I have an old car with bench seats. You can slide back and forth and fit quite a few people in there if needed (current record: eight). I can understand why someone at plane manufacturer Airbus would think bench seats might be a good idea for a modern airplane.
People come in all shapes and sizes. Inflexible airplane seats can put the squeeze on bigger passengers. An Airbus patent application, made available online earlier this month, shows a concept for replacing the usual chairs with bench seats that can be reconfigured based on passenger needs.
The patent application is titled "Re-configurable Passenger Bench Seat." The background information includes this reasoning: "In modern means of transport, particularly in aircraft, optimum utilization of the space available in a passenger cabin is of major economic importance." Airbus suggests this type of seating would be useful for families, senior citizens and people with limited mobility.
The submitted drawings don't look particularly cushy, but that's no surprise. It's really more about showing the mechanics of the idea. Pillows come later. One drawing shows a large pull-out armrest in the center, evoking the kind of spacious seating arrangement fliers yearn for. This configuration is meant to hold two professional wrestlers and give them plenty of breathing room.
Another drawing shows how the central armrest folds up and two smaller armrests lower to hold three people on the bench. Yet another option makes room for two adults and two kids. The seat belts can also be arranged to accommodate the different number of passengers.
This isn't the first unusual airline seating patent application we've come across. You might remember the horrifying saddle seats Airbus came up with in 2014. Those seats have yet to go into service, so don't get too excited about the possibility of bench seats anytime soon.