A Twin-Aisle Narrow Body Plane? Maybe It’s Not So Strange

No one likes the middle seat on a flight … well maybe someone does, but I have yet to meet them. Airlines need to add as many seats as possible to a flight, and fill them, to maximize their revenue potential, but with more airline options the competition to attract passengers is more challenging than ever.

Given the potential space within the Airbus A320 narrow body family of aircraft (A318/A319/A320/A321) Morten Müller, a former aircraft engineer with Airbus has designed an interesting interior that maximizes the space within an A320, which has been sold as a single-aisle aircraft only, since it entered service in 1988.

Müller’s seating design transforms the traditional 3-3 (3 seats – aisle – 3 seats) configuration into 1-2-2. This design allows airlines to potentially create a premium domestic or transcontinental product with smaller aircraft on strategic routes. For example, United Airlines operates Washington-Dulles to San Francisco 8 times per day with non-stop service; Airbus A320 aircraft operates three of these flights, with two other flights being served by the Airbus A319.

Given the passenger loads on these flights and the high frequency of high yield business travelers flying to, and through, San Francisco a sub-fleet of A319/A320 aircraft could be created to cater to a premium-economy class service, similar to United’s current United PS (Premium Service) sub-fleet of Boeing 757-222 aircraft.

The removal of 1-seat per row can be a loss of substantial revenue, but on certain routes potentially the loss of the seats could be made up for in revenue from a cabin configured entirely with ‘economy plus’ seats.

The competition among airlines to differentiate themselves is fierce. American Airlines installed in-seat power through out economy class on the New York – San Francisco/Los Angeles routes; United Airlines introduced its “PS” service on the same routes; Delta tried its hand “Song” all economy with a nice in-flight experience on its transcontinental routes from New York … and other upstart airlines are now finding their niche in passenger amenities.

Could Müller’s cabin design be the answer the airlines are looking for? Imagine looking at your boarding pass and never having to be upset you got a middle seat … isn’t that worth a slightly her airfare to you? It would be to me

Fewer passengers means less baggage and less passenger weight. Less passengers and a lower weight means more cargo capacity, which means more revenue…

…personally I’d love to see an airline give Müller’s design a try. It is an expensive gamble, but one that may offer profitable returns in both revenue and passenger loyalty.

Below are two graphic images of Morten Müller’s proposed new A320 twin-aisle cabin layout.

Happy Flying!


  1. The picture looks good, but the other aisle has a lot less head room. The flight attendants would have to be bending their neck for the whole time over there.

  2. I have looked at the overhead bins a few times and think they may be problematic, however the overhead bin configuration I think is the least of the issues with getting a prototype of this design into the skies

    Happy Flying!


  3. For me, the main benefit of UA E+ is more legroom. Aisle/window is nice, but I’d trade an aisle in E for a middle seat in E+ anytime.

  4. SAS – when “The Businessman’s Airline” with Jan Carlzon at the commands (cf his book “Moments of Truth”) – surveyed their Customers’ perception of Quality Service, with the result that longitudinal freedom of space was found irrelevant (being Scandinavians, ie six foot up, this is not trivial), with a strong relevance of TRANSVERSAL freedom of space. Promiscuity, ie the uneasiness created by closeness, which may degenerate into agoraphobia or claustrophobia in extreme cases, happens from getting too close to the neighbour, ie by lateral touch, or in the aisle at stand-up. The co-travellers in the next row aren’t bothering you. SAS (using DC9 or MD80 series) refrained from selling the middle seats in their (3+2) triple seats, leaving it available for laptops, newspapers… SAS’ “Businessman’s Airline” was a winner, Carlzon brought SAS’ accounts back into black numbers. Besides, American Airlines who tried pitch differentiation found they were waisting their resources and dropped the idea. To make people pay for a better product, the differentiation must be obvious, fully understandable.

  5. The ergonomy of the job of the Flight Attendants is a key design criteria for a cabin cross-section. Historically, in the early days of Air Transport, the approach was totally guided by the PRODUCTION viewpoint. The (3+3) seating was found optimum in terms of number of seats per sq. ft of cabin floor area. Recruitment of Air Hostesses was discriminative, favouring women exceeding 1m75 — so that they could reach the outer seats on the triples !!! On the A320, the outer LHS or RHS seat is 52″ off the aisle centerline (49″ for the 737), causing kinks in the back from the repeated marathon hand-out then retrieval of 70+ trays right and left on any intra-US or intra-European citypair leg with less than 80′ flight time. Ask AFA’s medical services for the details. Triple seats squeezed against the wall panel should really be banned by FAA (or JAA), for want of ergonomy AND for lack of safety as well. In 2010, such use of the seats is OBSOLETE. Also ask the Airport Handling trade unions : to vacuum-clean an A321 high density (38 rows ?) in 7′ at a ground rotation is a challenge to the best !

  6. The Ace, the trumf card, of the HQR/HP3 variants, is Quick Rotation at airports. Valuable aircraft-minutes will be gained. For Airport Authorities or Handling Agents, HQR/HP3 aircraft will be money-spinners, freeing more slots quicker. HQR/HP3 operators will get slots for their aircraft where conventional aircraft would have to wait; slot bargain prices may be negiotiated. Cabin cleaners can enter the aircraft two teams at a time, gaining three-four precious minutes. Deplaning and boarding will be much easier. The ground rotation’s Critical Path will be depend on the speed of the Container Loading System for A320H Series : pending the solution found to this limit, from 12′ up to beyond 20′ may be spared at each ground rotation. Multiply by six, and you have enough time for one more flight per each 24H, boosting aircraft production. Less legtime per city-pair means less depreciation, less crewcosts… lighter aircraft means lower airport taxes, less maintenance costs; pax-appeal means higher ticket yield, better cabin factor… airlines need to completely revise their business simulation models to fully grasp the intricate economic realities of HQR/HP3.

  7. Airline and manufacturer planners alike need to reckon with the emergent countdown for a BAN BY FAA/JAA(EASA) against installing triple seats squeezed against a wall panel in aircraft cabins. It is only a matter of time until FAA Rulemakers will say BASTA! : Gentlemen, from (deadline) onwards, triples/quadruples must be accessible from both ends, no seat shall be more than one off from an aisle ! When this happens, the HQR (1+3+1) concept is retrofittable, HP3 (1+2+2) probably not, or at a much higher cost. Planners need to anticipate or they’ll get caught the pants down ! The armwrestling between the Producer Lobby (Manufacturers-Operators) and the User Lobby (you and me, AFA, Airport Worker Unions and Safety Advisors) has started!

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