A New Airplane Seat Design Promises to End Middle-Seat Misery

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved an economy class seat that affords more room to that oh-so-sad spot sandwiched between the aisle and the window.

A New Airplane Seat Design Promises to End Middle-Seat Misery

A staggered layout allows the middle seat to be wider.

Courtesy of Molon Labe Seating

There’s no magic cure for getting saddled with the middle seat in economy class on a flight. But one company is hoping to make the burden more bearable with a design that promises a bit more room to those stuck in the center.

Colorado-based Molon Labe Seating has created an enlightened middle-seat model it calls the S1:Space Seat that adds several inches in width to the middle seat by setting it ever-so-slightly behind the adjoining window and aisles seats. It also sets it slightly lower than the adjoining seats.

The staggered layout gives more shoulder room to the traditionally squished middle-seat passenger in a three-seat row. Armrests that are built with a higher platform upfront and a lower one toward the back are intended to allow the aisle and window passengers to use the front portion, while the set-back middle seater can use the lower portion, putting an end to the armrest tussle.


A ramped armrest offers a lower portion of the armrest meant entirely for the middle seat passenger.

Courtesy of Molon Labe Seating

The S1 design recently came much closer to becoming a reality when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last month certified it for use on commercial aircraft. Hank Scott, founder and CEO of Molon Labe, told AFAR that he has agreements with two airline clients to potentially install the seats, but he could not divulge which carriers have signed on to test out the new seats. The seats are designed for short-haul economy class travel—flights up to four hours—due to the decreased amount of padding (there is less than there would be on seats for longer-haul flights). The new seats are not any more costly than existing counterparts and are lighter than the competition, according to Scott.

The company also has a design for a more heavily padded version, the S2:Stagger Seat, intended for longer-haul flights. Airlines can customize the seats with smartphone or tablet holders, and the seats are designed with four USB ports for every three-seat row. The row of S1 seats do not, however, recline and there is no promise of more legroom because the amount and placement of the seats in any given aircraft is up to the carriers, explained Scott.

Scott said that he expected the seats would be up in the air on commercial flights by April or May of 2020 and called the new setup an “absolute game-changer” for the middle-seat experience.

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Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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