Is Boeing set to put the squeeze on high-paying passengers?
A US patent application filed by the aircraft manufacturer reveals a radical new design for business class seating which could stack as many as 12 travellers into a single row.
The 'high-density' arrangement would rely on aircraft being designed with three aisles rather than the two used in today's largest jets such as the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner, resulting in a 3-3-3-3 layout.
It would allow airlines to pack vastly more passengers into business class cabins compared to today's typical configurations which average four passengers per row, although some airlines – foremost among them British Airways and United Airlines – manage to get eight passengers per row using a 2-4-2 layout.
Boeing maintains the seats would still convert to a lie-flat bed, albeit with a noticeable taper from head to foot which could make sleeping on one's side the only way to catch some rest.
And while passengers would still have access to the aisle, as indicated by the arrows in each diagram, this would clearly require a combination of ginger steps and yoga-like contortions.
it's arguable whether airlines could continue to charge high premiums for business class when passengers would swap spacious cabins for sardine-like quarters.
Created by Mark Eakins – who holds over a dozen patents for the Boeing 787 and its 7E7 prototype – the patent application is described as "a passenger seating arrangement which maximises seat density."
The model is nothing if not flexible, with the patent application demonstrating multiple configurations including reverse seating and staggered rows.
This could deliver a 10-across setup in a standard twin-aisle jet with seats arranged in a 2-6-2 grid...
... or a marginally less claustrophobic 2-5-2 for nine abreast.
Boeing even suggests that a single-aisle jets such as the Boeing 737, which is the domestic workhorse of both Qantas and Virgin Australia, could hold up to 50% more business class passengers using a staggered 3-3 or dovetailed 2-3 layout.
The patent application also details a 'seat configuration' app so that airlines purchasing Boeing jets could easily see how many passengers they could squeeze into business class using the seat design.
Airlines would enter details such as the cabin's physical width, minimum aisle width and desired dimensions of each seat, and also choose to allow reversed or staggered seating.
Approached by Australian Business Traveller for comment on the patent application (which can be seen here), a spokesman for the company said "Boeing files many patents every year that protect our intellectual property, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we end up pursuing them."
More seat design scoops from Australia Business Traveller:
- Concept designs for new Singapore Airlines first, business class
- Is this British Airways' next Club World business class seat?
- The Boeing 777 business class seat that's a sky-high office suite
- Innovative Airbus A350 first class cabin concept revealed
- The Airbus A380 first class concept cabins you never saw
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.