A new design that makes the airplane middle seat much more comfortable has been cleared for takeoff, and could be available to commercial air travelers as early as next April.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved the S1 seating configuration developed by Molon Labe Seating last month. Creating a better middle seat experience has been an obsession for the company's CEO, Hank Scott.
"We started this company to make flying suck less and to give people more space," Scott told TODAY.
The S1 seat design removes some of the major pain points of modern day flying. The middle seat is slightly lower to the ground, staggered and includes an extra three inches of space, which allows the person sitting in it to use the arm rests, without having to fight for space with neighboring passengers.
The aisle and window seats are also a tiny bit higher. "We can actually make those seats higher, so you can have three different heights and three different widths," said Scott. "What we are trying to say to the general public is that one size does not fit all."
Airlines are taking notice. Scott said one airline, the name of which he can't disclose, ordered enough S1 seats to fill 50 airplanes. That airline will start installing the seats next April, he added.
Zach Honig, editor-at-large of travel website The Points Guy, told TODAY he typically doesn't book a flight if only middle seats are available.
"I’m not sure I’ll be changing that approach with the S1’s design, though the staggered arrangement does make flying in the middle slightly more comfortable, with a bit more room for your shoulders and arms," he said. "It’s unclear which airlines will be adding it and when, but I’m certainly eager to give it a try, assuming it does launch in the U.S."
A row of S1 seats costs around $6,000, which Scott said is the industry standard for seating. With the staggered design, airlines will have to just make up about three inches, which Scott said can be shaved off the emergency exit row and a row toward the back of the plane.
Scott envisions a future where airlines have different-sized seats that may be wider or higher to comfortably accommodate travelers of all sizes.
"I can't wait until the day someone says to me: 'Can I grab that middle seat from you?'" he said.