crowded already.
Not all patents filed by aircraft makers end up being adopted. Some fall foul of safety regulations that require planes to be evacuated in an emergency within a specified time. Rules like that prevent low-cost carriers from installing hammocks, or forcing passengers on domestic flights to stand up like strap-hangers on crowded buses.
Other patents are filed just to protect the potential development. One famous aircraft-related design, patented and never implemented, was a system to override pilots in the event of hijack. It was developed in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on New York – and Boeing is named on the patent. The system was claimed by its inventors to allow operators on the ground to override the cockpit, in the event of a hijack of a commercial aircraft, and fly a plane remotely.
The patent for that system was filed on 19 February 2003 and the US Patent Office records the assignee as The Boeing Company (Chicago, IL). The patent number is 142971 and the patent can be inspected on this US Patent Office link.
However the so-called Boeing Uninterruptible Autopilot System was never installed, according to Boeing.
So, will Airbus be bold and install the split-level cabin? We shall see!
Written by Peter Needham