New Aircraft Seat Is Roomier for Middle Passenger, Ends Armrest Battles

Apr 12, 2018

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One of the most fascinating innovations on display at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in 2017 was Molon Labe’s Side Slip Seat — a seat designed to provide more width to the middle seat, eliminate armrest battles and make the boarding process faster. While there’s plenty of interest in the seat, no airlines have taken the plunge to install it.

Photo of the original "S3" Side Slip Seat. Photo by Paul Thompson.
Photo of the original “S3” Side Slip Seat. Photo by Paul Thompson.

So, Molon Labe came back in 2018 with two new seating products. Nominating the original product as S3 (Side Slip Seat), the newest options are nicknamed the “S1” and “S2.”

S1: Staggered Short Haul

Like the original side slip seat, the S1 is designed for short-haul aircraft like the Airbus A320 family and Boeing’s 737. This seat has a lot of similarities to the original: a wider middle seat and staggered seating allowing individual shoulder and elbow space.

However, this version ditches one of the signature elements of the original: the sliding seats. Instead, the S1 seats are locked into its staggered position. This eliminates airline concerns about maintenance of the sliding and locking mechanism while also making the seat lighter.

S1 seats on display at AIX. The rear row is arranged in 29 inches of pitch and the forward row has 31 inches of pitch.

The models on display at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo were arranged in 31 inches of pitch and 29 inches of pitch. Of course I had to check out the 29-inch pitch option in detail. While there’s a little zigzag required to get into the middle seat, the slimline-style seat provides plenty of legroom in all three seats.

My legroom on the 29-inch pitch seats. For reference, I’m 5’11”.

Also an innovation on these seats: a “latchless table.” In order to reduce maintenance costs for airlines, the table is designed to mechanically lock in place without a latch. To open it, you just have to pull up and then out.

The seatback on the model uses elastic bands to hold devices such as a phone or tablet in place. However, the seat could also be installed with an in-flight entertainment screen if an airline elected to do so.

Image courtesy of Molon Labe.

One other change is the height of the seatback. Rather than having the awkward-looking staggered heights of the S3, the middle seat seatback on the S1 is taller so that it lines up with the aisle and window seatbacks.

S2: Staggered Long Haul

While actual S1 seats were on display at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, the S2 only presented a one-row fragile mock-up showing how it adapts the original concepts to a long-haul version.

And, there are some unique features. First, the armrests are shaped to provide a more-natural cradle for the middle seat while using colors and shaping to delineate ownership of the armrest.

Image courtesy of Molon Labe.
Image courtesy of Molon Labe.

Unlike the short-haul versions, these seats are designed to provide comfort and entertainment for longer flights. On the S2, the middle seat isn’t just wider, but it also creates space for a larger in-flight entertainment screen. The seat can hold up to a 18.5 inch screen, which would make it the largest IFE screen available in economy.

Image courtesy of Molon Labe.

If you want to check out what the middle seat experience looks like, Molon Labe has created a 360 rendering of the seat:

Overall, I think these new models are brilliant. The idea of slightly staggering the seats with passenger elbows and shoulders in mind is an idea that seems so obvious that it’s hard to imagine that it’s taken this long for it to be created. Molon Labe has design and utility patents on all three seat models and many of the unique elements.

I was curious how difficult the staggering would make climbing in and out of the window seats on the original seat. These concerns were put to rest by trying out the S1 for myself. While there is some zigzagging required for the window seat passenger to get across to the aisle, it’s not difficult to do so. And with seat pitch on aircraft being arranged so tight nowadays, the middle and aisle passengers are going to have to get up to let the window seat passenger out of standard seats anyway. So, this doesn’t make that aspect any more difficult.

Molon Labe CEO Hank Scott said at AIX that he was excited about the interest that the new S1 and S2 seats have already received from airlines.

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