Courtesy of the Crystal Cabin Awards
Marisa Garcia
Updated March 22, 2018

In the run-up to the awards ceremony this April, the Crystal Cabin Awards judges have announced their list of finalists of the best aircraft cabin designs that you can already fly, as well as concepts which are bound to make the skies more comfortable.

The big competition in the cabin concepts category will be between Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, both of which submitted their latest premium cabins.

Ahead of the awards on April 10, in Hamburg, here are the finalists — with concepts from first to economy — working to make flying better.

Qatar Airways Qsuite

Courtesy of the Crystal Cabin Awards

PriestmanGoode, the design firm behind Qatar Airways’ patented Qsuite has earned its spot among the finalists with this clever business class seat that can easily be converted to a group flying experience.

The Qsuite can be converted from a single to a double bed by stowing away the privacy between passengers on adjoining seats. The TV monitors on each the fore/aft facing seats in this quad can also be moved to the side which lets families and business partners socialize, catch up on work, or enjoy a meal as a group.

Singapore Airlines A380 Suites

Courtesy of the Crystal Cabin Awards

Singapore Airlines is competing against Qatar Airways with its new A380 private suite designed by Pierrejean Design Studio in Paris and manufactured by Zodiac Seats UK. It features a pivoting captain’s chair in a living area and a separate bed. Single suites can even be combined to accommodate couples on a double bed.

Airbus Interiors Services' “Day & Night” Cabin Concept

The notion of separate sleep seating areas is taking off after being introduced on the Etihad Airways First Apartment.

Airbus Interiors Services is up for an award in the visionary concepts category for its “Day & Night” cabin. The separate suites offer up to 3.4m2 of private space to each passenger, separated into a ‘daytime’ living zone and a ‘nighttime’ sleeping zone.

The day zone includes a premium seat, a table suitable for dining and work, and a personal in-flight entertainment screen. An adjustable partition allows the day zone to be shared by passengers on adjoining suites.

The night zone is fully enclosed and designed for optimum sleep with noise-insulation, and a two meter long bed. There’s also storage for personal items and an in-flight entertainment screen.

Though “Day & Night” isn’t flying yet, it could be soon. Airbus Interiors Services says that it’s under development and could be delivered in as little as 18-24 months, depending on an airline’s customization requirements.

The Valkyrie Bed by Rockwell Collins

This is the flight chamber of champions. Rockwell Collins has proposal for better sleep that is all business and avoids the discomfort of convertible seating. The Valkyrie seat is designed to be optimal for work, dining and enjoying entertainment but is folded away completely when passengers want to rest.

Courtesy of the Crystal Cabin Awards

A separate full-sized mattress, stowed in the console, can be pulled out for sleeping. The Valkyrie would use less valuable floor space than a suite with separate chambers, and it really gets the job done when it comes to counting zzzs.

The Eco Zlounge by Zodiac Aerospace

Speaking of zzzs, someone is also working on making it easier to stretch out and snooze in Economy class. The Zodiac Aerospace ZLounge concept introduces seats that can be folded flat when, empty allowing the passenger behind to fully recline and stretch their legs. There’s even a handy dome to protect your feet from bothering others. The Zlounge is the type of recliner economy class seat that Joey Tribbiani would probably love to fly.

Courtesy of the Crystal Cabin Awards

However, it’s not clear how the Zlounge seats would be sold. Airlines are booking so many seats that the likelihood of having an empty passenger seat in front of you is slim. Instead, they’d have to find a way to price Zlounges so that they can be introduced as an economy class “sleeper” section. There is a precedent for this with Air New Zealand’s SkyCouch developed by Recaro aircraft seating in Germany. That design won a Crystal Cabin award in 2011 and flies on the airline’s 787-9 Dreamliner today.

Other finalists have proposals that would make flying better, even before you get off the ground.

3D SeatMapVR: 3D 360º by Renacens

Courtesy of the Crystal Cabin Awards

The 3D SeatMapVR, designed by technology company Renacens in Spain, will give you a clear view of what it will feel like to sit on the plane before you book the ticket.

It uses an immersive 3D 360º display to show the cabin perspective from whatever seat you select on the aircraft seat map. It renders a real-life view of what you’ll see in-flight reflecting seat dimensions, materials, and the location of different elements like the In-Flight Entertainment screen, USB power units and controls.

3D SeatMapVR would be installed as a feature on an airline’s or on-line travel agency’s booking engine.

The PASSME Aisle-widening Aircraft Seat

Courtesy of the Crystal Cabin Awards

The PASSME concept was developed through a collaboration of European partners Alma Design, Optimares, The Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and DLR, and is the latest in a series of seat innovations which aim to make aircraft boarding easier.

PASSME seats can be shifted mechanically to double the width of the aisle from 16” to 32” during boarding and disembarking. Preliminary testing and simulations results show that this could shave 5 minutes off aircraft turnaround time for a 737-800 all-economy plane carrying 180 passengers.

Courtesy of the Crystal Cabin Awards

Airbus A320 Family Airspace Cabin

The Airbus A320 Family Airspace cabin is up for a cabin concept award too, pitted against the Qatar Airways Qsuite and Singapore Airlines’ new A380 suites. This makes Airspace the only candidate in this category that offers comfort to all passengers onboard.

Airspace balances unique design features and technology to improve the single aisle flying experience. It offers passengers roomier bins for personal items and carry-on luggage, better cabin environment controls, as well as added personal space, better window visibility and more comfortable bathrooms.

Judges will have a difficult time picking between the finalists in all categories, but cabin comfort will be particularly tricky.

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