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Airlines Are Finally Fixing the Middle Seat

An anonymous reader shares a report: “There’s no justice in air travel,” an airline industry insider once told me. A third of passengers on planes get stuck with a middle seat, getting smushed for hours at a time in a chair that costs exactly the same ticket price as a window or aisle. That just stinks. But what if we could rethink the middle seat to be more comfortable? In 2017, we wrote about a landmark airplane seat called the S1. Its design is unique in that it staggers the typical three-seat arrangement, so that middle-seat passengers sit slightly behind others in their row. Last month, the S1 received FAA approval to be installed on planes; an undisclosed U.S .airline will be putting them on 50 planes by the end of 2020.

The S1 has been in development for five years, and the team behind it at Molon Labe Seating is a mere six people, including sales and operations staff. Designed for commuter flights of only a few hours max, the S1 moves the middle seat a few inches lower than, and back from, the aisle and window seat. It also widens the seat by about three inches. This allows your arms, shoulders, thighs, and elbows to spread just a bit more than they otherwise could, without giving the seat more legroom or reducing a plane’s seating capacity (which translates to profit margins for airlines). “We have discovered that what looks like a small stagger actually makes a huge difference. The trick is to actually sit in the seat. In fact our main sales tool is to ship seats to airlines so they can sit in them,” says Molon Labe founder Hank Scott. “I have watched this several times — airline executives see the seat, nod their head and then say they get it. Then we ask them to actually sit down, next to a big fella like our head sales guy Thomas [6-foot-6, 250 pounds]. Within a few seconds they [really] get it — they stop being an airline executive and switch into passenger modes.”


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