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Excluding various first-class seating arrangements, are there any examples in history or today, of an airline that has implemented a non-standard seating arrangement?

For instance, most military transport aircraft contain just rows with passengers' shoulders inline with the bow and aft. Are there any examples of where a commercial airline has tried this arrangement -or any other type?

An extreme example would be an airline like a subway car (everyone standing up, just hanging on to something).

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  • $\begingroup$ Subways are used to travel shorter distances, and they go at a much slower speed. Airplanes can be compared with intercity trains for a closer comparison in seating configuration. $\endgroup$ – Farhan Oct 1 '14 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ That subway car position could happen on Soviet airliners - passengers sometimes got up during descent and were standing in the aisle during landing, so they could leave the aircraft sooner. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Oct 2 '14 at 4:30
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Some of the old flying boats had a seemingly haphazard arrangement

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But maybe all flying boat passengers were effectively first class?

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    $\begingroup$ Great collection of pictures! Reminds me of the seating on Zeppelins, especially the last one. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Oct 2 '14 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ yes, you're showing the first class cabins. Flying boats (at least the big ones) were used effectively like passenger liners. Day cabin, dining room, and passenger cabins with bunks (or seating arrangements like in the picture you show, probably a shorter range one). $\endgroup$ – jwenting Oct 2 '14 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ The pictures are great, but yes, these are essentially 1st class (well, they put first class to shame really). $\endgroup$ – Matthew Peters Oct 2 '14 at 12:45
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Current FAA passenger safety regulations require seats with 16G survivability: http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_safe/safety_improvements/media/FAA-FactSheet-Aircraft-Survivability.pdf

As the PDF notes:

In 1988, the FAA issued regulations requiring that all newly developed transport aircraft use “16g” seats. Using a test dummy, these seats undergo dynamic testing and evaluation regarding injury protection. Similar to automobile crash tests, the FAA tests are designed specifically for the aviation environment. Previously, seats were designed and approved to a static 9g standard with no occupant injury criteria. Most transport airplanes were developed before 1988. However, Amendment 121-315, effective October 27, 2005, required that transport category airplanes in part 121 operations, certificated after January 1, 1958 and manufactured on or after October 27, 2009, must comply with the 16g dynamic standard. In 2010, the agency published guidance on the importance of analyzing how interior structures, such as seats, interact with other structures due to critical loads. In July 2012, the FAA issued new criteria for side-facing seats that are equivalent to the occupant protection for standard forward-facing seats

It is very hard to design side-facing seats that meet these survivability standards (human necks are very weak in the lateral direction). Furthermore, the airplanes are current designed with seats that slide on tracks in order to make the cabins easily customizable to customer (airplane company) requirements. This also makes it easier to design around front-facing seats:

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And let us not forget this quickly abandoned proposal. Everyone would still be facing forward but we'd be standing! With shoulder and waist harnesses (five point), survivability might actually be pretty good! Actually, I'd want a head and neck retainer too. :-)

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Not sure if those are excluded by the "Excluding various first-class seating arrangements" part of your question, but there are a few slightly more original layouts that have been used (or are still used) by some airlines, mostly for business class:

  • the herringbone pattern. Seats are arranged at about 45° from the axis, and all seats get direct access to the aisle.

  • reversed seating, as for instance in British Airways' Club World (business class): in a given row, alternating rear- and forward-facing seats. This saves a bit of space laterally (you need more space at the elbow level than for the legs, so by having one person's elbows be at the level of another's legs, you can have more seats in the same width).

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