Airbus bench seating.      Bloomberg photo by Benedikt Kammel
Airbus bench seating. Bloomberg photo by Benedikt Kammel

Making space for everyman

By Benedikt Kammel Time of article published Apr 30, 2019

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Commercial flight might have lost its appeal from the bygone jet age - think crowded budget carriers, dour catering and the premature demise of the majestic Airbus A380 airliner - but aerospace companies are trying to improve passenger experience.

In the hyper-competitive world of aviation, more comfort in the cabin can also be a major selling point for airlines and cabin amenities (or the lack thereof) are oft-discussed features on social media platforms.

At the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, the biggest showcase for innovation in the cabin, hundreds of exhibitors presented new seats, fabrics, lights, in-flight entertainment systems or creative layout concepts.

A big trend at the show: making better use of the data generated in the cabin to provide a more customised experience, support flight attendants and improve maintenance of complex business-class seats or kitchen areas. Some of the key trends and features.

Feel at home: Seat and cabin fabrics have veered from psychedelic to muted tones. The latest trend is a more homey feeling.

Lantal Textiles, an aircraft fabric manufacturer, showcased cabin curtains with a more plush, three-dimensional weave, and Lonseal presented flooring that mimics the grainy details of real wood for a more soothing atmosphere.

The new generation of LED lights lets airlines considerably cut weight. Collins Aerospace introduced a reading lamp from large spot to small target, with full-colour options, eliminating the need for additional elements such as sidewall lighting.

Get comfortable (even in economy): Recaro presented a redesign of its CL3710 back-of-the-cabin seat built for long-distance routes, which features sleeping aids such as wrap-around head support and a retractable ledge to extend the seat and provide more thigh support. Lantal is working on a temperature-control system that lets the occupant heat or cool the seat.

At the more luxurious end of the spectrum, Airbus is experimenting with a seat layout it calls the settee corner, combining a seat with a bench design that can be used for meetings or to spread out for a nap.

Scent and sensibility: Feeling nauseous because there’s a stale smell wafting through the cabin? Panasonic Avionics is bringing an air-deodorising system to the cabin that purifies the area around a business passenger’s seat, using nano-sized electrostatic atomised particles to neutralise air and battle viruses and bacteria.

Fokker Technologies engineers are working on infusing the cabin with fragrances and the company is collaborating with cosmetics brand Rituals on a product that distributes scents through the air conditioning system, promising greater passenger comfort or the ability to create signature airline scents for better brand recognition.

Mapping it out: In-flight maps remain one of the most popular features in the cabin, but the experience lacks the immersive features that have become prevalent on personal mobile devices. Panasonic has created a map that uses personal travel information from a passenger’s loyalty-programme profile and integrates it with in-flight entertainment features and details of the surroundings as well as the destination. Coming to airlines next year, the map also allows passengers to use FlightAware data that follows flight paths of other aircraft.

Smart bins: Airbus and Boeing have been working on bigger overhead compartments and Boeing showcased the new layout of its 777X wide-body aircraft. Airbus also wants to make the bins smarter, using sensors that track if a locker is in use as well as the weight of the loaded luggage, providing vital data about occupancy rates. At some point in the future, Airbus wants to give passengers the option to book their own bin space, helping overcome bruising battles in the cabin between passengers for storage space. Washington Post

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