With passenger numbers resurgent following the collapse of 2020, aviation has once again set its sights high. To make flying more attractive, sustainable and comfortable, passenger solutions have become an even higher priority across the industry than ever before.
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In 2023, the annual Crystal Cabin Awards will once again serve as a trend indicator for what might could by in the skies tomorrow. More than 80 entries qualified for the 2023 shortlist. This year the renowned trophy will once again be awarded in eight categories on 6 June 2023 in Hamburg, the birthplace of the award, during Aircraft Interiors Expo. As every year, an international jury of experts will crown the winners.
Added comfort with modular solutions and better use of space
On long-haul flights, providing a relaxing space for sleep becomes a high priority. In Economy, however, passengers often have to make sacrifices. With Skynest, Air New Zealand presents an option for routes such as Auckland-Vancouver that long-haul Economy travellers have long dreamt of: a real, flat bed. Installed in sleep islands in the middle section of the aircraft, Skynest bunk beds can be booked for time slots, enabling a restive nap above the clouds for those on lower fares. Ultra-long-haul flights are generally becoming increasingly popular. Those allowing themselves a little more luxury in Premium Economy will in future be able to fold up the armrests and use several seats as a bed; that, at least, is the promise of the Paradym concept by Lift Aero Design.
American Airlines also takes a comprehensive look at the future of long-haul with its new cabin concept. Together with Teague, the carrier presents various layouts for wide- and narrow-body aircraft that provide a neat solution for a well-known problem: the front seat row in premium economy faces a partition instead of a backrest, forcing designers to build tables and screens into these passengers’ seats in turn pushing up maintenance requirements. American Airlines’ concept incorporates tables and screens into the wall in front of the front Premium Economy row.
With Allegris, the Lufthansa Group presents a new cabin product from autumn 2023 across all four classes: First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. While the latter will primarily benefit from more legroom and Premium Economy will enjoy more privacy, Business and First Class offering will see massive upgrades. Guests will find, among other added benefits, suites with double beds or heated seats.
More sustainability in the cabin
For many people, aviation isn’t closely associated with sustainability. A future in which new engines and fuels dramatically reduce CO2 emissions still seems far away. For the Crystal Cabin Award jury, it has become even more important to award prizes for entries not merely labelled as part of a “green” trend, but to honour innovations that can make a real difference in the aircraft cabin. Here, change often begins with reduced materials use, recyclable components and waste reduction. A good example is the Food Waste App from Lufthansa Industry Solutions, that uses AI to measure what passengers leave on their trays and makes suggestions for the next catering plan based on this information.
For its BioMat side panel, Airbus Operations mixes recycled carbon fibres from its A350 production with synthetic resins garnered from by-products of sugar cane processing. Meanwhile, the cabin outfitters at Austrian company F/List have submitted two bio-based materials into the race for a Crystal Cabin Award trophy. The company says it is introducing both to the aircraft cabin for the first time: Linfinium, a linoleum covering made from natural components, and the plant-based “Whisper Leather”.
Not just in big planes: Cabin innovation for air taxis
In 2023, the Crystal Cabin Award team received more entries for electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft (eVTOLs) than ever before. EVE Mobility and Almadesign have entered this year’s race with a sleek, airy four-seater cabin concept for Eve Air Mobility, a daughter brand of aircraft manufacturer Embraer. Elements such as ceiling projection and pleasant colour moods are crafted to make the short flight experience as comfortable as possible.
HT-01, a cabin concept for air taxis by Hyundai Transys and its cooperation partner PriestmanGoode, also uses attractive colours and an optimized use of limited space. Building on the idea that the urban air shuttles of the future will be shared with other passengers, the South Korean company has included a variety of ideas to ensure sufficient privacy for all four seats. The German “unicorn” Lilium has approached its cabin concept with a strong focus on exclusivity. The Pioneer Edition Lilium Jet features a light-flooded interior design with many customisable options, including a sky bar.
Broadening Horzons: Creative ideas with the power to surprise
This year, many entrants for the Crystal Cabin Award are thinking outside the box. AIR PREMIA and ZOSLEE STUDIO, for example, take this literally, proposing a more efficient stacking method for economy tableware and giving it a new, oval shape.
Privacy during important meetings above the clouds is the premise of Skyted’s noise-cancelling mask; the Covid-19 pandemic has made mask-wearing so widely accepted on aircraft that fellow passengers won’t bat an eyelid. The innovative face covering was developed together with PriestmanGoode, Airbus Development, the European Space Agency Accelerator Program and ONERA.
Boarding processes at airports could change radically in the future, if the ideas submitted by Formation Design Group take off. Their autonomous boarding platform Dovetail rolls passengers directly to the aircraft and could significantly reduce turnaround times for boarding and de- boarding.
The partitions in the aircraft literally become transparent thanks to the transparent “The Smart View” displays by the Hamburg-based company AerQ (in cooperation with Boeing EnCore Interiors).
Breaking down barriers: More accessibility for all
Improving the flight experience in the long term means taking the needs of all stakeholders into account wherever possible. This year, several entrants made the Crystal Cabin Award shortlist with concepts for barrier-free travel. Also noticeable here is a strong crop of ideas for Urban Air Mobility. This is exemplified by a concept from Supernal (in cooperation with Formation Design Group) that includes ideas for barrier-free use of air taxis, from gate to exit.
Every year, the Crystal Cabin Award is a unique opportunity for students to present their ideas to an international audience of experts and to make contact with the industry. Two American universities, the University of Michigan and the renowned Virginia Tech, have entered the fray with concepts for the safe travel of wheelchair users.
The Crystal Cabin Award, an initiative of the Hamburg Aviation cluster network, is awarded in eight categories: “Cabin Concepts”, “Cabin Systems”, “Health & Safety”, “IFEC & Digital Services”, “Material and Components”, “Passenger Comfort”, “Sustainable Cabin” and “University”. For each category, the 28 experts will select three finalists to be announced in May 2023. Participating for the first time: Wahli Ong, vice president Product Innovation at Singapore Airlines. With Mariya Stoyanova, Director Product Development at jetBlue, the Crystal Cabin Award Association welcomes another renowned US airline to its jury group. The finalists will have the opportunity to present their concepts in person to the jury at the world’s leading trade fair for aircraft cabins, the Aircraft Interiors Expo (6-8 June 2023 in Hamburg). The winners of the Crystal Cabin Award 2023 will be announced on the evening of 6 June at a gala dinner at the Hamburg Chambers of Commerce.