Airbus has revealed all-new cabin designs for the interior of its aircraft with an emphasis on a greater sense of space and comfort for passengers.
The designs – brought together under the 'Airspace' cabin brand – will debut on the new Airbus A330neo family of jets from 2017.
The A330neo is an advanced fuel-efficient tweak of the Airbus A330 model flown in Australia by both Qantas and Virgin Australia, as well as international carriers including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines.
The slick streamlined interiors will eventually flow onto other twin-aisle jets such as the Airbus A380 superjumbo.
Airbus hopes that airlines buying its new generation of jets will wave the Airspace flag to promote the passenger-friendly cabins, and in turn encourage passengers – who are increasingly vocal on social media – to book flights on those specific aircraft.
"Two years ago, there was nothing (but) it is skyrocketing now," says Francois Caudron, Airbus's head of marketing
"On different social media, people who 'dig' aircraft are educating the rest. It is moving really quickly and we want we want to be part of that education.
"It is essential for us to have the Airspace by Airbus name out there. We want passengers, when they book, to check for an Airspace cabin.
"Our dream is that passengers will go on a website, see that it is the Airspace cabin and buy their ticket."
What you can expect
The building blocks of Airspace are inherited from the Airbus A350, which in many ways proved to be a testbed for the Airspace concept.
Passengers will board the plane at a 'welcome area' flanked by an illuminated LED panel with highly customisable displays so that airlines can create boarding scenarios to reflect their own brand.
The overhead lighting pattern is created by projecting light through custom 3D-printed panels, similar to what Etihad does in its Airbus A380s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Ambient LED lighting will create a more comfortable environment for passengers and can also be adjusted to help encourage sleep, as well as mimic a slow sunrise on morning approaches, to stimulate natural circadian rhythms and reduce jetlag.
Deeper overhead bins offer more storage for carry-on bags – Airbus claims this will increase capacity by some 66 per cent, allowing five bags to be carried in each bin provided they go in wheels-first.
The bin doors have new latches for easier opening and closing, plus an integrated LED hand/grip rail.
As in the Airbus A350, the central luggage bins have been removed from the business class cabin to enhance the feeling of overall spaciousness.
Other elements such as magazine racks, ventilation grilles and even window bezels have also been restyled.
Airlines can opt for a 'fourth-generation' inflight entertainment system with larger HD screens.
Also on the menu is onboard Wi-Fi for streaming video and music to a traveller's own smartphone or tablet.
The lavs have also been given a make-over with LED lighting, antibacterial surfaces, touchless taps and self-flushing toilets, discreet aroma dispensers and "soothing, ambient sounds."
More for more
The Airspace program is all about the passenger's space, says Kiran Rao, Airbus's executive vice-president for strategy and marketing.
"What we're doing is to optimise the ways airlines use the space within the aircraft," Rao says.
"We are putting more passengers on the same amount of space but because of the cleverness and the way we have designed it, we don't have to compromise on comfort.'
Airspace isn't just about the raising the bar art the pointy end, Rao says. There's also a solid play for travellers choosing the cheap seats in economy.
"Our focus is on economy, because everyone knows First and Business are beautiful products and we want to make economy beautiful as well, to create a certain buzz about it," Rao says.
Those economy seats will retain their wide 18-inch (45.7cm) dimension, which Airbus constantly trumpets to airlines as an advantage over competitor Boeing.
The shape of the inner sidewalls is being fine-tuned to provide more shoulder and leg room, while the location and layout of the galleys and lavatories are being rearranged to provide greater space in the economy cabin itself.
The control boxes for the inflight entertainment system have also been re-engineered into small dinner plate-sized pans hidden under the seat in front of you, rather than being bolted onto the floor, to provide more legroom.
David Flynn is the editor of the Australian Business Traveller website. He travelled to London as a guest of Airbus.