Pure Brilliance? Boeing’s Patent For Upright Sleeping Seats

Five years ago, Boeing filed a patent for a device that could change the way we travel. Although it’s not gotten off the ground to date, the Transport Upright Vehicle Support System, or ‘cuddle seat’, could make sleeping in economy a whole lot easier. Here’s what it’s all about.

Boeing sleeping seats
Trouble sleeping in economy? Maybe Boeing has the answer. Photo: Getty Images

The king of patents

If you thought Airbus filed a huge number of whacky patents each year, Boeing puts the European planemaker firmly in the shade. Compared to Airbus’ meager 622 patents filed in 2019, Boeing filed more than double that number, registering no less than 1,433 in the United States.

Just like Airbus, some of those patents will go on to fly, whereas others will likely be left to gather dust in the archives somewhere. But one particular patent that was filed back in 2015 could be worth revisiting.

Trying to sleep on a plane in economy is tough. Upright is not a natural sleeping position, and with most economy seats having little or no recline, getting comfortable is a serious issue, particularly on longer flights.

Back in 2015, Boeing patented a concept it called the Transport Upright Vehicle Support System. Not a very catchy name, but if it really does comfortable sleep in the economy class cabin, passengers probably wouldn’t care if it was called Sheila.

Boeing sleeping seats
It looks like a torture device, but apparently, it will help you sleep. Image: US Patent 8,985,693

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How does it work?

Dubbed the ‘cuddle seat’, the concept works using a backpack that is stored under the seat. The passenger grabs the backpack and clips it into some over shoulder seatbelts that are attached to the headrest.

Boeing sleeping seats
The idea is based on a supportive backpack. Image: US Patent 8,985,693

The back of the backpack folds up, revealing the “face relief aperture” – a kind of padded circle cutout, a bit like you stick your face in for a lying down back massage. The backpack itself is padded, allowing the passenger’s chest to be supported. If you’re having trouble visualizing this whole experience, Patent Yogi made a handy YouTube video explaining how it works:

It’s a pretty odd concept, but as someone who will admit to having dozed off resting face down on the tray table in the past, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to think that something like this could work.

Will it ever fly?

Whether or not the ‘cuddle chair’ ever becomes more than a paper idea remains to be seen. In theory, it could work and appears to have been designed to allow easy retrofitting to an existing plane seat.

However, that real estate underneath the seat is kind of crucial. Passengers like to stow stuff there, and there are also essential bits of kit such as lifejackets in that area, which require rapid and easy access.

Boeing sleeping seats
Would you stick your face in this hole? Image: US Patent 8,985,693

In today’s hygiene conscious world, this type of modification would just add to the surfaces that need to be cleaned between flights. Passengers aren’t going to want to put their face in a hole that someone else has just been snoozing in (and possibly drooling all over).

However, we could imagine this as something you could buy yourself. The seat straps could be easily added to the headrest by the passenger, and the backpack could double as a sleep aid and a carry-on bag.

Would you buy a ‘cuddle’ backpack so you could sleep in your economy seat? Let us know in the comments as usual!


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