What the airplane cabin of the future might look like

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Published on 13 August 2020


Air travel is still far from pre-pandemic levels, but it began bouncing back in May. Still, travelers are rightly nervous about climbing aboard a packed plane, but thankfully, designers are already thinking ahead at what the cabins of the future might look like.

In a newly released concept, UK-based design studio PriestmanGoode has developed a post-pandemic cabin to focus on hygiene and personal space and keep passengers safe and relaxed.
Firstly, the firm has reimagined business and economy class. Passengers in “pure skies zones” — previously known as economy — will sit in a staggered seat configuration so that they can travel alone, as a couple, or in groups. Dividing screens are also placed at the end of every other row to further separate travelers, while in-flight entertainment systems have been removed in favor of the passenger’s own devices.

Passengers will sit in a staggered seat configuration so they can travel in the group of their choosing.
But some things never change: Flying business is always more fun than Economy.

Those seated in “pure skies rooms” will fly in a fully enclosed personal space, partitioned by curtains and complete with light and temperature control systems, as well as a personal wardrobe and overhead storage and an in-flight entertainment system synchronized to the passenger’s devices.

In-flight entertainment systems have been removed in favor of the passenger’s own devices in “pure skies zones,” previously known as “economy”.

As well as comfort, the cabin also boasts hygiene credentials, with minimal split line seat design and antimicrobial materials.

The studio has also incorporated heat, ultraviolet UVC cleaning and fogging as part of the cabin’s pre-boarding process, and notes that touch-free features run through the cabin.

“We’ve looked ahead to imagine future scenarios and taken into account new passenger behaviors driven by the global pandemic to ensure our designs can be implemented within a few years and will meet user and airline requirements for many years ahead,” Nigel Goode, co-founding director at PriestmanGoode, said in a statement.

Although the cabins won’t be a part of your travel experience in the immediate future — according to PriestmanGoode, it can take three years to develop and certify them — the firm thinks they will stand the test of time.

“With both passengers and airline employees at the heart of this project, we have not only taken on board present anxieties but also tried to ensure our solutions are future-proofed against future pandemics, recognizing the significant commitment and investment involved,” he added.

The firm envisages design features made from antimicrobial materials.

The company hopes that, through a combination of innovative design features, touch-free technology, and material innovation, airlines will be able to both improve personal space and hygiene and reassure passengers — which, they say, will be vital for the airline industry, even after the pandemic.

Just this week, the International Air Transport Association announced that global air travel won’t recover from the Covid-19 crisis until 2024 — a year later than previously predicted.

In a revised baseline, the body, which represents 290 airlines, forecast that international passenger traffic will drop 55% in 2020, compared to 2019, blaming the sluggish recovery on a number of factors, including a lack of consumer confidence, the decline in business travel, and fresh coronavirus case spikes.

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