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Reality check

Both Airbus and Bombardier have developed new interiors for their aircraft but their aesthetic ideals have been challenged by the practical needs of their customers, as Ian Harbison found out at the Farnborough International Airshow

Both OEMs designed the new cabins in-house and launched the new concepts with much fanfare in 2016. The pictures released at the time showed all the fancy features that could be installed by a customer, but the reality has been rather different, reflecting the day-to-day needs of their respective launch customers.



Airbus launched its Airspace cabin concept along with an announcement that TAP Air Portugal would be the launch customer following commitments for 21 Airbus A330-900neo aircraft (see Aircraft Cabin Management, July 2016). 


The first TAP aircraft made its maiden flight in May this year and joined two other test aircraft in the certification programme. It is the first aircraft to be fitted with the Airspace cabin, as it only has light flight test instrumentation installed, mainly to check cabin systems such as air conditioning and the crew rest area. It was also used for function and reliability tests in June, with three flights visiting 15 major airports over five continents with the aim of achieving 150 flight test hours.


The next stop was Farnborough, where it appeared in the static park and was open for inspection. First impressions were slightly compromised by the fact that entry was made through the L1 door, straight into the forward galley ahead of business class. The L2/R2 door area will be the primary entrance in service and was shown in Airbus renderings and full scale mock up as a dramatic first sight. Instead, the airline has made very modest use of illuminated ceiling panels with a back lit geometric pattern.


However, there are some subtle modifications in this area. The inside of the door and the escape slide have been redesigned to have a much more integrated look, with much of the mechanisms now concealed. The signage has been changed from the traditional red ‘EXIT’ to the green running man symbol, allowing for a much more stylish mounting to be used. 


Business Class is fitted with RECARO CL6710 seats, although these were prototype versions and will be modified before the aircraft enters service in late summer. New overhead storage bins, based on the A350 XWB, provide additional space for 66% more bags through the aircraft.

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. Each seat has a large monitor for the Panasonic IFE system and in-seat power. 


The rear cabin features the RECARO CL3710 in a 2-4-2 configuration, with 96 Premium Economy seats at 34 in pitch and 168 Economy seats at 31in pitch.


At the rear of the Economy cabin, the layout changes from 2-4-2 abreast to 2-3-2 as the fuselage tapers. The first reduced centre row has to be aligned with the seats in front because of the IFE screens, but the last seat has simply been fitted with a blank, flat back. There must have been some opportunity to brighten this up with graphics or even retain the tray and seat pocket, giving some more space to the adjacent passenger, but it just remains a dead space.


To allow more seats, lavatories are located forward and aft only. These have full-colour LED lighting and a softer, more rounded trim and finish, which makes them feel more spacious. Improved hygiene comes from touchless flushing and tap controls and antibacterial surfaces. Instead of the larger PRM lavatory with bi-fold door for improved access, this aircraft has a standard sized unit. As the basin and other facilities are mounted on the forward wall, the length of the unit has simply been reduced by 6in for extra cabin space. Bombardier has now added a window option for the lavatory. >>


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