The space race is on to give passengers more room — and overhead bin space.
Airbus has plans to make airplane cabins more passenger-friendly, whether you’re traveling on their largest or their smallest aircraft.
The big news for passengers from the Paris Air Show happening this week is that the aircraft manufacturer is extending its “Airspace by Airbus” cabin concept, which was originally developed for the widebody A350 XWB and the upcoming A330neo. It will now be available for the smaller A320 family of aircraft, making it more likely you'll find improved comfort and modern cabin design — even when flying in economy.
“The Airspace cabin brand is built around four key pillars: comfort, ambience, services and design, which together create a more comfortable, relaxing and attractive environment for passengers,” said Paul Edwards, head of design and brand management at Airbus Commercial Aircraft.
Debuting on the new Airspace-equipped A320 planes are completely new overhead bins that can fit bags as large as 24 x 16 x 10 inches, and offer 40 percent more volume. Even passengers flying economy would be more able to avoid checking bags — and therefore more able to avoid extra fees.
The cabin will also feel snazzier from the moment you board, thanks to new welcome lighting in the entrance area and iconic ceiling lighting in addition to full-colour RGB programmable lighting system which lets airlines put on special light shows. With the right combination of colors and light, airlines can put you in a trippy mood to fly.
A big focus of the new A320 family’s Airspace cabin design is the optimized architecture which gives passengers more room in every direction, according to Airbus.
“We’ve increased the width of the cabin by approximately an inch in the important head and shoulder areas,” Edwards said. “The designers worked very closely with engineers, and found every millimetre we could to give back to the passenger.”
Included in this new architecture are new “ergonomic sidewalls” which make the window seat the preferred seat in the house, especially with better Instagram shots (and views) thanks to improved window frames with fully retracting shades.
The new A320 Family Airspace lavatories will now include “ambient sound”, aroma dispensers and antibacterial surfaces. “This is one the area aboard an aircraft that is visited by almost everyone while airborne,” Edwards said.
Airbus also announced new cabin features as part of a radical A380 Plus update in Paris. These will include redesigned stairs connecting the upper and lower decks, removal of sidewall storage to create more room for wider seats.
The aim is to harmonize the flying experience of the A380 with that of the newer A350 XWB, and also to let airlines put more passengers onboard. While a lot of attention has gone to Airbus allowing up to 11-across economy cabin seating, the proposal is based on the extra room available at the sides under this new architecture. The new A380 Plus will also have room for a larger premium economy cabin.
Watch Boeing This Week, Too
Boeing would point out that Airbus is catching up with innovations Boeing made to aircraft in the past. Mood lighting, larger windows, better bins and a greater sense of room overhead were key design features first introduced in the Dreamliner, and since introduced to narrowbody planes aircraft as part of the Boeing Sky Interior.
We can also expect breath-taking design in the new Boeing 777X aircraft, which will feature larger windows, a wider cabin, new lighting systems and new interior architecture. First announced in 2013, this aircraft promises to revolutionize air travel — again.
Boeing and Airbus have a lively rivalry, leapfrogging over each other to offer more to airlines — and therefore passengers.
But while both manufacturers are creating better cabin structures and environments, it’s the airlines that decide the types of seats we find onboard, and how many. So for passengers, actual experience may vary.