2018’s trends in air travel

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The Crystal Cabin Awards are is one of the most coveted awards in the international aviation industry. Year after year, suppliers, major aircraft manufacturers, universities and airlines alike join the fray in the hope of holding aloft one of the snow-white trophies. In 2018, the most prestigious prize for aircraft cabins and passenger comfort will be presented for the 12th time, with a record number of entries for the fifth year in a row.

91 innovative concepts from 18 countries have made it onto the shortlist this time round. The spectrum ranges from individual lightweight components to a long-haul VIP aircraft with on-board cinema, from a practical economy-class module to a first-class suite. In the industry, a victory in the Crystal Cabin Awards is the equivalent of a knighthood, and the global media resonance is significant too. The decisions of the 28 expert jury members on this year’s pioneering aviation concepts will be finalized onApril 10, 2018, during the industry’s leading trade show, Aircraft Interiors Expo (April 10-12, 2018).

Five prominent aircraft manufacturers are represented in the Crystal Cabin Awards shortlist this year: Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer and Gulfstream. Other major players in the industry, such as Diehl, Rockwell Collins and Zodiac Aerospace are shortlisted too, joined by student concepts from 10 universities from all over the world.

Double beds and family suites: making flying almost like a hotel stay
Distinguished international airlines are also amongst the shortlisted candidates for the Crystal Cabin Awards, particularly in the premium segment. The new A380 first-class suites from Singapore Airlines, for example, create an experience not far removed from a hotel room. And if you are not traveling alone, a crew member can remove the partition wall to the neighbouring suite and you will have a real double bed.

Qatar Airways goes one step further with the new business class QSuite: when needed, up to four seats can be face each other to create an “open-plan compartment” for the whole family.

Good news for those whose budget is more likely to see them traveling in the open-plan section of an inter-city train, too: the new Airspace Cabin on the Airbus A320neo will provide a hotel-like atmosphere for all classes on short- and medium-haul flights.

Every millimeter counts, and economy passengers benefit too
But even the most stylish design is poor comfort to a passenger engaging in a cramped battle for the armrest in an economy seat. At least the industry seems to have recognized the problem. Numerous shortlisted entries for the Crystal Cabin Awards are focussed explicitly on the passenger experience in the “back rows” of the cabin.

There are two entries of innovative armrests with space for two elbows. And the noise-absorbing headrest from seat manufacturer Haeco will bring smiles of relief to those who are disturbed by the neighboring passenger’s choice of volume; with a single movement, the headrest folds across the ears.

The queue for the toilet may soon be a thing of the past, too, when the new lavatory concept from Jamco and the urinal solution from Zodiac Aerospace significantly reduce the time spent in the smallest cabin on the plane.

The digital aircraft cabin: 3D screens and virtual reality
The Crystal Cabin Award shortlist does not only cover the basic needs of passengers. There are numerous submissions in the multimedia area that will delight every tech fan and make sure that time flies on board. This includes the first 3D monitor for in-flight entertainment, and even VR glasses for deep immersion in new entertainment worlds in the sky.

Another digital trend is the extension of the flight experience to include the time before boarding, such as individual seat selection via a virtual walk through the cabin, and advance selection of films and music on the passenger’s own smartphone or tablet.

Electronics from the printer — innovations the passenger doesn’t see
The increasing digitalization benefits not just passengers, but also the airlines themselves. Particularly good examples are provided by engineering service provider Altran, with a system for sending relevant information to crew members via smartwatch, and Airbus, with plans to print the cabin electronics on panels instead of tedious cabling work.

And if simple improvements in everyday passenger experience are what you are looking for, rather than futuristic industry concepts, you will be taken with the unpreposessing box produced by US manufacturer Astronics, allowing for rapid recharging of your own laptop via USB.

Categories and roadmap: what’s next in the 12th Crystal Cabin Awards?
The Crystal Cabin Award, initiated by the cluster Hamburg Aviation, is awarded in eight categories: Cabin Concepts, Cabin Systems, IFEC, Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment, Material & Components, Passenger Comfort Hardware, University, and Visionary Concepts.

For each category, the 28 international experts on the judging panel choose three shortlist entries as finalists (announced at the start of March). These concepts can then be pitched to the jury in person at Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg in April. The winners of the Crystal Cabin Awards 2018 will then be crowned at a gala dinner in Hamburg’s Hotel Atlantic Kempinski on the evening of April 10.

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