Airbus Seat Solution — Add Benches

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If it seems that airline seats are getting narrower, while the average size of passengers gets wider, Airbus has an idea that could reverse that trend -- replace at least some of those seat rows with benches. Airbus has filed a patent (PDF) for bench seats, which could accommodate not only larger-than-average passengers but also families with kids and people with restricted mobility. The "reconfigurable passenger bench seat" would feature adjustable, detachable seat belts and optional fold-down armrests.

The average airline seat width has gone from 18.5 inches in the 1990s to about 16.5 inches today, according to CNN, while at the same time the average weight for U.S. travelers has gone up from 159 pounds to 166 pounds for females, and from 186 to 196 for males. Last year, an Australian man filed suit against Etihad Airlines, claiming that he had to "contort and twist" his body to accommodate an overweight passenger in the adjoining seat during a long flight from Dubai to Sydney, causing a back injury and aggravating an existing back condition.