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Inside Airbus

Recent briefings in London and at AIX and Airbus, both in Hamburg, have given Ian Harbison a unique perspective on the aircraft manufacturer’s cabin developments

Airbus is looking at new cabin developments, with upgrades across the product range and a growing ambition to become more involved in reconfigurations with customers. It is also planning to introduce some design elements across its range, with the intention of developing a consistent Airbus brand.



The brand development is being led by the new Airspace cabin concept, which combines the best of the A380 and A350 cabins and includes new innovative features. PriestmanGoode has been acting as a design consultant for the project, as it did on the initial A350 XWB cabin. The thinking behind Airspace is to develop a consistent design language that gives rise to an aircraft family feel that is unmistakably Airbus. Parallel lines and continuous surfaces help reduce volume and create a sense of space, while finishes are high quality, ergonomic and hardwearing; extending the life of the interior. Finally, the new cabin can be used by airlines to project their own brand.


The first application is the A330neo, but Ingo Wuggetzer, Vice President of Cabin Marketing at Airbus, says it will eventually be available for the A320 Family as well.


In economy, all seats are 18in wide; the new sidewalls curve outwards in between the structural beams, offering passengers additional arm and shoulder space, while the window surrounds are bevelled to appear deeper.


New overhead storage bins, based on the A350 XWB, provide additional space for 66% more bags. This means passengers can now stow their luggage above their own seats, thus reducing boarding time and crew workload. In the premium cabin, no centre stowage is needed, which opens up the ceiling area and creates a feeling of more space.


Lighting is now being promoted for airline branding and for passenger well-being. It is particularly noticeable in the entrance areas to the aircraft, which now feature detachable galley walls that can be used to customise the aircraft entrance. Opportunities include backlit ceiling panels and Gobo lights to project patterns; these work in conjunction with paints and foils to reflect the airline’s colour palette. Incidentally, Airbus is claiming that the noise levels in the door areas are 3dB less than the Boeing 787.


“Expanses of grey plastic everywhere you look are so last century,” says an Airbus spokesperson. The basic cabin colour is now Jana white, taken from the A350 XWB, using a silk gloss paint supplied by preferred partner Mankiewicz. It can be applied with either a smooth or structured appearance. The paint has a hint of blue, making it colder and greyer compared to former standard whites, which have a hint of beige. However, it has been selected as the perfect blank canvas for the LED lighting system and Paul Wood, Head of Industrial Design, suggests that it offers customers the opportunity to paint their cabin with light, including elements of its own branding.


The system, with up to 16.7 million colour variations, can be used to reflect the mood of the time of day, the stage of the flight to reduce jet lag, and to help guide passengers as they move around the cabin. The colour variations also extend to the grip rail lighting on the baggage bins, adding a design note and encouraging its use by passengers and crew.


Elsewhere, major design changes have been made to the lavatory. There is full-colour LED lighting and a softer, more rounded trim and finish, which makes it feel more spacious. Improved hygiene comes from touchless flushing and tap controls and antibacterial surfaces. In addition, there are discreet aroma dispensers and ambient sounds.


IFE options include Panasonic, Thales and Zodiac; all wireless with full connectivity, allowing passengers to use their own devices. The removal of under-seat electronics boxes also frees up more legroom.


There is a lower deck mobile crew rest, with new padding and mattress materials, enhanced lighting and an improved heating system. The space can accommodate up to two separate bunks for pilots and six bunks for cabin crew.  >> 

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