Transportation

Terrible Idea: Tiny New "Saddle Seats" on Airlines

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Airlines have found another way to cram even more passengers on board planes. Enter the Sky Rider, a new seat design that could be coming to planes soon. Designed by Italian firm Aviointeriors, the seat's shaped like a saddle. When passengers sit on it, their legs, rather than their backsides, take the weight of their bodies. Because these seats only needs 23 inches of legroom, rather than the standard 30 inches, many more of them could fit into an economy-class cabin. Aviointeriors claims the seats are very comfortable, but says they shouldn't be used on flights of more than three hours' duration.

The Sky Rider is being unveiled at an aircraft conference in Long Beach, Calif., this week, which means it probably won't hit airplanes for a while yet. The next step is for an interested airline to commit to using the new seats, at which point Aviointeriors will make sure the seat design meets the proper aviation safety certifications.

These seats, if an airline decides to use them, will probably cost less to purchase than the average economy-class ticket, bringing airline prices into a more affordable range. Another alternative is a standing-room-only ticket, which Irish budget airline Ryanair says it would be willing to offer if safety regulators allowed it. The European Safety Regulation Agency, however, said it was highly unlikely that any airlines would be allowed to offer standing tickets.

The Sky Rider seats may seem like a great idea to airline investors, but it's pretty clear that they're not going to bring anyone else any joy. It's hard to imagine that seat prices will drop much lower, even when they're buying passengers the smallest possible amount of square footage in which to travel. Fuel is too expensive to offer passengers $5 tickets (as was Ryanair's idea). Even if ticket prices for these seats are significantly lower, passengers will soon feel the burn of every single dollar in their leg muscles as they spend hours in these "standing seats."

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The safety-related argument against standing-room-only seats will be a moot point when all the Sky Rider passengers are standing in the aisles trying to stretch their aching legs: standing passengers mean injured passengers when there's heavy turbulence. Flight attendants' patience will wear thin(ner) as they struggle to get past the aisles full of people, and as they repeatedly tell their customers to sit down when the seatbelt sign's illuminated.

Any airline who considers purchasing these seats is showing itself as having no regard for its passengers' comfort, and caring very little for their safety. The Sky Rider seat is just another example of the airline industry's greed.