APEX Insight: Following its launch in March 2016, Airspace by Airbus has rolled out three programs over the last twelve months. Ingo Wuggetzer, VP Cabin Marketing for the OEM, predicts that in five years’ time, thousands of aircraft will be flying with Airspace, and used AIX as a chance to fill people in on its latest developments.
Ingo Wuggetzer, VP Cabin Marketing for Airbus, said during a media briefing that the Airspace cabin is receiving an amazing response on social media, with analysts frequently picking up on the terms ‘spacious’, ‘quiet’, ‘comfort’ and ‘design’. He pointed to a YouTube video posted by Casey Neistat positively reviewing Qatar’s new A350 business class, which has almost six and a half million views. Apparently, Finnair believes Airspace is the reason its net promoter score has reached 50% – the equivalent of three out of four passengers coming back to fly with them again, Wuggetzer explained.
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The Airspace cabin has already received much press attention this year following the launch of the A350-1000 with Qatar Airways in February, but that hasn’t stopped Airbus investing heavily in Hamburg. With its largest booth at AIX to date (around 550m²), Wuggetzer claimed the OEM wants to show the industry that Airspace is continuing to ramp up and innovate. Currently on board 160 A350s, Airspace is due to enter service on TAP Air Portugal’s A330s in mid-2018 (two years on from the first mock-up at AIX). In 2020, the Airbus A320 Airspace cabin will launch with JetBlue.
Last year, Airbus confirmed FACC are to supply the ‘Airspace XL bins’ for the Airspace A320 cabin, which Anaïs Marzo da Costa, head of Aircraft Interiors Marketing at Airbus, says were designed with Priestmangoode to fit eight large cabin bags across two boxes rather than the typical five. Eleven major airlines have already signed up for them, but six remain undisclosed. American Airlines will be the first to install the bins as a retrofit in 2019 before JetBlue launches the linefit version the following year.
At this year’s show, Wuggetzer further revealed that newly-rebranded Diehl Aviation is to supply the sidewalls and is the first of multiple suppliers to be announced for the lavatories. Airbus plans to disclose a lighting supplier in May.
The A320 Airspace cabin mock-up showed off all of the above, plus Hong Kong-based design firm Paperclip’s Butterfly seating concept, which won the Crystal Cabin Award in the Premium Class & VIP category in 2014. The Butterfly seat is easily transformable from two economy-class seats into one business-class seat (which can transform into an 80” lie-flat bed). Interestingly, Paperclip has launched another animal-themed business class seating concept at AIX this year: The Peacock Suite.
Wuggetzer said the driver behind this choice was the need to provide the comfort associated with wide-body aircraft on single-aisle models, highlighting the transatlantic capability of the A321LR, which completed a flight between Paris and New York on February 13, 2018. During a booth tour, Marzo da Costa said Airbus is still in discussions with seating suppliers, but that should an airline want the product, the OEM can develop it in approximately 27 months.
Another announcement during the Airbus media briefing centered on modularity – the OEM is to launch its new A380 Cabin-Flex solution as a retrofit solution with Qantas in 2019 (but it is also available as a linefit product). By allowing the upper-deck as ‘Door 3’ to be deactivated, the aircraft can hold up to seven more business class seats or 11 premium economy seats. It says introducing the A380 Cabin-Flex solution should result in a return on investment in one year.
A final new product on the stand was a 65-inch 4K OLED screen which can be used to welcome passengers in the galley or to advertise buy-on-board products to enhance ancillary revenue. Marzo da Costa said that currently industrial screens only come in 55-inch or 65-inch configurations, but that by the time it becomes available in 2020, other, thinner sizes may be available, and the screens may be in 8K.