Anyone over 5 feet tall can attest to the dreadful discomfort of current economy airplane seats. They offer less legroom than Fenway Park, barely recline, and give coach travelers a case of claustrophobia. Enter stand-up seating. An article in the [skipwords]New York[/skipwords] Times describes "sitting" on a new type of seat designed by Aviointeriors as "more like being wedged, legs braced, on a stationary bicycle."

The article says the seats, called SkyRider, include a straight, cushioned back and a saddle-type sitting area (which can't be too great for those traveling in skirts). Author Joe Sharkey scoffed at Aviointeriors director general Dominique Menoud's suggestion that the seats were anything like comfortable or riding a horse.

Sharkey details the journey from imagination to reality for the SkyRider seats, similar to the seating one might find on a roller coaster. SkyRider is designed for short flights of about two hours, but the article says they are approved for flights up to four hours in length.

The story reports that current economy seating has about 31 inches of "seat pitch," which means the distance from the back of one seat to the same point on the one in front of it. SkyRider has a seat pitch of 23 inches. This could give a new dimension to levels of seating, says the article. The primary hurdle remaining for SkyRider is safety. Cramming that many more people into a plane could lead to compromised efficiency for emergency evacuations, the article suggests.

Budget airlines like Ireland's Ryanair and two unnamed carriers in the United States are considering the seats and the article says Boeing and Airbus (two major aircraft manufacturers) did not "dis[miss] the idea out of hand." According to the story, most budget airlines considering the seats are thinking of offering a few rows of stand-up seating in the back of the plane at lower fares than the standard coach or even business class seats. 

The story concludes by saying the seats have already passed extensive safety tests. They are "being promoted as an option for airlines that might want to more profitably use space in any given airplane." In an era of bag fees, drink fees and surcharges for window seats, the stand-up seating leaves Sharkey to wonder what "some of us won't do, even for a cheap fare."