Image: Jorge De la Paz

Image: Jorge De la Paz

APEX Insight: Passengers are already using their smartphones to check in remotely and select their in-flight entertainment. What’s next? App-controlled cabin and seat concepts developed by Boeing, Recaro and Panasonic Avionics could hold the answer.

Tomorrow’s passenger experience will be in passengers’ hands – literally. Remote control apps on our mobile devices are helping us manage our homes, cars and hotel rooms. Land Rover is even developing a system for smartphone-controlled driving, similar to flying a drone.

At select Aloft hotels, an app lets guests use their smartphones as room keys, and an in-room iPad to command Siri to adjust lighting, temperature and set the mood music. Guests can even use their phones to order towels and toiletries from Botlr, the hotel’s concierge robot.

Much of the technology is already available on private jets, offering VIPs full control of their cabin environments, entertainment, seats and window shades. Honeywell Aerospace one-upped its Ovation Select cabin management system by adding Apple Watch functionality.

“We’re really thinking about pushing the boundaries past what we know today.” — Dan Bittner, Boeing

App-based controls are hardly a remote possibility for commercial airlines. Boeing is conducting trials of vCabin, a concept that would allow passengers to control their reading light, order a meal or check if the lavatory is free from their smartphones. “We’re really thinking about pushing the boundaries past what we know today,” says Dan Bittner, lead engineer of Product Development at Boeing. “What it offers the passenger is a way to interact with the airplane like never before.”

Recaro developed its CL6710 business-class seat with app integration in mind. It enables crewmembers to see at a glance which seats need maintenance or if all seats are upright for takeoff and landing. For passengers, their smartphones can even be used to control seating position, and preferred settings can be saved for future flights.

Panasonic Avionics’ Waterfront seat concept, designed in collaboration with Teague, also puts an app at the center of personalizing the passenger experience. “If passengers set specific meal and language settings in their companion app and this [information] is made available to flight attendants, they can already know what language to greet passengers in, and be proactive about meal preferences,” says Brian Conner, creative director at Teague.

“All in Your Hand” was originally published in the 7.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine. 

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.