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Editorial comment - January 2017

At our Aircraft Cabin Maintenance Conference in London last November, there were several references to passenger wellbeing. These included anti-microbial paint in lavatories, the use of LED mood lighting to offset jet lag and even sensors in the seat to monitor passenger movement and temperature.
 

Following these relatively incidental developments was the news that Qantas would introduce the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on a new non-stop service from Perth in Western Australia to London, covering 14,498km in about 17 hours. The announcement produced a flurry of media comments on other ultra-long operations. By switching from westbound to eastbound, Air India has claimed the longest air service in the world, between Mumbai and San Francisco, taking the crown from Emirates and their Dubai to Auckland service. Qatar will also inch ahead of Emirates in the near future with its own Auckland service but everybody will then lose out to Singapore Airlines in 2018 when it introduces the Airbus A350-900ULR on non-stop flights between Singapore and both New York and Los Angeles. This aircraft is capable of flying for 19 hours.

 

There are already some narrowbody transatlantic flights, such as Air Canada’s A319 service between St. John’s and London-Heathrow and WestJet’s 737 services from St John’s to Dublin. These are around the five hour mark, which is alike New York to Seattle, but there is considerable interest in the long range variants of the A321neo and 737 MAX, which will have a comfortable transatlantic range capability. For example, TAP will take two A321neos fitted with long range tanks that will enable them to reach the northeast US and northeast Brazil from Portugal. These will be followed by full specification A321LRs, which have an additional 400nm range.

 

These extreme flights will inevitably put stress on passengers, especially those in economy. While there is some space to move around on a widebody, this is more difficult on the smaller aircraft. Although the ‘DVT threat’ seems to have all but disappeared in recent years – perhaps through improved seat design – extended sitting periods could cause problems. Improved IFE and connectivity may help to relieve boredom but even bingeing on box sets won’t fill 19 hours. And then there is alcohol…

 

Aesthetics and ergonomics are all very well but psychology and physiology might have to be added to the designer’s toolbox.


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