A company called Thompson Solutions studied the geometry of existing economy class seats to work out a way to make more efficient use of space, so as to give more room for passengers, and/or cram more seating into aircraft. What they came up with is quite revolutionary, although many people who have intensely studied the shape of an economy class seat in order to find the best position to sleep in might wonder why they didn't consider the idea first.

Imagine you are currently seated in economy class, with your right arm resting on the right armrest . Between your right hand and the seat in front of you is nothing. Effectively enough space to fit a concrete pavement slab on its side is wasted.

Thompson Solutions instead suggests that the space is occupied by the seat to your right (i.e.: its left armrest). In other words, offset each non-aisle seat a few inches forward and to the left of seat to its left.

If conventional economy class seating looks like this:


 ........  ........  .......
AA.......AA........AA.......AA
AA.......AA........AA.......AA
AA.....e.AA........AA.......AA
AA.......AA........AA.......AA
BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB




where A = armrest, B = backrest, . = seat and e represents how far the middle passenger's left elbow will stick out

The staggered Thompson Solutions seating plan would look like this (note that individually the seats are wider yet together the three seats are less wide than above):

                 .......... 
                AA........AA
                AA........AA
                AA........AA
                AA........AA
                 BBBBBBBBBB
         ........BBBBBBBBBB
        AA........AA
        AA........AA
      e AA........AA
        AA........AA
         BBBBBBBBBB
 ........BBBBBBBBBB
AA........AA
AA........AA
AA........AA
AA........AA
 BBBBBBBBBB
 BBBBBBBBBB



The space between each seat and the next seat in front remains the same. But by removing the space caused by the overlapping arms, Thompson Solutions claim that upto 15% more seats can be fit into a cabin. Alternatively, the width of each seat can be increased to 20" (equivalent to a typical business class seat), or a comprimise between comfort and profitability can be traded off each other. Furthermore each passenger will have the left and right armrests entirely to themselves, and if they extend their elbows out they will not hit their neighbour's rib cage. And not having your neighbour's face immediately on your side can help you avoid getting into any conversations you would rather not have on a nine hour flight.

The ASCII diagrams above cannot totally do justice to the concept. A more precise plan should be available at www.thompsonsolutions.co.uk/.

Other innovations that Thompson Solutions is investigating are backrests as slim as a deckchair (to give more space to the passenger behind, and to lighten the weight by up to 30%), and retractable cinema-style seat pans (so passengers can stand in their seating area, allowing them to place stuff in the overhead bin more easily, making embarking and disembarking faster). The retractable seat pans are essential, as it is otherwise difficult to access non-aisle seats. Just don't get stuck with an immobile passenger in deep sleep blocking your access if you have to get up to visit the toilet.

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