Is the economy class in for a revolution? The infamous middle seat will disappear and beds will be a thing

  • 17.03.2023 11:00
  • Bruno Arcos

Aircraft manufacturers have been testing innovative cabin designs with the goal of making flying a more pleasant experience, while at the same time helping airlines become more efficient and profitable. What will airplanes look like in the near future? See the most interesting projects that are nominated for the Crystal Cabin Awards – the Oscars of the aviation innovation industry.

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While it might seem impossible to make any major changes inside an aircraft cabin, the truth is that every year dozens of companies do their best to design new and innovative designs catering to aircraft manufacturers and the airlines themselves. The goal? To make the whole operation more efficient, lighter (the lighter the elements, the less fuel needed for a flight) and as efficient as possible. At the same time, the cherry on top would be for these designs to also help boost passenger comfort and improve the overall flying experience. If you want to know more about this fasten your seatbelt because the nominees to the Crystal Cabin Awards, the most important awards in the aviation industry in the field of innovation, have just been announced.

Although, as we’ve seen in the past, not all contenders are exactly effective, there are also a few projects being implemented which can actually change flying as we know it today. One such example is Skynest, an economy class bunkbed project developed by Air New Zealand. The project has been on the works for several years now, with the first news about aircraft bunkbeds dating from 2020. That being said, Skynest’s project is now in full swing, having been nominated for a Crystal Cabin and given the greenlight for official implementation. This is likely to happen next year when Air New Zealand receives its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

Bunkbeds aside, there are also some other cool projects on the list. For example, the title of the craziest bid must be given to the Spanish company Taller de Arquitectura T36, which has presented a complete overhaul of the traditional economy class layout in large planes, removing the infamous middle seat (design in the main photo) all together. To achieve this, the company divided the economy class into three separate cabins across two levels, which also increases the aircraft’s capacity. The main advantage of this layout for passengers is, of course, to be able to choose only window or aisle seats. On the downside, passengers sitting at the upper level don’t really have a window. The issue can be solved, according to the designers, with the installation of virtual windows connected to special cameras, allowing passengers to effectively see what’s happening outside.

What else is worth paying attention to?

Also among the most innovative projects, readers can find Euphony’s discreet set of speakers directly built into the aircraft seat. This will allow passengers to watch a movie or listen to music without having to use headphones (and without annoying fellow passengers).

Many other projects chose to focus on narrow-body aircrafts, a definite plus for many carriers. After all, one can’t deny that with the Airbus A321XLR entering the market soon, narrow-body planes will be able to cover much longer distances than at present, creating the need to provide business class passengers with more comfort and amenities. In order to tackle that challenge, the “Front Row Business Class Retreat” was created, which is an exclusive space, separated from the rest of the aircraft, reminiscent of an Airbus A380. This type of cabin can be adapted for premium seats, but also for more common spaces/amenities, such as a minibar or a meeting place where you can stretch your legs.

Photo credit: Crystal Cabin Awards and Air New Zealand

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