A recently published US patent application, made by Airbus, shows a reconfigurable aircraft seat that could accommodate anything from a slender family of four to two larger adults.
The image above shows the family configuration, despite the two in the middle looking more like shrunken adults than children.
This image shows the seat configured for two larger adults with more room, similar to some business class seats.
This last image shows how three narrower-bodied travelers could, in theory, trade arm space for a lower fare.
No mention is made of charging based on a passenger’s size in the patent application document, however the idea has been around for quite some time and these seats could give the concept a new angle.
In 2013, economist Bharat P Bhatia, published a paper entitled: pay-as-you-weigh pricing of an air ticket, which looks at flight costs based on combined passenger and luggage weight. The paper does points out the contentious nature of such thinking, and the risks of stigmatising larger bodies.
Reconfigurable seats could possibly reframe thinking on the subject. Instead of charging heavier people more for the same standard-sized seat, smaller people, shrunken adults in particular, could have the option of giving up space in return for a discount.