With the latest and greatest innovations and developments shared by the industry’s most forward-thinking engineers, designers and manufacturers, Red Cabin’s Aircraft Cabin Innovation Summit in Hamburg was packed with expert speakers, insightful panel discussions and topical takeaways.
The annual event, this time hosted at the Airbus facilities in Finkenwerder, Germany, attracts a myriad of aerospace businesses from across the world. Over the course of three days, to discuss the future of passenger experience. At this year’s summit the trending topics were, perhaps unsurprisingly, sustainability and accessibility. Both are ongoing challenges for the aviation industry, which is – with more zeal than ever – working to tackle.
Rhian Bache, Product Manager and Marco Seidlitz, Key Account Manager at STG Aerospace, were in on the action last week. Here Rhian shares her thoughts from an exciting and engaging Red Cabin Innovation Summit.
It was evident that the industry has now fully embraced the importance of creating a more sustainable future. It was a topic that was seemingly mentioned in each presentation at the Summit, with everyone from suppliers and design houses, to OEMs and airlines, asking questions on what the next steps are.
Weight reduction of products is often the first port of call for manufacturers. While this does inevitably increase the sustainability of a product’s operation – reducing fuel consumption for example – this does not consider the manufacturing process itself, nor the materials used. The panel discussion on “Cabin Sustainability – The OEM view” and the comments by by Airbus’ Maite Gonzáles Eizaguirre on Life Cycle Analysis was particularly insightful on this topic, raising the question of who should bear responsibility here – airlines, or OEMs and how do we use a holistic approach?
Ultimately, discussions would always come back to the passenger experience. Research from Airbus revealed that 40 per cent of travellers are willing to pay more for carbon neutral tickets, but opinions from industry-leading airlines and OEMs varied. It therefore comes down to a question of compromise and whether passengers would either increase their spend, or reduce their expectation in terms of cabin features, in the name of enhanced sustainability. This question remains unanswered.
It is often thought that improvements need to be made in the interests of people with reduced mobility, or those with visual or auditory impairments. However, the reality is that making these improvements benefits all passengers and once you open up this point of discussion, it becomes abundantly clear that creating a more accessible cabin, will only improve overall passenger experience.
Iris Kowen, El Al Israel Airlines’ Accessibility Specialist, provided incredible insight during a panel event when she spoke about the problem with business class arm rests. Wheelchair users often fly business class because of its improved accessibility, but arm rests that don’t lower completely create a major issue. The specificity of this issue points to how important it is to work with specialists, because without the engagement of focus groups, these sorts of issues fly under the radar.
In order to address these challenges and improve the experience of not only disabled customers but of all passengers, we have to look closely at how passengers interact with the cabin. This is the only way we will be able to make the subtle tweaks and changes that, overall, make a monumental difference.
Airlines are more focussed on cabin design than ever before. It was apparent that there is a real desire to make First and Business Class cabins feel more homely, more comfortable and more agile to customer wants and needs, and to ultimately improve the passenger experience in all sections of the cabin, by way of “low-risk” customisation.
There were several discussions around the use of low-risk customisation and avoiding what was colloquially referred to as “just putting a logo on it”. A growing number of airlines are seeking quicker but effective means of representing their brand, such as seat material colours, stitching colour options, lighting and signage, and so on. These options are now being favoured over the more avant-garde design choices for projects with tight timescales.
This year’s Red Cabin Aircraft Cabin Innovation Summit surpassed all my expectations. It was truly incredible to sit in on so many insightful panel discussions, listen to such engaging speakers and network with the industry’s most exciting innovators. It has only made us even more excited to return to Hamburg this summer for AIX 2023.