On a mission to satisfy customers’ desires, commercial airlines are adopting the idiom “the sky’s the limit.” Ian Dryburgh, CEO of Acumen Design Associates, a London-based transport design firm that invented The Residence by Etihad and the first Bed in the Sky for British Airways says, “The airline industry is trying to rediscover the romance of travel—that moment in history when transatlantic travel was in its infancy and was really exclusive.”
To do that, the US$25 billion airline industry is homing in on what their customers perceive as valuable—and, in many cases, using science to provide it. In efforts to please customers and empower crew, airlines often explore many options. For example, when Singapore Airlines purchases a new aircraft model, says vice president of product innovation TaiLu Chew, “Sometimes, we look at more than 200 options to optimize our cabin space while maintaining the comfort of our passengers and ease of cabin crew’s in-flight operations.”
Today, airlines are pulling out all the stops to make travelers’ flights become part of their holiday, rather than a means to get there. Envision luxurious first-class suites, more stimulating in-flight entertainment, refined cuisine and refreshing cabin pressure.
Comfort for All Does this sound almost too good to be true? Well, it isn’t. Many of these advances are already being implemented in their early stages. For example, Etihad A380’s The Residence—made by France-based Airbus—includes a three-room suite with a living room, separate bedroom and spa-like bathroom, along with a butler and gourmet chef. In these spaces, doors are raised in hallways for a more architectural feel, room layouts have been carefully considered to provide optimal airflow and the staple overhead bin has been replaced with modern cubbies discreetly tucked under media centers.
While first class is getting an upgrade on many planes, the “Bed In The Sky” concept, debuted by British Airways in 1996, is percolating down from super first class and first class to astandard business-class offering. Airlines are also focusing on premium economy-class designs, with options such as seats that can remain reclined during takeoff and landing, sections where a family or group traveling together can face each other and aisle access for more passengers. As the industry works to bring more value to the back sections of the plane, travelers can also expect workstation-like pods constructed with walls and surfaces made of super-light, 3-D printed materials for travelers hoping to remain plugged in.
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