Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

The future of flying is uncomfortable.

The only real question is how uncomfortable.

Seats are getting smaller, humans are getting larger and tempers are getting hotter.

Remember, American Airlines' latest plane, the Boeing 737 MAX, actually reduces the space in First Class, never mind in Economy.

Yet some designers are trying to find an intelligent way to at offer a tiny amount of hope to Economy Class passengers.

Take, for example, Molon Labe. Its fine designers thought it might be an idea to make the middle seat in Economy bigger than the seats either side.

Perhaps this sounds slightly bonkers.

Yet the company's idea is to stagger the seating, so that there are fewer fights over the armrests.

Take a look at this video, for example.

Originally, the idea was for the seats to slide backwards and forwards, so that it reduced boarding times and generally made it easier to get in and get out.

Another part of it, though, was that the middle seat was slightly further back than the window and aisle wider.

By staggering the seating, the person in the middle seat gets a little space for their elbows and shoulders.

We're talking small amounts here, but anyone who flies regularly may find that 3 inches represent the difference between tolerance and insanity.

Last week, the company came along with newer versions, one for short haul and one for longer flights. The sliding is gone, but the staggering is, by many accounts, quite staggering.

Here's a 360-degree view of the new longer-haul seating. 

This seat design allows for quite large seatback screens.

Its armrests even have a color scheme to show who owns which part of which armrest.

Those armrest hogs need to be told.

I caught Molon Labe CEO Hank Scott as he was connecting at Chicago's O'Hare airport on Friday night.

He told me that (surprise!) no U.S. airline has yet ordered the system. 

However, he revealed that representatives from 2 of the big four American airlines had come to Molon Labe's exhibit at last week's Aircraft Interiors Expo and were enthralled.

"I know their job is to be cautious," Scott told me. "But the procurement guys, the sales guys, as soon as they sat in the seats they got it. Because they forget what job they do and they become a passenger."

What about the factors airlines really care about? Money, money, money and weight, which can cost money.

"The cost is exactly the same as a normal seat and the seats are maybe ounces heavier," Scott said.

He admitted that Molon Labe had found its first customer.

"Not American and not European," was all Scott told me. 

It's surely a start.

It's true that aircraft are ordered many years before they come into service, yet it's hard to see something that appears to offer rare intelligence not being immediately adopted.

There's a certain poetry, though, in the idea that the despised middle seat could become the one that's most coveted. Just because it's a little bigger.

Of course, this would present a vast problem for airlines now offering Basic Economy aka Sub-Cattle Class. the fares that offer you as little as possible.

Currently, these lowest-paying passengers are shoveled into middle seats, because these are the least desirable.

What an irony it would be if these were suddenly the best seats in Economy.

The first thing that would happen, naturally, is that airlines would start charging more for these seats. 

That would be a very interesting day indeed.

Published on: Apr 14, 2018