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Recently, I heard Airbus want to make an aircraft that looks like a UFO. Is there currently any civilian passenger plane designed with the seating in a round area rather than the traditional design with a long aisle?

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  • $\begingroup$ If you take a look at helicopters and blimps you'll get something closer to that, but essentially no. $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Nov 19 '14 at 3:24
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    $\begingroup$ it's a flying wing design, the major challenge (besides the getting it flying part) with that is internal layout because you don't have a straightforward central cylinder where you can stuff the pax $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Nov 19 '14 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ When I used to fly from San Paolo to Rio, the shuttles they used had a semi-circular seating arrangement in the last few rows of the cabin (and no galley). $\endgroup$ – rbp Nov 19 '14 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ On some first class 747s that flew in the 1970s, the upper deck had circular seating (around a bar and such). I don't know if any of those cabin layouts are around today. $\endgroup$ – JasonR Nov 19 '14 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @user19555: Yes, Qatar Airways has a lounge in their A380's. See qatarairways.com/global/en/airbus-380-experience.page $\endgroup$ – MSalters Nov 22 '14 at 20:40
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A number of executive / private jets have club-style seating. If you are not concerned about passenger density you can arrange the seats any way you want. I used to skydive, we would sit on the floor in any reasonable pattern depending on the plane size and load.

However, in commercial air travel you will not find any wasted space outside of a concept drawing. The original 747 designs included using the entire upper deck as a lounge. Didn't happen in reality as the loss of revenue seats was too high.

So, sadly, circular seating looks neat on paper, we won't see it in reality unless it's our private plane.

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The simple answer is no.

Why a round seating design is not feasible? We need to look at a few aspects.

  1. Real Estate
    An airplane fuselage is rectangular (roughly speaking) in shape (when viewed from top). Airplane seats are rectangles. If you place rectangular boxes in a circle, you can fit lesser number of boxes than if you place them in a rectangle of the same area.

    Airlines have just one goal to achieve, i.e. make money. Yes they take people from point A to point B too but if demand arises for joyrides, airlines will not be hesitant to start that.

    By fitting more people in lesser space (not in inhumane positions mind you, governments don't allow it), they make sure that their profits soar.

  2. Loading/Unloading Passengers
    In a circular configuration, people will be a lot more confused to find their seats. People are already so confused and disillusioned when boarding a regular airplane that flight attendants have to guide every single person about where the seat is. Don't believe me? Notice how the flight attendant will snatch the boarding pass from your hand if you try not to show it.

  3. Servicing Meals
    Trolley carts used in airplanes are designed for straight aisles. In case of circular aisles, it would be very hard to maneuver them because flying airplanes do get bumps every now and then.

  4. Evacuation
    In case passengers need to be evacuated, a circular design would not be very practical. Since all people will not facing forward, simple emergency instructions, e.g. move to the front/back/left/right of the airplane can be confusing and will waste time. Locating an emergency exit will be harder too than in a normal airplane.

  5. History
    People are used to the conventional design. The present design is in use for over half a century. In addition to airplanes, trains, buses, cars and buggies have the same configuration.


I am not sure how that (and some other) news channel found about Airbus's new design. Airbus does disclose the future innovations it is working on, and flying doughnut is not mentioned there. It could be that is it on paper only at the moment. The patent information mentioned in your referenced article cannot be found with United States Patent and Trademark Office, or at Google Patent Search.

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    $\begingroup$ In my experience, on single-aisled planes, the attendants usually let people find their seat on their own; on wide-body jets, it makes sense to direct people down the correct aisle. Sometimes, they do demand to see boarding cards on boarding: my impression is that this is usually when boarding wasn't via a jet-bridge so it's possible that people will try some kind of switcheroo. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Nov 19 '14 at 23:05
  • $\begingroup$ "I am not sure how that (and some other) news channel found about Airbus's new design." Because Airbus filed a patent on it. Filed patents are public knowledge. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Nov 19 '14 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby I couldn't find that patent here or here. That's why I cannot confirm about it. Do you believe everything you see on TV? $\endgroup$ – Farhan Nov 19 '14 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/… $\endgroup$ – Hugh Nov 20 '14 at 2:27
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There are no current passenger planes that use the circular seating layout.

However, they are certainly being considered by airline manufacturers.

One of the main reasons, as cited in the text of the link you provided is that "the design will address the ongoing problems associated with pressurised cabins that places [sic] stress on the front and back end of planes requiring heavy reinforced frames."

Furthermore, when seating is organized in a circular fashion, the maximum distance between any two seats is dramatically reduced. This can help improve passenger and employee foot traffic onboard the aircraft. Food service can be enhanced as well as ability to quickly access a restroom. More options for accommodating disabled passengers become possible. Access to emergency exits can be improved when compared to a traditional seating arrangement.

Another reason for circular seating layouts is that they are often a part of designs that do not incorporate windows. By removing the windows, the plane can be made lighter and more efficient. All the structural reinforcements required for the windows can be removed. Another example of a windowless design can be seen here.

Even with the amazing digital screens that can be incorporated in a windowless design, I personally feel that one of the best parts of flying is the direct unadulterated view through the windows. I hope future designs ensure that passengers are always able to enjoy that unique experience.

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I never saw any since I am born. I am 47 years old. In a business section, you can have rotating seats; but usually it is two seats facing two other seats. In Air Force one, I saw some pictures where the President of The United States is seated at a desk; I would remove that for safety issue.

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  • $\begingroup$ We prefer answers based on data rather than personal anecdotes. Also, Air Force One is a military plane, which is specifically excluded from the question. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Nov 21 '14 at 10:21

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