An initiative by

An initiative by

Justin Bergman

Airplane cabins of the future

As an American, I was dismayed and a little embarrassed by a recent flight I took from my current home in Shanghai to San Francisco on one of our national carriers (which shall remain nameless). When I boarded the plane, I noticed immediately that the economy-class seats—gasp—didn’t have individual TVs. “What year is this?” grumbled the man behind me when he, too, realized the entire cabin would have to suffer through “The Lincoln Lawyer” together. Then came the piece de resistance: the paltry noodle salad in a Chinese takeaway container that served as dinner on the domestic leg of my trip. Not only did it cost $5.99, it couldn’t have filled a toddler.

Innovation, however, is far from dead in the airline world. At a time when many airlines are obsessively cutting corners, others are finding ways to improve the flying experience, and not just in first or business class. Take Air New Zealand. The airline recently upgraded its economy and premium economy cabins to include two new types of seating: the Skycouch, a loveseat for couples formed by lifting the armrests and legrests on three regular seats; and the Spaceseats, hard-shell pods that allow couples to face one another. Plus, passengers can now order food and drinks anytime they want through their in-seat, touch-screen entertainment systems. It’s almost like room service.

Finnair airplane cabin

Finnair airplane cabin

These creative touches make me wonder what the future will hold. What will our airline cabins look like in 40 years? Earlier this year, Airbus gave us a sneak peek by unveiling a “concept cabin” for 2050. It is sleek, smart and probably a little over-ambitious. But if we even get close to realizing this vision, it would be revolutionary. First, the cabin of the future won’t be segregated by class as it is today; rather, the airplane will have different zones for relaxing and playing games, while pop-up pods will offer private space to hold business meetings or call the family back home. Passengers will also enjoy a 360-degree view of the sky through the transparent walls; when it’s time to sleep, holographic shades can block out the light. And the seats will be engineered to provide maximum relaxation: you can push a button for a massage, a ‘sound shower’ or a whiff of a pine forest.

The Future by Airbus

Airlines must continue to inspire us with smart design like this. Because travelers are not going to be satisfied with the same noodle salads for much longer.

Justin Bergman

JUSTIN BERGMAN is the Shanghai correspondent for Monocle magazine, as well as a frequent contributor to The New York Times, TIME magazine and The Associated Press. He’s also a former senior editor for Budget Travel magazine.

7 comments
  • 13 Sep 2011 at 6:29 am

    Dear Sirs,

    I am not applicant as I am dedicated to finnair customer support. However, I am a frequent flyer and have been travelling with my family many times, I would like to just highlight how difficult it is to travel with kids in the airports nowadays. the increase of security checks makes it difficult to even carry our kids milk, the transits are always a nightmare for the tired childs and parents so the amount of weight to carry while running from one side of the airport to the other is quite a challenge.

    If the passengers themselves could give you their impression and wish you may find a good sourse of inspiration.

    Kind regards

    Nicolas Perebaskine

  • Nico
    13 Sep 2011 at 8:58 pm

    i hawe wana all time go to all world plase

  • 15 Sep 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Was this aforementioned carrier by any chance United Airlines? Or are there still other American carriers who send non PTV-configured planes over the Pacific?

  • 16 Sep 2011 at 11:46 am

    help a friend out, like my page too!!!!

    http://www.qualityhunters.com/fb/68/112

  • FLIN
    21 Sep 2011 at 1:43 am

    I find this article very interesting. In fact, I always give a good point to airlines who though of investing in a little shade to separate seats in business. Sleeping next to a stranger is something quite intimate and a little plastic shade blocking the view to my “during-the-sleep-droping jaw” is something I appreciate. I gives me the impression of intimacy.

    ps- I am also an applicant to Quality Hunters 2

  • 22 Sep 2011 at 11:18 am

    The seat in that photo looks amazing and makes me to want to try it. I hope I will have the possibility to try Air New Zealand and their seats as well. Comfort is important especially in long flights and that is one important thing that the air carriers can offer.

    But there are many ways how I can make my flying experience more comfortable myself. I find entertaining myself with my own computer/tablet/phone etc. in a plane more ecological and convenient than readymade gadgets in a plane. Gadgets and demands change continuously and airlines have to renew their plains with a lot of money. I always have at least some kinds of equipments already with me when I fly and books and magazines (also in paper) still exist. I have tried watching a TV-program from my iPad in a plane (the passengers were allowed to do that then) but the Wi-Fi access was still too bad for that. I have a TV set at home but I watch TV-programs often from my computer or iPad – it is so convenient. I can choose what I want to watch and when. I have my individual TV entertaining me and I can even do some useful things with those gadgets and their apps and most of them I can use in a plane too.

    See my application http://www.qualityhunters.com/?page_id=68&id=869

  • Craig Nolan
    26 Oct 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Whilst the airlines are making all these advancements in entertainment systems is all well and good, they are continually missing the interests of one segment of passengers – the disabled. When will they remember to utilize the space of two toilets that face one another and just make at least one disabled toilet large enough to roll the isle-chair straight in.

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