Airplane cabin concepts that could change flying: Crystal Cabin Awards 2020

CNN  — 

It’s been a strange period for aviation and, for many of us, it’s been over a year since we actually saw the inside of an airplane cabin.

Offering a hint of what we’ve been missing, and a glimpse of what’s to come, are the winners of the latest Crystal Cabin Awards, which champion the most innovative and exciting ideas in airplane interiors.

This year’s awards go to designs including a hyper-connected, personalized cabin of the future and the swanky interior of an electric jet aimed at commuters.

The lengthy shortlist was announced back in January 2020, with the results scheduled to be revealed at the 2020 Aircraft Interiors Expo, which was originally due to take place in Hamburg, Germany in March 2020.

When Covid swept through Northern Europe last Spring, these events were put on hold. Fast forward a year and the designers were finally honored at a virtual ceremony this week.

While the shortlist had been chosen in a pre-pandemic climate, the winners take on a new significance in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If the demand for air travel is to increase again, what is needed now are convincing ideas that inspire passengers in equal measure and give them a good feeling,” Carmen Krause-Bösterling, project director at the Crystal Cabin Award Association told CNN Travel, adding that the award indicates “how an industry is responding to the challenges of our time.”

Championing innovation

This nominated design from Heinkel Group didn't win, but proved eye-catching.

The Crystal Cabin Awards original shortlist included a range of intriguing ideas. Take engineering company Heinkel Group’s “Flex Lounge” design, which envisaged a flexible configuration for seat rows in economy cabins.

The idea behind the concept is that, that post take-off, flight attendants can rearrange the rows so that passengers traveling together can face one another.

It’s a design that stands out as not particularly Covid-friendly, but certainly eye catching.

Among this years winners is electric jet Alice, which won in the “Cabin Concepts” category.

The brainchild of Israeli company Eviation Aircraft, Alice is billed as “the first purely electric commuter jet” and was recognized for its innovative cabin interior, which can transport up to nine passengers over a distance of 1,000 kilometers. The design beat Boeing’s 777X cabin experience and Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Loft.

Seats inside the Alice jet will be arranged in a “reverse herringbone” seating arrangement, meaning all guests will face toward the jet’s large windows.

Airbus won a Crystal Cabin Award for its next generation cabin concept "Airspace Cabin Vision 2020."

In the “Visionary Concepts” category, Airbus was recognized for its next generation cabin concept “Airspace Cabin Vision 2020.”

This cabin design offers flexible seating and a “digitally enabled environment” – including optional pre-programmed seat recline preferences as well as overhead luggage cabins that light up red or green, depending on whether they’re full or empty.

Speaking about the technological design back in October 2019, Ingo Wuggetzer, VP marketing at Airbus told CNN Travel that the concept was predicated on the idea that “what you experience on ground, you continue to experience on board of an aircraft.”

Future of aviation?

The University of Cincinnati won an award for this "coffee house" style airplane interior design.

In this year’s “Passenger Comfort Hardware” category, the Crystal Cabin Awards recognized Safran Seats’ Modulair S economy seat, developed with French university ENSCI and designed to make economy more comfortable via add-ons including a neck support and a tablet holder.

Also nominated in this category was Ciara Crawford’s ROW1 seat – an airplane seat that allows a wheelchair to be fitted seamlessly into the row, promoting a more accessible airplane experience.

Safran picked up two other awards at this year’s ceremony, for its Bluetooth enabled Inflight Entertainment System – which allows passengers to use personal Bluetooth headsets rather than airplane-provided headphones – and in the “Cabin Systems” category, for an airplane trolley that collects and communicates real-time data.

In the “University” category, the University of Cincinnati came up tops with a “coffee house” style design, a concept that reimagines how business travelers might work in flight.

Still to be announced is the “Judges’ Choice Award” and “Clean & Safe Air Travel” categories, two prizes dreamed up in the wake of the pandemic and designed to recognize the impact of Covid-19 on aviation.

These are scheduled to be presented at the rescheduled Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg at the end of August.