FLYING ECONOMY IS terrible. TSA checkpoints, crap food (or no food at all, which might be better), middle seats. But things can always get worse, thanks to airlines desperate to crank up profits by cramming as many of us into the cabin as possible.
One of the few comforts we economy class fliers have left is our right to strap on noise-canceling headphones, stare at the back of the seat in front of us, and pretend we’re on a beach, or at home, or in a modest-sized jail cell—anywhere, really.
Now that right is at risk. Zodiac Seats France, an industry supplier, has patented a new seating configuration that rips out the (horrid) middle seat in favor of one that faces the rear. With “Economy Class Cabin Hexagon,” you get more neighbors than ever before—and they are right in your face.
The goal of the design is “to increase cabin density while also creating seat units that increase the space available at the shoulder and arm area.” To be fair, it seems to do that—because you’re no longer facing the same direction as your immediate neighbor, you have more shoulder room. And if you’re traveling with your kid or spouse, being face-to-face can be nice (we guess).
But if you’re around the sort of people one usually sits next to on airplanes, it would be horrible. At least if you’re all facing the same direction, you can pretend they don’t exist. Here, if you’re a human with peripheral vision, fat chance of that. We were horrified a few months ago at Airbus’ patent for a virtual reality helmet to mask the pain of being airborne in economy. Now it sounds like a decent idea.
Good news is, the “Hexagon” is just a patent, and Zodiac has no public plans to make it a reality. If it does, it would have to pass a battery of tests, including passengers’ ability to quickly evacuate, and the seats’ capacity to withstand 16g forces in the event of a crash. So that buys you some time to save up your money for a private jet, or at least a business class seat.