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Airbus Patents Folding Airplane Seats for Increased Flexibility and Cargo Space

Airbus is one of the largest filers of invention patents in the world. Of the hundreds sent to European planer manufacturers each year, one, in particular, caught our eye. It has to do with folding airplane seats, which slide back along the cabin floor to make more room for cargo. This article will discuss Airbus’ Patents on Folding Airplane Seats.

Multiple patents of Airbus

Airbus has a long and colorful history of patenting all kinds of weird and wonderful inventions. The European aircraft maker has filed hundreds of patents each year over the past decade, including 622 in the US last year alone. While most of these concepts will never emerge, some will eventually become mainstream industries.

A concept that was patented five years ago actually makes more sense today than it did then. When Airbus patented its bizarre double-decker concept, it included a design feature that we can actually see working well in the current aviation environment.

Airbus Patents Folding Airplane Seats
Image by US Patent Office

The concept is to have seats that fold down and then slide back on rails to provide a more flexible interior. By giving airlines this flexibility, Airbus believes double-decker planes can be more user-friendly, allowing easy switching between cargo and passengers as needed.

How does it work?

In the document, Airbus describes the design in detail. It states that the deck of the aircraft is built as one continuous surface extending the entire length of the payload area. The passenger and cargo compartments will be separated by a removable bulkhead, allowing airlines to change the capacity of people or pallets as needed.

While less than a million miles away from the “hybrid” aircraft that have been in widespread use for years, the Airbus concept has one important feature. The seats themselves fold up like a traditional movie theater or lecture theater, and can then be slid back into place using rails on the plane’s floor.

Airbus Patents Folding Airplane Seats
Image by US Patent Office

Combination aircraft that existed in the past always required some engineering skill to change their configuration. They’re designed to be very easy to convert, and the seat can be removed by simply loosening a few bolts. However, this means you’ll have to store the seat somewhere, which is still impossible in the short term.

The process becomes a lot easier if you look at the Airbus concept. If they could really be easily folded and moved, the transition could be almost instantaneous, allowing airlines to fly in one configuration and return in another.

Why does this make sense now?

The concept caught the attention of many in the early months of the pandemic, as preloaded cargo planes, or passenger and cargo ships, grew in popularity. Airlines around the world have followed the trend by removing economy class seats from the cabin and putting the cargo where it is. Airbus’ foldable design would have allowed more planes to offer the service and cut costs because the planes wouldn’t have to leave active passenger service.

Airbus Patents Folding Airplane Seats
Photo source: FlightGlobal

While this is a good idea in theory, it would take months or years to obtain certification from regulators, defeating its original purpose. Not to mention that reconfiguring an entire cabin and adding a cargo door is an expensive undertaking that can cost an airline millions of dollars when it faces the threat of bankruptcy. Looking at the industry in 2023, there is no shortage of passenger flow, and the passenger flow is large.

What do you think about this patent? Tell us in the comments below.

Featured image by AIR CANADA

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1 Comment

  1. Bingham P Liu
    02nd Nov 2023 Reply

    What about the luggage compartment above the seats, are the staying? If so, that's a lot if weight and spaces nit available for cargo! If removed, then the benefit of restoring seating on the return trip is no l9nger valid.
    If seats are so easily moved why are the A380 failing to be used as the biggest cargo jets?

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