Two British firms are hoping their concept for capsule style seating on board planes will draw interest from airlines and offer passengers new levels of privacy in the skies, if the idea takes off.
The ‘Air-Lair’: individual, hard-shell pods containing a flat bed, mood lighting and projector from which to beam the in-flight entertainment is the radical idea being developed on paper by aircraft seat manufacturer Contour Aerospace and product design consultancy, Factory Design.
The firms say their design would give passengers more control over their personal space and cater to airlines looking to save space in their premium cabins.
The idea of sleeping in matchbox-sized living quarters is nothing new, at least on the ground, with Japan leading the way in the 1970s by inventing the capsule hotel.
But applying the concept at 35,000ft would turn flying into a truly solitary experience at the front of the plane, beyond the privacy screens offered in today’s premium’s cabins.
It’s not the only radical idea for business class seating developed by Contour Aerospace and Factory Design.
Last year, the duo unveiled a protoype for a lightweight business class seat that doubles as a gaming station and is designed to appeal to gamers on long-haul flights.
Their NFW (Not for Wimps) concept attracted a lot of attention at an aircraft interiors trade show last year, but the prototype remains just that.
In reality, aircraft seating isn’t evolving at breakneck pace.
While airlines are happy to pull out all the stops for passengers willing to pay for a luxury experience, new aircraft seating is expensive to develop and retrofit into cabins, must have a long lifecycle and be certified to meet airworthiness standards.
A long wait ahead
At the back of the plane, cost-conscious airlines remain focused on replacing seats with slimmer, lightweight versions that can help them with fuel savings and squeeze more rows into the cabin.
And looking at what airlines are doing in the premium cabins on their next generation planes suggests that we’re not going to see radical changes in interior cabin design any time soon.
The ‘angled’ seats on Lufthansa’s all-new business class, which were recently unveiled on Boeing’s latest plane, the 748-8I jumbo jet are a world away from the radical ideas that are being debated among forward-thinking designers.
But that’s not to say that some airlines aren’t trying to push the boundaries.
Niche airline, Air New Zealand has poured huge investment into new cabin furniture in both its long-haul economy and premium cabins, to stand out from the crowd.
Its new ‘cuddle class’ seating in economy, which converts a row of three seats into a couch, and ‘spaceseat’ in premium economy, which can be tilted towards or away from the neighbouring seat, are designed to give passengers more control over their space.
The next wave of cabin innovation will depend on whether airlines feel that they can make a return on their investment.
Radical change to aircraft interior design is more likely to be seen on private jets, where cabins often double as offices, luxury lounges and bedrooms.