In-air comfort

Significant improvements in cabin design are on their way. This promises to make air travel a more pleasant experience for passengers, and it could give airlines a valuable way of differentiating themselves from the competition.

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By  David Ingham Published  February 6, 2006

|~||~||~|Let’s be honest: travelling by plane is, for most of us, a complete bind. Once you get past the raw excitement of those first few flights, seven hours cooped up in the economy class cabin of a plane starts to feel like taking the National Express coach from Manchester to London. The only difference is that you can at least get off the coach and stretch your legs every few hours. Airlines and aircraft makers, it seems, now want to do something about it. In this month’s Aviation Business, Colin Baker looks at the efforts that Boeing and Airbus are making to enhance the cabin designs of their next generation planes, the 787 and A350. The devil, it seems, is in the details. Take the window, for example. Boeing plans to makes the windows of the 787 around 25% larger than in current planes. Another idea is to get rid of plastic shutters, and instead use ‘dimmers’ that will allow the passenger to precisely control the amount of light coming in through the windows. In fact, lighting is one area where there could be big developments. Designers are currently looking at incorpating different kinds of ‘mood’ lighting into aircraft cabins. One Boeing executive says: “It is our philosophy that lighting can become a differentiator.” That last word, ‘differentiator’ is key. In a deregulated environment where airlines are flying roughly the same long haul routes and charging roughly the same fares, the quality of the on-board experience could be the reason why a passenger chooses one airline over another. More affluent, or discerning, passengers may even be prepared to pay more to fly with an airline that they like. If some of the current ideas being thrown around come to fruition, airline travel could soon become an altogether more pleasurable experience. We have one small request of our own: Please prevent passengers from putting their seats back.||**||

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