Fast Company had an article last month that triggered an idea. The original talks about adjustable seating in airplanes that could be more customized than what we have now. They would be set on tracks in the floor so they could move back and forth. When you reserve your seat, you input how much legroom you want so when you get on the plane it is adjusted accordingly. I think you would pay for greater space, but only for the amount you need. You wouldn’t have to worry nearly as much about being stuck behind a very tall person who is going to recline into your lap. More space would cost more, but we pay more for extra legroom seats now. This would make it more fair.
So why don’t we take this a step further? A simple optimization algorithm could match three people (or two for smaller planes) of the same height but of different widths (chest/waist perhaps) into each row. Then not only would your seat fit you (and your neighbors) better, but the airline could optimize the space better. If you could move an entire row forward and back, you could fit in more rows. And wider people could be matched with narrower people so that the widths of the row and the aisle are constant. They are doing some measure of this to us anyway, but as it is now we don’t get any benefit from being squished in like sardines. If it was custom fit, they could get the needed revenue and we could get the legroom and seat width we need.
Am I expecting too much? Do you think that somehow this idea would be refocused into even more ways for airlines to squish us in and extract more revenue? Pay per inch seats? Or could I be on to something?
Image credit: Steve Jurvetson