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Airbus to offer some extra-wide seats

Aisle seats will be expanded while adjacent seats shrink, and not everyone is happy about it.

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A US Airways Airbus A320 airplane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, March 28, 2013. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Airbus will offer airlines the option of extra-wide seats on its A320 jets to keep up with "trends in demographics" and accommodate large passengers, it announced this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.

The extra-wide seats will measure 20 inches across instead of the standard 18 inches, and will likely be installed only as aisle seats.

The window and middle seats will each lose an inch of width to generate the extra space.

Airbus sells the idea as an innovative way to "meet passenger needs," even though two-thirds of its customers will lose out.

The planemaker first floated the idea in 2012, and not everyone loved it: A July poll by Skyscanner found 80 percent of Brits opposed losing an inch of seating to accommodate their larger neighbors, according to AOL UK.

The real winners will be airlines, who will be able to charge extra for the extra-wide seats.

"Passengers in the window seat are already happy and those in the centre seat might not be willing to pay as much for the extra width," Airbus aircraft interiors marketing manager Stefanie Von Linstow told Flightglobal.

"The aisle seat seems the most attractive for the concept."

The issue of how to accommodate large passengers while maintaining already thin profit margins is a difficult one for airlines, which need to minimize the weight of their aircraft to save money on fuel.

The idea of a "fat tax" — charging heavy customers an extra fee — is untenable in the US for the time being. Charging extra money for a slightly wider seat is a small step in that direction.

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