Can you imagine a future of flying in which a window seat wasn’t an option? That’s just one of the considerations being put into play at an Airbus idea hub in Silicon Valley. The end goal is to completely transform the airplane cabin, so the entire flight experience is different, and, Airbus hopes, better.
The foundational design idea is actually borrowed from train cars, compartmentalized environments that can be relatively easily changed out based on specific flight’s needs or marketing plans for the airline. The environment modules could be loaded and unloaded via a massive cargo door, similar to those used by air freighters and military jets.
And, if this idea gets a green light, Airbus hopes that innovation lays the foundation for a complete redesign of the airplane as we know it. Imagine bunks for sleeping, instead of confining seats. Wilder notions even include gyms, spas, cinemas and, of course, a Starbucks.
Since they’re on every corner, why not have a Starbucks flying the friendly skies? The idea could be a major boon for frequent fliers, who tend to detest air travel while managing to solve an ongoing – and expensive – problem for airlines.
The trouble for the carriers? Airplane interiors, given all the use, tend to wear out quickly. At present, a necessary overhaul could cost millions and ground an airplane for several weeks, adding even more to the cost of the changeover.
However, if an airplane could simply have a module pulled out and replaced, the down time and the expense could be significantly reduced, putting that plane back in the air and back on a paying basis.
Then comes the obvious question. Will the expense of re-inventing commercial aircraft make all of this dreaming too expensive? Well, turns out, they may not have to. The minds behind these ideas are already looking at Airbus’ long-range cargo haulers as possible conversion options if they decide to go this direction.
The biggest question will be if Airbus can convince current travelers to buy into this new idea. “Window or aisle” has been a “sort” of airline passenger for as long as there have been commercial flights. Now, “window” people will have only LED screens to look at … not through. Designers agree this is the big hurdle to get over. They will have to find out what travelers will want to “get” for what they perceive they are losing while also convincing enough people they’re not really losing anything at all.