Digital Sky touchscreen from Thales. Image credit: Thales.

APEX Insight: The future of air travel experience lies in the creative use of volume and the application of new technologies in design. Nowhere is that better illustrated than in this year’s Crystal Cabin Award nominees, which all leave convention behind to introduce improved comfort and convenience. Read more about the Crystal Cabin Award nominees here.

The concept of tomorrow’s aircraft cabin breaks free of a two-dimensional world, discards boxed notions of cabin class borrowed from the early age of rail, and applies technology to make limited cabin space feel limitless. Though each proposal is unique, all of this year’s Crystal Cabin Award nominees propose ways to redefine the relationship between the cabin area and the passengers and crew who occupy it. Finalists will have the opportunity to present their concepts at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, to be held April 5-7 in Hamburg, Germany.

Space Redefined

More efficient use of space has given way to increased comfort and functionality in aircraft cabins. London-based design firm Seymourpowell has re-drawn the lines of the front cabin by incorporating a mix of single and double suites, which were initially dreamed up for the A380 aircraft upper deck, but which the designer says could be adapted to other aircraft types. Meanwhile, Formation Design’s lie-flat cabin suite concept uses a unique elevation design to maximize the use of space in the premium cabin, without compromising comfort. It features forward/aft seating configuration with a private cabin option between them.

Zodiac Aerospace has been recognized for throwing out the book on cabins and writing a new one centered around passenger lifestyle preferences. With private and gathering areas catered around activities, the interiors manufacturer’s Lifestyle cabin includes room to work, dine, rest and play. Lifestyle cabins accommodate passengers who want to move around, stretch their legs, or sleep in more comfortable private berths.


Zodiac Aerospace’s Lifestyle Cabin. Image credit: Zodiac Aerospace.

Diehl also maximizes space with its proposed transformative, multi-functional, adaptable galleys, which do double duty as attractive self-service gathering spaces. Diehl’s Smart Galley can be fully customized with modular containers, pre-certified modules, and a readily configurable electrical system that can power a variety of food preparation and refrigeration options.

Sitting Pretty

Teague, B/E Aerospace, Panasonic and Formation Design’s collaboration on the ultra high-tech new Waterfront business class seat builds on the mobile passenger experience features introduced last year with the collaborators’ Jazz Economy seat. Waterfront takes the concept several steps further by catering to the comfort and productivity needs of modern, mobile, executive travelers.


TEAGUE, B/E Aerospace, Panasonic and Formation Design’s Waterfront seat concept. Image credit: Panasonic.

The modern traveler is also accommodated by London-based design consultancy tangerine, whose customization of the B/E Aerospace ‘Super Diamond’ seat for Virgin Australia uses color, trim and structure to create a uniquely modern travel experience that’s all business—with plenty of pleasure.

Applied Technology

B/E Aerospace’s new Viu lighting system will let airlines re-shape the cabin and set a unique brand mood with an infinite array of cabin lighting palettes to paint interior surfaces. Viu can also project custom images on walls using intelligent radio-frequency identification controlled by crew through a mobile app.


B/E Aerospace’s Viu lighting system. Image credit: B/E Aerospace.

Thales and B/E Aerospace have paired seat and in-flight entertainment (IFE) innovations in their new Digital Sky touchscreen, which features the largest digital seat back surface ever released. The screen can be split for multi-screening or expanded for edge-to-edge cinematic viewing and will be available for Economy and Premium Economy classes. While Thales has revolutionized backseat entertainment, Lufthansa Systems has made news with a new portable entertainment product, a wIFE version of its BoardConnect Portable. The unit weighs only 1 kg, and is easy for cabin crew to operate and maintain. Each Mobile Streaming Unit can stream content for up to 50 passengers at any time. It is bound to be an attractive option for regional, short-haul and low-cost airlines.

BoardConnect Portable

Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect Portable. Image credit: Lufthansa Systems.

Other applied technology advancements include Boeing’s new hygienic aircraft lavatory, the Clean Cabin, which uses ultraviolet light and antiseptic surface treatments to fight bacteria, and Gogo’s new 2Ku high-speed Wi-Fi product, which has already attracted commitments from close to 600 aircraft.

These are only a few of the nominees who will compete for the top prize in each of the Crystal Cabin Award nomination categories. We’ll be looking forward to knowing the winners, and don’t envy the judges, who will have to pick just one!