Airbus is studying the possibility of seating up to 186 people on its A320 aircraft. If that doesn't sound alarming, consider that it currently only holds 150 passengers on average these days. That's an extra six rows of seats, in a space that already feels tight.
Working with the European Aviation Safety Agency, the manufacturer hopes to have the plane re-certified for the new capacity. Aviation Week reports that the catalyst for this move is thought to be an airplane order made last year by Spanish low-cost airline Vueling.
Vueling A320 - photo by Airbus
You might by thinking to yourself, "Vueling is in Spain. What do I care?" Well, one airline here in the U.S. that would probably be interested in this new configuration would be Spirit Airlines. Spirit is an interesting character. They're the most complained-about airline in America, but they are also highly profitable, thanks to their policy of adding fees to everything from luggage and boarding passes to bottled water on board.
In order to accommodate those 36 extra seats into the plane, the average seat pitch would be decreased to only 28 inches. The average economy seat pitch on most airlines is currently 31 or 32 inches, so that's a pretty significant difference. SeatGuru defines seat pitch like this:
Seat Pitch is the distance from any point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front or behind it. While it is not the exact equivalent of "legroom", it does give a very good approximation of how much seat room you should expect. Bottom line: the more seat pitch the better.
The A320 isn't the only plane on which Airbus is looking to maximize their real estate, however. Runway Girl Network reported in March that Airbus plans to raise the lower level cabin floor on their double-decker A380 by about two inches to a slightly wider part of the fuselage in order to fit up to eleven seats in each row of economy class. Airbus had planned to demonstrate the 11-abreast cabin at the Aircraft Interiors Expo earlier this month in Hamburg, but couldn't manage to complete the mock-up in time to display it.
Top image: Airbus A320 taking off. Photo by Airbus