There are plenty of complaints about coach class on airplanes. Fliers sometimes refer to it as "cattle class." Stories abound about being squished between other people, knocking elbows with your fellow passengers, and sympathizing with the plight of the canned sardine. Here's something to keep in mind: it could be worse.
Aircraft maker Airbus filed a patent application in December for a "seating device comprising a forward-foldable backrest." The filing is now available to view online. The name itself sounds innocent enough, but then you get into the details and it's enough to make your tailbone ache.
The illustrations in the filing show a saddle seat, like you might find on a bicycle, with a small backrest. The seat folds down to get out of the way, or pops up to accommodate an unfortunate traveler. The aim of the saddle seat is to reduce bulk and fit more passengers into an aircraft.
The patent application notes that seating in economy class has already been reduced about as much as humanly possible using traditional seating styles, so the patent seeks a new way of dealing with the challenge of squeezing more people into a small space.
You will notice how the passenger's legs seem to be extending down at a slope, rather that outward in a normal 90-degree seating position. This is by design so that the passenger's legs take up less space in front, allowing for more rows of seating. It is also supposed to aid in a passenger's comfort by being adjustable to accommodate different sizes of travelers.
An Airbus spokesperson told CNN the patent application for the saddle seats is just one of hundreds the company files every year and that there's no expectation the concept will actually be implemented. You may or may not find that very reassuring.
Airlines have managed to get the public to grudgingly accept a lot of changes in economy class seating that have resulted in cramped quarters, leaving people longing for the go-go days of Pan-Am when there was more leg room and less bickering over ownership of armrests. The saddle seats, however, may be going more than a few steps too far. If I had to guess, I would say airline customers aren't going to let this one fly.