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Apart from the security screening process, the most frustrating part of the flying experience is usually boarding the aircraft. There are numerous ways that airlines choose to conduct boarding, but one company thinks it has found a suitable and efficient answer, with a new seat design.

Meet the Side Slip Seat, by Molon Labe. I happened upon this company while browsing through the hundreds of booths at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg. It wasn’t a massive two-story, high-profile booth along the lines of other seat builders like Recaro or Zodiac; Molon Labe’s booth was perhaps 12 by 8 feet. However, the Side Slip Seat is one of the most innovative seating ideas ever offered to airlines since the launch of lie-flat seats two decades ago.

Staggered seats and armrests. Courtesy Molon Labe
Staggered seats and armrests. Image courtesy of Molon Labe.

Here’s how it works: Prior to boarding, flight attendants slide the aisle seats inward by pushing a button on each row of seats. The aisle seat now overlaps about half of the middle seat. This creates an extra-wide aisle, allowing boarding passengers to get by while someone else may be stowing their bag in the overhead bin. No more boarding bottleneck. The window seat passengers board first, then the seats are moved back outward toward the aisle. Moving the aisle seats inward changes the aisle width from 20 to 42 inches.

The big benefit here is that the middle seats are staggered slightly behind the window and aisle seats in each row, so there’s no shoulder bumping. The middle seat occupant also gets their own armrests because they’re slightly behind and lower than the armrests of the window and aisle seats, increasing the comfort of each passenger while avoiding the common armrest battle.

Sitting in the middle seat of Molon Labe
Author Paul Thompson, sitting in the middle seat of Molon Labe’s Side Slip Seating concept at AIX.

“With the wider aisle you have the chance to overtake (pass by) each other, so it’s [boarding] getting faster,” EVP of Sales & Marketing Thomas Conrady told me. “Getting faster means you can save at least 20% of your boarding time.” The commonly dreaded middle seat is now up to 21 inches wide, framed by 18-inch seats at the window and aisle. This is fantastic news for passengers of larger girth, or those who simply want a couple extra inches of space. “We can now have three big guys sitting here without any interference,” said Conrady.

Photo by the author, Paul Thompson

Conrady told me that the company haven’t signed any airline customers yet, but they have one that’s very interested. The company says the shorter turn-around time would benefit airlines by reducing costs on the ground, and getting planes back in the air more quickly, where they make their money.

The Side Slip Seat would be greatly beneficial on the 11-abreast Airbus A380. With the middle section containing five seats, the two aisle seats could be moved inward. The middle seat passenger boards first, and the aisle passengers board next. The passengers in the E and G seats would board last, and would have the seats that are set back slightly from the D, F and H seats.

This seat would also be a good solution to what is commonly known as “Euro-Biz,” where European airlines create a business class up front for short-haul flights on narrow-body planes by blocking the middle seat with a tray-like bar. But with this concept, they could simply leave the aisle seat in position on the widened aisle, creating a feeling of more space for both the aisle and those who are seated in that section.

Featured image by the author.

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