AIM’s ULTRAFLEX social zone concept for ultra long-haul flights. All images: Maxim Sergienko

AIM Altitude has unveiled a cabin concept the company believes will be at the heart of the ultra long-haul experience. ULTRAFLEX is a social zone that encourages passengers to get up and out of their seats, to order a drink or grab a snack, chat with other passengers or even exercise.

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It would be a nightmare to be sat in your airplane seat for 20 hours straight with no opportunity to stretch your legs except the walk to the lavatory. AIM Altitude’s ULTRAFLEX concept counters the static sitting position – and boredom – with a communal area where passengers can work, lounge, stand and stretch while socializing with others.

The concept is a response to existing airline customers who are considering operating ultra long-haul flights. “We wanted to take our experience in designing bars, galleys and front-row monuments to see where we could go with this emerging market,” Ross Burns, group lead industrial designer, Cabin Interiors, AIM Altitude, told APEX Media. The company imagines a social zone being at the center of the flight experience and demonstrated this with eleven life-sized units on display at Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. Here are the key features:

Half-height units with upholstered panels emulate hotel or luxury car furnishings that provide an alternative to sitting and standing. The recessed edge invites passengers to lean into a conversation or lighten the load on their feet while having a chat over a drink. A trough at the top of the unit provides stowing space for beverages and bites.

All images: Maxim Sergienko

The deli-style galley offers self-serve catering while giving the passenger a reason to get out of their seat. “This is something that’s becoming more popular with a lot of our social zones, having a self-service area where you can actually grab a snack like you would in a coffee shop.” Burns added that catering could be tailored to ultra long-haul travelers, with vitamin-infused foods, for example.

Need a table for two for an intimate dinner or some space to do yoga? Seats and a table can be flipped down during mealtime and tucked away to create space for stretching or meditation. “We’re trying to put some of our ideas forward for how airlines might want to use this product in the future. This is an area you might book when you get on the plane,” Burns said. “It’s got benefits for the airline as well because on certain routes they may only want to have the seats flipped down, so you’re getting more variety out of one unit.”

Passengers can flex their leg muscles or get their blood circulating at exercise stations with foot pedals that facilitate seated exercises including cycling, resistance training and foot massaging. And while your legs are pedaling away, you can also answer e-mails or watch a movie, as the station, fitted with power outlets, USB ports and a reading lamp, doubles as a workspace.

Having paid more for their flight, business passengers would normally want to spend as much time as possible in their seat, but during an ultra long-haul flight, getting out of their seat is a perk, Burns said. “We’ve been given feedback that it’s nice to get out of your seat and go to a difference space to change the scenery.”

All images: Maxim Sergienko

Socializing no longer has to revolve around a bar. ULTRAFLEX envisions a space where passengers can gather to watch the World Cup, Olympics or partake in guided exercise or a language lesson. “We’re moving into a generation where the trends are moving away from a full-size bar. This allows us to take the emphasis away from a gentleman’s bar,” Burns said. “At the same time, we’ve got enough experience to know that airlines will definitely want a bar at some point of the flight, so we’re offering something that is not exposed all the time.”

To break up a lengthy flight, AIM Altitude also focused on creating a day and night experience with the existing social spaces, using lighting to set the scene. “The lounge can run quite fresh and light throughout the day reflecting an uplifting and chilled cafe environment. Whereas it turns to night the whole area can transform into a more intimate cozy area with deep pink and purple LED lights, setting the scene for a more social environment as the pop-up bar opens for business.”

Passengers may be willing to trade being sequestered at their seat longer in order to get to their destinations faster, but ULTRAFLEX suggests they don’t have to do that uncomfortably – in fact, they can do it enjoyably.