Trends in cabin amenities

By Bjorn Fehrm

05 April 2016, ©. Leeham Co: We are at the Aircraft Interior eXpo, AIX 2016, to check out what’s new where the aircraft meets the passenger. We got to the expo in Hamburg on a full Lufthansa A320 flight. It was the usual struggle for the last passengers boarding to find place for their roller bags in the overhead bins.

Airbus showed the new overhead bins for the A320 at the show, Figure 1. They will be a big relief for the airlines and passengers, just like the Space-bins announced by Boeing at last year’s show.

Airbus new A320 overhead bins

Figure 1. Airbus new A320 overhead bins. Photo: Leeham News.

As can be seen in the picture the passengers don’t get quite the nice airy feeling which is part of Boeing’s Sky interior. The shape of the bins are rather like the present day product but with the A350 style curvature to the other section.

It thereby will bring a bit lighter feel to the cabin but most importantly more space for carry on luggage. Roller bags can be stored standing on the side and this increases the capacity with over 50%. The first delivery of the new bins was to Delta for their new A321 last month. As can be seen in the picture mood LED lighting is also part of the A320 cabin upgrade.

Lighter seats

The cabin area is perhaps the part of the aircraft where the strongest innovation takes place at the moment. This is also our reason for going to the Cabin Interior Expo for the first time. Weight is a major factor in the performance of the aircraft. The aircraft OEMs have special teams that are constantly chasing weight reductions on existing platforms. Boeing’s 777 team described how they over several years could chop 500kg out of the empty weight of a 777-300ER’s standard product specification.

It is therefore a small revolution when seat weight in an aircraft can be reduced with up to 30% for new designs. In total the seats in a modern two class single aisle aircraft weigh about 3 metric tonnes. A weight reduction of 30 percent is then close to a tonne, a fantastic achievement if it can be carried through to all seats.

For a long range aircraft like a Boeing 787 we are talking of close to 5 tonnes. Here we would gain in excess of 1 tonne when introducing the latest lighter long range seats.

More legroom

The other trend for especially economy class seating is the carving back of more passenger legroom at today’s lower seat pitches. I tried several new generation seats at 30 inch pitch at the show and through cleverly curved and thinner backrest they felt like they had the classical 32 inch legroom. I’m over 6 foot tall and I had no problem with the new seats at 30 inch pitch.

The innovation in the tighter seating for Low Cost Carriers (LCC) is also strong. Several LCC seat concepts were shown at the show where the manufacturers are trying to get the passenger decent leg space at seat pitches below 30 inch. It seems a normally built individual should get a acceptable experience over short haul down to about 28 inches.

Other trends

The other major trend at the show is a better internet experience in the aircraft. This is all about the satellite networks which carry the internet to the aircraft. We will cover what is happening at that front in tomorrow’s report from the show.

29 Comments on “Trends in cabin amenities

    • Vie geights?

      Keep in mind its from German class all too long ago!

  1. ISIS is probably Zodiac’s largest name fail. Using Google “ZODIAC ISIS” quickly puts you on the NSA tracking list.
    However, it looks like ZODIAC (it is actually their C&D division in Huntington Beach, CA) didn’t find a customer yet. Although ZODIAC said it was “ready”, I assume that they still needed a partner for actual development (there is usually a big gap between looking ready and being ready); further, ZODIAC has a history of showing off its “innovations”.
    And Airbus waited eternity plus 1 year to show a new A320 cabin. Competitive pressure is apparently insufficient.

    The interesting part of “cabin innovation”: most of them can be retrofitted, although at a cost.

  2. The Zodiac “ISIS” carry-on overhead stowage volume increment is a reaction to TwinAisleFeeders’ HQR cabin re-vamp offer, bettering the overhead stowage volume with a record + 59 % on a per-seat basis at equal seat pitch vs the Airbus A32X “enhanced” cabin interior.

    But the ISIS offer is based on a misconception or a dishonest “offre de Gascon” : Zodiac wants airlines to believe it is OK to simultaneously

    – reduce seat pitch to 28″ with super-slimline seat designs ;
    – let passengers bring 50 % more carry-on into the cabin.

    There’a an obvious conflict of purpose … the combination of the two above “cabin trends” is conducive to cabin constipation, a sickening exacerbation of acabin service ail more trivially known as “jamming”, the consequence of which is main-deck cabin ground turn-around stopping.

    An A321 type Wizz Air (230 seats !!) fitted with ISIS stowages would rotate in 65 minutes, up 20 minutes from more common airport ground rotation performance statistics. For average 135 minutes legs in the standard 45/20/35 feeder cost split between hourly/cyclic/fuel costs, this implies a 45 % x 20/(45 + 90) = 6.7 % increment in trip costs due to escalation of the hourly cost picture. Assuming bottomline exploitation ( when trip revenue = trip cost) the impact of retarded ground operations equates to a loss of revenue from 230 x 0.067 = 15 seats. Put it otherwise, reduce the seating to 215 pax and you’ll make the same trip yield !

    Another way to qualify this fact : you can’t have the cake and eat it ?!

    • Zodiac wants airlines to believe it is OK to simultaneously
      – reduce seat pitch to 28″ with super-slimline seat designs ;
      – let passengers bring 50 % more carry-on into the cabin.

      Which is why low cost airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair, having previously educated their passengers to dispense with hold luggage, are now forcing some of them to check their cabin bags.

      • Agreed, more space, more luggage. Costs the airline turnaround time and is horribly claustrophobic, easily the worst part of LCC flight.

    • “But the ISIS offer is based on a misconception or a dishonest “offre de Gascon” : Zodiac wants airlines to believe it is OK to simultaneously

      – reduce seat pitch to 28″ with super-slimline seat designs ;
      – let passengers bring 50 % more carry-on into the cabin.”

      I don’t suppose you would consider that the second option is not to let passengers bring more carry-on into the cabin but to have proper overhead stowage space for what they and the extra passengers do bring.

      • Obviously, Aero Ninja : if implemented at a reasonable scale, more carry-on equates to less ombilical strings tieing passengers to their CIL (checked-in luggage) in the holds underfloor, holding you queuing in abeyance by the re-delivery belts in the arrival hall … whilst the lucky and happy COL (carry-on luggage) holders may walk straight out through the ‘nothing to declare’ gate into the next FlyBus downtown … gaining 15 minutes of rush-hour precious time getting home to wife/children … Yes, COL is a privilege, a definite PLUS, that passengers are prepared to pay for given a choice between checking in vs withbringing as COL. So to regulate the flow of COL into the cabin, Operators need to introduce a charge for the second COL item, say 20 $ apiece, vs eg 35 $ apiece for the second CIL item, with first items FOC (free of charge)…

        More available carry-on volume is also a way to deter the COL DROP syndrome, which occurs whenever there is an obvious shortage of COL volume : the passenger then becomes nervous not to find place for his or her handluggage and drops it at the FIRST OPPORTUNITY THE BEST. Upon the arrival stand-up, the passenger needs to circulate to retrieve the handluggage at its drop-point, if they can remember ? or which may need conuterflow elbowing, causing havoc and aisle jamming.

        Finally, COL is a source for WELL-BEING for the pax, who is assured to retrieve his or her hand-luggage, in safe condition, upon arrival. No lost items, no damage to your suitcase, no risk of it going astray to Sydney on another flight, not stolen by some corrupt airport Docker …

        So YES, Aero Ninja : please, give me more overhead stowage space … but do not reduce the pitch to 28″ whilst opting for the 3+3 cross-section : instead, select the Quick Rotation (1+3+1) twin aisle cross-section, optimising the cabin for “Sweet Spot” high-yield performance.

  3. “I’m over 6 foot tall and I had no problem with the new seats at 30 inch pitch.”

    Hi Bjorn,

    How did you ever squeeze into fighter cockpits? 🙂

    • I wouldn’t fit cockpits from a lot of manufacturers but SAAB had my type of guy as the upper spectrum they designed for, so it was OK. Its all about whether any part of your body (typically the knees) stay in the aircraft if you needed to eject :).

  4. Tell me that photo above doesn’t look like some weird, “2001” film style “modern” subway cross-section cutout, with creepy lighting! ( “Take your seat, Dave.” LOL)

    • Yea, creepy or a house of ill (or not so ill) repute.

      My wife and I want leg room, the rest, kind of whatever.

      What I found was on my last flights the seat cushions are so thin my butt hurts. Now thin butts run in the family (we won’t talk about where the excess weight goes) but I would think women would tend to have the same issue.

      • And noted it was Ak Airlines seats I did not like and the leg room was not there.

        Forget who I flew back on but better, Delta, United ?

  5. I wonder if a 28″ pitch is really practical i.e. doable.

    For example, I looked at the Easy Jet A320 configuration in Seat Guru. They have 11 rows between door 1 and the overwing emergency exit and another 19 rows (on the RHS, 17 on the LHS) after the overwing exit and the aft door, all at a pitch of 29″ (according to Seat Guru).

    I would imagine that the first row, last row and the rows before and after the overwing exits are at their limits. If that were the case, then:

    It would require something on the order of a 26.5″ pitch to get another row in at the front of the aircraft and 27.5″ pitch to get another row in the aft part of the aircraft, on the LHS only. The pitch on the RHS would be less than that.

    Call me a dreamer, but I don’t believe they would reduce their pitch to such extremes, even with these new slimline seats.

    • For a while Easyjet squeezed an extra row into the starboard side (plus lav) to make up 183 seats (although they could only take 180 passengers). This was unbearable. The new Recaro SL3510 seats are the best thing that has ever happened to the airline. They don’t just give you that critical extra inch of legroom. The seats are much more comfortable to sit in than their fatter predecessors. The 186 seat layout with the Space-Flex arrangement of two lavs behind the rear exits will be fine. Not spacious, but acceptable.

    • The distance from rhs doorsill 1L to lhs doorsill 3L on the A320 is exactly 43 frames or 903″ … remove twice 10″ (cross-aisle passageways to the 2 x type III emergency exits @ the overwing location) plus 15″ for footroom up front in row nº 1 and you have left for free seating 903″ – 35″ = 868″ or 31 rows @ 28″ or 186 seats, CQFD. There’s no room for discussion ! The previous exit limit of 180 seats or 30 rows was @ 870 / 30 = 29″ pitch, with minor adjustments. The new super-slimline seats such as eg Recaro SL3510 sits the passenger deeper into the seat (due to the thinner seatback upholstery) so the “feel” at knee level is the same @ 28″ pitch as before @ 29″ pitch. But Airbus are venturing ideas about further revising the certified Exit Limit of the A320, into 192 or 195 seats, to come even closer to the 200 seats “Sweet Spot” of the 738. Mathematically, this would imply shortening the A320 seat-pitch to 27″ or below …

      • Raise the hieght of theseat by 2 inches and it will be fine
        Granny sat in an up right chair no nee room
        Sump and you need forward room
        Did that 30 years ago with seats for B 757
        226 config

  6. Don’t get me wrong folks, I am totally on board in the belief that many airlines, especially the LCCs are looking for ways to cram more people onto an aircraft.

    I just believe (hope) that these developments noted here will finally do something to improve the passenger experience.

    The bonus is that, in both cases, even if they can’t cram more people onto an aircraft, the weight savings on the seats and the cost savings on the “forced” or “free” checked baggage due to missing overhead stowage space should be an incentive for airlines to invest in these options.

  7. Be interesting to see how the slimmer seats work out. Hardpoints, exit limits, cabin crew requirements, galley and lav ratios, etc, must be considered.

  8. It has been noted that Delta is installing the Zodiac bin and not the Airbus bin as the article seems to indicate. What’s worth mentioning is that Delta is now having second thoughts about that bin given that it can be very hard to close when fully loaded since it isn’t assisted or counter weighted.

    It’s also worth noting that the Airbus bin is too small to take a US standard 22″ carryon bag making it a non starter for US Carriers.

    • Agree.

      The new Airbus interior looks like something out of a 1980s “future” movie. Totally tasteless.

      However, the bins used in current production Boeing airplanes are easy to close and have plenty of volume for carry-ons.

      • @ Andy : if you’re talking about Boeing’s 737 NG Sky Interior with bbo (big bin option) then @ 32″ seat pitch throughout, you have :
        – A32X “Enhanced” interior 3+3 : 2.045 cuft/pax = 100 (basis)
        – 737 NG Sky Interior 3+3 bbo : 2.25 cuft/pax = 110
        – C Series 2+3 : 2.4 cuft/pax = 117
        – H21QR 1+3+1 : 3.25 cuft/pax = 159

        To situate A32X “ISIS” interior 3+3 in the above canvassing, we need to know @ 32″ seat pitch the stowage volume in cuft/pax … It is important to know the outer dimensions of a compatible RollerBag. Eg, H21QR can accomodate 272 IATA-size RB 55cm x 35cm x 20cm, with a loading threshhold situated 3.5″ or 9cm below the loading height of the “enhanced” Airbus bin, for easier hoisting and lodging by the passenger …

  9. On high density configured aircraft are the baggage holds ususally full? If not, then the designers spend a lot of time packing the cabin while the hold goes to waste. Empty volume still costs money to fly. If baggage claim is now on the aircraft during deplaning, solutions would be luggage closets, or luggage racks on tracks that go into the hold and come up at the right side exit doors.

    • @ Ted, re : designers spend a lot of time packing the cabin while the hold goes to waste. Empty volume still costs money to fly

      Vueling with its EuroConnector and Norwegian with its Cargo division are both examples of LCC fully aware of the possible bonanza of scheduled line airfreight operations using available container space in the lower deck. Pending markets, the revenue conversion factor is the following : from 8 to 15 cuft of payfreight contribute the equivalent of 1 full-fare Y-class ticket, ie an AKH container (127 cuft) onboard an A32X is worth roughly 10 pax paying YCff. This is partly the trade-in with H21QR vs A321 3+3 : you remove some 23 seats, from 222 (37 rows 6-abreast) to 200 (40 rows 5-abreast) and with all the COL in the main cabin you free TWO ADDITIONAL AKH for payfreight, contributing in cargo revenue the equivalent of twenty pax. The overall bonus is a better cabin, quicker turn-arounds, Product Differentiation on main deck, etc etc … a different way of using the aircraft, with better yields.

    • The premium econ at 3-3-3 looks nice. They could go 2-2-2-2 with the same width seats with no middle seats and six aisle seats.

    • A380 3-3-3 instead of 3-4-3?

      Frequent Traveller, that means 10% more bin space per passenger while lightening up the cabin, reduced waiting lines at the lavatories, while improving customer satisfaction !

      Even better : 2-2-2-2 ; no middle seats and lower OEW, more bins space per passenger!


      • Yes, keesje … the evolution is going slowly but in the right direction … doing away with middle-seats-in-a-triple is the way to go … in Premium ! But I have explained that to create dynamics for Product Differentiation you still need to have some “bad” seats, so people may compare and select … the bad seat if you’re a budget-sensitive globetrotter on your annual hike to Patagonia, Kamtchatka or Nuuk-Thule, because a dime is a dime, whilst for the other travellers, after having duly considered a deep-discount offer for a middle-seat-in-a-triple, you click a purchase confirmation for an aisle seat or better, a single seat Minister-style at a yield premium, because you are different and you want this difference to be noted for other people to take notice of yourself … it makes you feel that you exist. So in my opinion, in a feeder aircraft, one middle-seat-in-a-triple per row in Y-class is OK (for your bottomline offer), or approx. 15 % of the overall seating in the cabin. two of those per row in 3+3 or 33% is definitely too many, at least to TwinAisleFeeders’ professional preference ?!

  10. And Zodiac seems to be as clueless about a name as they are about production! ISIS really? …..

    Even worse than Axes rifles!

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