Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Fri March 11 2016

The Crystal Cabin Awards Give Us A Glimpse into The Future of Flying

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 11, 2016

The Crystal Cabin Awards Give Us A Glimpse into The Future of Flying

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Most of the news about commercial airplane interiors has to do with shrinking seat sizes and less leg room. However, the future might not be so uncomfortable. An annual airplane interior design competition called the Crystal Cabin Awards sheds light on some of the most cutting-edge ideas in the cabin design industry.

Crystal Cabin will hand out its hardware on April 5, but the 24 finalists have already been revealed. All of the designs that made the final cut are noteworthy, but some actually seem useful enough to find their way into the cabins of commercial airplanes in the near future. From huge seat-back screens to economy class seats that give you enough room to stand up, there are plenty of ideas that could make flying more comfortable and enjoyable for passengers.

Crystal Cabin will hand out awards in eight different categories.

The Visionary Concepts category features a unique airplane layout by Zodiac Aerospace that does away with traditional cabin classes. Instead, Zodiac's design divides the airplane into different areas based on activity (not unlike an old-fashion passenger train. There are sitting areas, sleeping cabins, a lounge and other public spaces. This category also features one of the most readily applicable concept of all 24 nominations. It is an idea called Poppi from design studio TEAGUE. Poppi will allow companies to sponsor the middle seats on airplanes. People who end up in the unpopular chairs will get free swag and extra services courtesy of the seat’s corporate sponsor.

READ MORE: When Will Boeing's Patented Self-Cleaning Airplane Bathroom Debut?

Seymour Powell is a favorite in the Cabin Concepts category with its hotel-like first class cabin, which features individual single and double rooms.

The highlight of the Electronic Systems category is a massive seat-back screen from Thales. It truly is correct to call this a “seat back” screen because it covers almost the entire back of the seat. The 22-by-26-inch touch screen is much bigger than anything else currently in the sky (and bigger than most people's computer monitors).

Tall fliers will be rooting for a seat design from Rebel.Aero, which is part of the Passenger Comfort Hardware category. These innovative chairs can be folded upwards so that passengers can adjust the height of their seats and put themselves in a position that will allow them to stretch their legs more easily on long flights. Vertical seating designs like this could be a solution that would make everyone happy: airlines would get more seats on their planes and passengers would be able to have more room to stretch out if needed.

The Cabin Systems category has a couple of entries that have very practical applications when it comes to food service. Lufthansa Technik’s inductive cookers would allow fresh meals to be safely made in airplane galleys. Another entrant in this group, Diehl Service Modules, features modular “smart galleys” which can quickly be reconfigured in flight so that the cabin crew can get ready for different services in only a couple of minutes.

READ MORE: Skylights to Offer Wireless Headsets for Watching Movies in the Air

Manufacturing giant Boeing is up for a Crystal Cabin Award in the Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment category. The American planemaker’s idea is a state-of-the-art self-cleaning lavatory with powerful air filters. The bathrooms would be more hygienic than current lavs and would be easier to maintain in the air.

The Materials and Components category features the Easy Rest Modular System (ERMS). This creative design could make those uncomfortable neck/collar pillows obsolete. The ERMS adjustable headrest can be put in a variety of different positions to suit the fliers needs.

The Crystal Cabin Awards will also feature a student “University” category. This year’s concepts include a new version of the economy class headrest, a modular galley design and a new in-flight multimedia system.

Often, competitions like the Crystal Cabin Awards showcase concepts and designs that will not be applied until years (or even decades) in the future. Some of the ideas showcased at Crystal Cabin this year, however, could be adopted by the commercial air travel industry much sooner than that.

A complete synopsis of finalists is available here.


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