What's the least pleasant thing about travel? Airplanes. Crowded, cramped, and uncomfortable (unless you pay or warrant the upgrade to first class), the experience of flight is enough to make you swear off going from one place to the next. Even the best airlines don't necessarily get rave reviews on social media. Then there are the attempts to pack more bodies into the plane.

One of the icons of airline unpleasantness has been the middle seat. You wrestle with your neighbors for arm rest space and you're crushed in on both sides. A company called Molon Labe Designs is trying to fix that.

Their latest new take on the middle seat is staggered back and down a bit from the other two in a row. That lets the seat be three inches wider than the window and aisle positions -- plus, you actually get arm rests.

This is an example of how design can and should be done. Someone considers a problem and finds a solution by making something that looks a little different. Break the rule that all seats must be exactly in line and you can get a better fit. In fact, the width improvement could make the middle seat the most coveted position on a plane.

Molon Labe seems to have made a business of reexamining the middle position. The company created what it calls the Side-Slip Seat. The middle seat, again, is a little lower than the other two. The aisle seat can slide in, making more aisle room for loading, which can speed turnaround time and improve airline profits. Plus, the person in the middle gets a few extra inches.

Design doesn't exist on its own. That means Molon Labe will have to sell one or both of these ideas to airlines. The Side-Slip seems like the better bet because there's something in it for the carriers. However, we can hope that someone in airline management will see making passengers happier as a competitive advantage. Heaven knows it wouldn't take much these days.

Maybe next someone will figure out how to improve overhead bins. And then some airline will put the idea into use.

Published on: Apr 6, 2017
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