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Cabin delivery, Airbus style

Airbus applies a three-pillar philosophy to cabin design across its range; maximising cabin space and efficiency, while optimising passenger comfort and services. Paul Eden reports

Airbus is working hard on delivering a range of advanced, practical and efficient products for its A320neo and A350 XWB cabins. The company’s interiors facility in Hamburg, Germany, is focused on the new-generation airliners, but is also very aware that customers and passengers expect the latest cabin innovations in the Airbus A320 and A330 jets delivered today. After all, the first A350 XWB customer delivery is expected in the second half of next year, while the first A320neo is not expected to enter service until late 2015.  

In fact, Airbus has identified three key aspects to cabin design and applies them across its aircraft range: efficiency, comfort and services. Known internally as ‘cabin pillars’, these qualities are applied to most effectively benefit customer airlines and satisfy passengers. Of course, connectivity, in-flight entertainment (IFE) and high-technology, lightweight seating are all important factors – but Airbus is also thinking laterally to deliver less obvious cabin configurations.

A prime example of this is the A320neo. Its improved fuel burn and increased range, especially when expressed in the higher capacity A321neo, opens up new possibilities for a product traditionally seen as a short-haul aircraft. Some A320neo customers are likely to make use of its extra performance to exploit longer low-density routes, moving the type firmly into medium-haul ranges and perhaps even touching on the shorter end of long-haul. Stefanie von Linstow, from Airbus’ aircraft interiors marketing team, explains: “We see some changes in airline business models, with long-haul products installed for premium classes, including full-flat seats.”

Some A320neo cabins are therefore likely to reflect the aircraft’s new capabilities, but they will also benefit from work that Airbus is doing right now for the current A320 generation. With changing demographics comes the requirement to accommodate larger, heavier passengers, as well as an increased proportion of older travellers. Airbus’ solution is to introduce two new initiatives: Space-Flex and Smart-Lav.

Space-Flex and Smart-Lav
Space-Flex moves the aft toilets back behind the final cabin door position. It optimises use of the pressure bulkhead area, accommodating the displaced toilets, while the aft galley remains available and space for up to six additional seats is created. Alternatively, seat pitch can be increased elsewhere in the cabin, or airlines can choose to use the extra space to offer reclining seats.

The toilets themselves are located side-by-side in the new position – a configuration exploited to produce the first single-aisle airliner lavatory accessible to passengers with reduced mobility. Revealed as a mock-up at the 2011 Aircraft Interior Expo in Hamburg, Space-Flex will make its customer debut on a newly delivered LATAM A320 in late 2013.

The A320 will also benefit from the Smart-Lav, a new optimised toilet design available for any current lavatory position between doors one and four. Smart-Lav introduces similar seat space benefits to those offered by Space-Flex, and has also been created with the user in mind. Bulky items have been placed below wash basin level, creating a ‘Tardis’-like lavatory that feels larger on the inside than it appears from the outside.


Von Linstow notes that the A320 cabin concepts can be combined to create quite radical changes in capacity and configuration. “With Space-Flex and Smart-Lav offerable in linefit and retrofit, the airlines have real possibilities to increase capacity. Combining these with products like the slimline seats that are already on the market creates even greater capacity, but there’s also the trend for introducing long-haul products on single-aisle aircraft.

“For the A321neo we’re also offering a new door configuration. With an additional overwing exit, door two is deactivated, giving the flexibility to install up to eight more seats in a two-class configuration, because the natural stop of door two is removed. Add to this Space-Flex and Smart-Lav, and there’s the potential to gain eight to 16 additional standard seats in a high-density, single-class arrangement.”

With an eye to accommodating larger passengers more comfortably, as well as offering airlines the possibility of a new ancillary revenue stream, Airbus has introduced an extra-wide seat offering for the A320. Taking a standard 62 inch-wide three-seat unit, the cushion width on one seat, most likely positioned on the aisle, is increased to 20 inches, while the width of its neighbours is reduced from Airbus’ regular 18 inch to 17 inch. Airlines will be able to charge a premium for the wider seats, which Airbus thinks will also appeal to a range of passengers, not just those of larger proportions. Business travellers unwilling or unable to pay business class rates are seen as potential users, as are parents travelling with children, and those simply seeking extra comfort. >>

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