Lying For A Living: Tiny Airline Seats

Cowboys on airplanes

No doubt channeling Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, the Italian design firm Aviointeriors Group has created a new airline seat dubbed the “saddle.” Ride them skies! What makes this seat interesting is that an airline can fit more of them into a plane than they can ordinary seats.

Even on budget flights, the average legroom is about 30 inches. But the saddle seat allows only 23. I just measured from the backside of my sculpted self to my knee and it’s just under 26 inches. It’s true that I am a taller specimen than most, but I’m also a mathematician and my calculations show that it’s impossible to fit 26 inches into 23. Saddle Seat

But that’s only if you sit so that your back makes a right angle with your legs, and if you face forward. Tilt the seat so that you’re more standing than sitting, and angle the seat toward the aisle, and the math turns into trigonometry, and thus it becomes possible for 26 to divide into 23.

Since the seat has the cattle—I mean passengers—standing as much as sitting, in order to keep kiesters from slipping out onto the floor, an athletic-supporter-like device—a prominent bump—is installed in the seat just forward of where a person’s crotch lands. This “saddle” pins the person into their seat.

Now comes the lying for a living part. Dominique Menoud, the boss of Aviointeriors, told USA Today “For flights anywhere from one to possibly even up to three hours … this would be comfortable seating…The seat … is like a saddle. Cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle.” I wonder if Menoud’s mother knows he says such things in public?

Of course, the saddle seat wouldn’t fly in the USA, and not just because some bureaucrat would find exception. There’s just no way that some passengers can amble (perhaps mosey is a better word) from the food court to the jetway and then squeeze into that small space. Not without causalities, anyway.

The Italian slim-fitting saddle seats aren’t the worst of it. The story also reported that “last year, Spring Airlines, a low-cost carrier in China, tried to get the OK from regulators to redesign its planes to accommodate some standing passengers.”

I would like this. Better to stand than to be folded unnaturally. Even on ordinary airlines, I try to get up as often as possible just to stretch to restore blood flow to forgotten limbs. Standing for an entire flight, especially on long routes, would be a joy. But only if one were allowed to amble (mosey) about the cabin.

This doesn’t seem likely: there are those overly concerned with other people’s safety who would insist on strapping passengers to their places. Since passengers are standing, the only way I can imagine this being done is by penning people in with a rope or harness, kind of like those used by some Enlightened parents—the kind that shop at cooperative groceries—who take their toddlers for walks.

Some Japanese hotels are built on the beehive principle. Tiny tubular rooms are stacked one upon another. Registrants—guests seems too strong a word—climb a ladder and then angle themselves into their cells, where they can only lay prone. I have stayed at one of these in Tokyo and can report that it wasn’t that bad. Mine even had a television and small sink.

Since the Japanese are the cleverest people on earth at making even the tiniest space feel large, I suggest their hotel innovation could be adapted to airplanes. Hexagonal cells with straps across their doorways could be used to replace seats. Now, even the spriest might become fidgety in such circumstance, so it would be best if passengers could be stunned for the duration of the flight, perhaps using some sort of knockout gas. Just think of what the airline would save on beverage service and toilet maintenance costs!

Of course, each flight with these cell-seats would resemble a science fiction movie where the human passengers are being transported to remote alien cooking kettles. A place where the “consumers” become the consumed. But that is the price we must be willing to pay to save money.

The title

All of you who thought the title of today’s post thought it related to statisticians, please raise your hand? For shame!


  1. Ken

    I bet a number of airlines are cheering for this seat to be adopted — by their competition!

    Expect very irate passengers, more confrontation, etc. as people react to being crammed such that they can’t read, access or use their laptop, etc.

    Of course, its very possible this won’t happen as spaced go unfilled….

  2. Pam

    I’m 6’1″ myself, and I cannot imagine cramming myself into one of these seats. I also cannot imagine trying to do without bathroom facilities for the duration of a flight. I also will be damned if I will try being a sardine with a fricking GUM CHEWER next to me–trapped there next to the sight of endless mastication, the stench, and the sound!! Holy crap, I would literally go out of my mind!

    The tightest fit for me was one flight on Southwest Airlines. I hate being a sardine. I hate being crammed in with a bunch of people, most of whom I don’t even know or want to know.

    I will try never to fly again unless I absolutely have to. It’s already a nightmare, what with the TSA.

  3. Pam

    Oh, yeah, I am not going Japanese either.

  4. JH

    The SkyRider sounds like a roller coaster name.

    My old body probably can sit in the SkyRider saddle seat for an hour, but for three hours? Mr. Dominique Menoud should have tried out the seat first before drawing conclusions. Of course, he probably flies first class only.

  5. Most cowboys ride 8 hours a day in their Ford F-350’s, with stereo, air conditioning, and a beverage cooler. How’s about Dominique Menoud showing a little leadership by example, and sitting 3 hours in the saddle, either horseback, or in that torture rack he’s flogging?

  6. Bernie

    Why not go all the way and build aircraft interiors just like subway cars with straps/harnesses? A few seats can be provided for the elderly and kids. Stirrups can be provided for take-offs, landings and airturbulence. Passengers can be given heads up displays to watch movies or read ebooks. Since they don’t serve food anymore there is really no need for a table. An additional benefit is that there will be absolutely no carry on baggage allowing the airlines to maximize their revenue stream.

    Another idea is to create vertical pods as oposed to the horizontal ones that exist in Japan. This will also solve the problem of having to talk to the person next to you.

  7. Cowboys do not “sit” in the saddle 8 hours a day! What a liar that Dominque has turned out to be. When cowboys work they almost never see merely 8 hour days. It’s more like 16 hours on short days, longer on some. Those crazy Euroweenies have no idea what real work can be. Eight hour days. As if. Tell that to the dogies. They’d love to have all that free time to become lost in canyons and fall over cliffs.

    Besides riding, ambling and moseying, cowboys are taken with “hunkering”. Now there’s a possibility for air travel convenience. Build in a bunch of “digital” campfires on the cabin floor, sprinkle with assorted seatbelt anchor points, remove all seating and let passengers simply “hunker” around in circles for the trip’s duration. That might be the way to go. Maybe Southwest could give it a try?

  8. Doug M

    Someone who hasn’t spent time on horesback cannot spend 8 hours in the saddle. Just like someone who doesn’t work on their feet, can not stand for a half a day and be comfortable.

    I would rather fly, “city bus”, or capsule hotel (5th element), than fly “cowboy” style.

  9. JJD

    A good solution to security concerns, airline economics, and passenger comfort might be to anaesthetize each passenger and pack him/her/it into an individual shipping container (not to be called a “coffin”) for the flight. These containers could be palletized and stacked densely in a cargo plane for transport. First class passengers would wake up on a cot in an airport lounge. The rest would be dumped with their luggage on the sidewalk outside the arrivals terminal. Speaking of luggage, if you fly Air Canada you could end up in Tanzania instead of Chicago, or be stuck in a warehouse in Toronto (warehousing fees extra) for a couple of days en route. Better to FedEx yourself to the destination for door to door service. I bet you think I am kidding.

  10. Mike B

    With apologies to Taco Bell, I guess we’re being asked to “think outside the buns” on this one.

    But seriously, the logical fallacy here is that cowboys are generally a) physically fit and b) acclimated to sitting in a saddle all day. The 350 lb corned beef salesman I sat next to on my last flight wasn’t accostomed to sitting in anything short of a double-wide lay-z-boy.

    The only plus I can think of is that the SkyRyder would have prevented this fellow from drifting off into a bout of sleep apnea. I think the crew was genuinely worried that resonant frequency of the fuselage might be excited by this guy, and we might be the first flight brought down by snoring.

  11. Matt

    I’m not aware of ever having shopped at a “cooperative grocery,” but with my son, I swear by his monkey harness. The daughter was, in comparison, a piece of cake. The boy (now 3 1/2) would run off without it. We also have had to lock all doors to the outside of the house in ways that he couldn’t undo. He’s gotten out several times when someone forgot.

    The harness was especially a life saver when flying (which I’ve done with him at least a dozen times). I hook the harness to my belt, so I can keep him near without hands. He pretty quickly got the hang of keeping up with me.

    It made it possible to safely take him shopping to non-collective stores, too. He’s a bit better now, but I just used it yesterday when we walked (on fairly busy streets) to pick up my car from the mechanic.

  12. Myron Mesecke

    8 hours in a saddle. But the horse is moving. Which makes you move around too. This changes pressure points, you contract and extend muscles, etc. Vastly different from just sitting in a non moving saddle seat. I drive a Jeep Cherokee. Been driving them daily since 1989. It is fairly short, fairly narrow and does not ride like a Cadillac. But, because of the ride, some may call it jittery I have no problem driving for hours at a time. I made a comment about this on a forum and one former Jeep engineer said it had to do with the frequency of the up and down motion. I can drive all day and feel refreshed. Kind of like riding a horse in a way. An airplane seat is not like a Jeep or a horse.

  13. Ari


    Nothing wrong with Japan. It has its quirks, but it’s an awfully fun place to live if you can get past the differences.


    Being my average-ish height is actually a boon, considering how much I travel. I may sometimes wish to be taller, but when I get on to a plane, it sure is nice to have a few inches left to stretch out.

  14. Doug M

    If the there is 6″ less leg room, then I assume that your face is also 6″ closer to the back of the seat in front of you.

    Will SkyRiders have 5 point harnesses, or will passengers get smashed in an emergency landing?

  15. Speed

    Anyone who has spent time on the type of motorcycle known as a “crotch rocket” will recognize the bent knees and b**l buster in the picture. They will also tell you that said “crotch rockets” are built for speed, not comfort. A laid back cruiser with highway pegs is better for long distance travel as is are reclining seats and a 30 inch (or more) pitch.

    As for Spring Airlines’ pathetic “standing room only” press release and news outlets’ pathetic pickup on it … regulatory bodies would not permit it unless passengers were tightly encased (cocooned?) in expanding foam or already dead. Ryanair hoisted the same stupid flag with the same ignorant results — free PR.

  16. Bruce Foutch

    From the expression of the woman in the picture, these particular seats must be fitted with the accessory vibrator attachment. Perhaps they are on to something after all…

  17. Bruce Foutch

    Oops! One word makes all the difference… Should read:

    “From the expression of the woman in the picture, these particular seats must be fitted with the accessory vibrator motor. Perhaps they are on to something after all…”

    The word ‘attachment’ might create an entirely different mental image than the one intended.

  18. Speed

    Ask the Pilot (Patrick Smith, Salon) on these things.

    So mostly these proposed seating schemes are just a novelty. They might allow for a few extra passengers, but not many.

    He recommends that US airlines install, “A fold-out, ring-style cup holder. Helps prevents spills and frees up space on your tray table.” Why didn’t United, Continental, US Airways, TWA, Pan Am, Northwest, Delta, American and Southwest think of that? Ford, GM, VW, Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes and Nissan all have.

  19. John Galt

    They don’t show the seatbelt or shoulder harness.

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