The future of flight: The 2020 Crystal Cabin Awards


The Crystal Cabin Awards, the independent awards initiative for aircraft cabin innovations and on-board products, is the aircraft interiors sector’s most highly regarded honour. 2020 marks the 14th year of the awards, and there is no shortage of fresh ideas – indeed 105 concepts from 21 countries made it to the shortlist, which is a new record.

Entrants include airlines, suppliers, universities and major aircraft manufacturers, who make up a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the interiors industry. On 31 March, the international expert jury, gathering at Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, will decide who will deserve the aviation industry’s most coveted trophies this year.

Flexible solutions for the cabin of the future

Seat rows, an aisle – and that’s it? As a number of submissions in this year’s shortlist show, it’s possible to revolutionise the way we imagine aircraft cabin layouts. For example, why not spontaneously reconfigure the cabin on a flight-by-flight basis? If Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects has a say in it, the Retractable Aircraft Cabin will allow whole rooms, from restaurants to spas, to be inserted into the aircraft cabin during ground handling.

Flexible cabin configuration is on the agenda at Airbus, too. The ‘Cabin Vision 2030’ is an extension to aircraft manufacturer’s Airspace concept, equipping the cabin with more flexible seating and sleeping configurations along with exchangeable modules. Is a coffee shop a better working environment than an aircraft? Students at the University of Cincinnati have developed a concept with a long coffee table in the cabin. They have probably prepared for an exam in a café themselves…

This is the future: a cabin concept for air taxis

Let’s be honest: travel is, and will always be, more comfortable for passengers with a little cash to spare. Acumen has made the shortlist with ‘The Room’, a luxurious business class for ANA (All Nippon Airways), which combines modern Japanese style with features such as the widest seat in its class.

Virgin Atlantic’s ‘The Loft’, created for the airline’s first A350-1000, features mood lighting in the entry area as passengers board, transforming the area to an exclusive lounge and bar for Upper Class passengers during the flight.

In a first for the Crystal Cabin Award, a cabin concept has been submitted for VTOL (vertical take-off. and landing) aircraft. Safran, in collaboration with Uber, has entered a four-seat layout for eight- minute city flights in electric taxi drones.

Safran’s eVTOL cabin concept

There’s still space to improve economy

Even ‘cattle class’ can be made more comfortable. Hamburg-based Heinkel proves the point in this year’s Crystal Cabin Award with a mechanism for rotating aircraft seats to create a ‘Flex Lounge’, with four passengers facing each other. Shortlisted entrant Adient adds an extension/retraction mechanism to the seating row behind the partition, which separates business class from economy, and creates a large single surface for parents and children to lay down together. Sahngseok Lee, who devised the idea, already won a Crystal Cabin Award trophy in 2019 as a student in the University category. Emirates has entered with the Eco Seat, which significantly reduces seat weight whilst increasing comfort and legroom compared to earlier seat generations.

Adient’s Space For All concept is great for family travel

Reducing CO2 emissions: sustainable concepts for air travel

Experts estimate that the aircraft cabin itself is responsible for approximately 5-10% of an aircraft’s CO2 emissions. In 2020, this makes ideas for a “greener cabin” more relevant than ever. The Greywater Reuse Unit from Diehl Aviation is a case in point. Instead of precious drinking water, it uses water from handwashing in the basin to flush the toilet. The result: a saving of up to 550 tonnes of CO2 per year for a single Boeing 787.

Anyone for coconut wood? PriestmanGoode is working to reduce the use of plastic during air travel with its ZERO Economy Meal Tray concept, which would see meals served in edible, biodegradable or recyclable materials. Fuel savings to reduce environmental impact are the aim of Comprisetec, which has developed a Catering Standard Unit from recycled carbon and glass fibres. Catering containers are usually made of aluminium, but the composite construction makes them lighter.

Diehl’s grey water reuse unit

Wireless enjoyment: upgrades for in-flight entertainment

Airpods may still baffle some people, but more and more passengers are using wireless headphones in aircraft today. Several entries look at ways to use them in combination with inflight entertainment (IFE), such as the Bluetooth Audiosystem from IFPL.

In 2000, JetBlue pioneered the integration of screens in every seat. Now, aware that many passengers travel with both a smartphone and tablet, the US airline is offering the ‘Multi Screen Experience’, facilitating binge watching and surfing in parallel at the highest quality on all devices.

Flymingo NEXT from Moment goes beyond classic IFE, and in addition to wireless streaming, the hardware integrates Internet of Things (IoT) technologies for the crew, indicating, for example, seat occupancy and baggage locker use.

JetBlue’s Multi Screen Experience gives more IFE options to passengers

Innovation in the cabin wall

Several submissions in this year’s Crystal Cabin Award provide alternatives to plain grey cabin walls. AERQ, a joint venture between LG and Lufthansa Technik, aims to make the partitions between classes almost invisible. Instead of partition walls, transparent screens will display passenger information and offers from the airline.

Meanwhile SFS Intech and Hamburg start-up jetlite have entered lite2fix, an innovative method for attaching cabin walls. This will not only make it easier to integrate the wall shells in the fuselage, but also expand them with tailored LED panels. These can be used to identify emergency exits or for lighting concepts developed by jetlite to reduce jetlag.

AERQ, a joint venture between LG and Lufthansa Technik, brings more functions and possibilities to cabin partitions

Sleep is the new gold: ideas for refreshing flight

Some other Crystal Cabin Award entries this year are focused on achieving a refreshing flight experience. The Sleep care app from Stelia provides passengers with sleep and nutrition tips before the journey, based on their behaviour, and sends instructions to the crew to make sure that meals are served at times suited to passenger’s individual sleeping patterns.

To make sure the crew is also more refreshed on arrival, Collins has developed a folding bed, the Zero-G Attendant Seat, that enables crew members to relax in the entry area.

18.5 hours in the air? Qantas in cooperation with Charles Perkins Centre Health and Wellbeing in the Air has submitted a whole raft of fitness exercises, lighting concepts and more to make sure that Project Sunrise, the direct flight from Sydney to New York or London, will not leave passengers completely exhausted.

Collins Aerospace’s Zero-G Attendant Seat, enables crew to relax in the entry area

Good ideas for special requirements

Flying remains a challenge for families with small children and people with physical disabilities. In 2020, once again, shortlisted Crystal Cabin Award entries include a range of ideas for these target groups. The University of Applied Sciences Hamburg has developed Isotravel, an adapter that makes use of proven Isofix technology to allow child car seats to be safely installed in the aircraft cabin. Swiss company Aircraft Innovations also wants to transform economy class seats into a child-friendly environment. The company’s Junior Comfort Seat consists of an inflatable element to protect the child from falling into the footwell. Also, the Row 1 Aircraft Wheelchair from Ciara Crawford simply slides above the aircraft seat, saving passengers with walking difficulties from getting out of the wheelchair between the gate and the cabin.

The Row 1 Aircraft Wheelchair concept, created by Ciara Crawford

How the Crystal Cabin Award works

The Crystal Cabin Award, an initiative of cluster Hamburg Aviation, is presented in eight categories: Cabin Concepts, Cabin Systems, In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity, Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment, Material & Components, Passenger Comfort Hardware, University and Visionary Concepts. For each category, the 27 expert members of the jury select three finalists, announced at the beginning of March.

The finalists get to pitch their concepts to the jury in person at the world’s leading trade fair for aircraft cabins, Aircraft Interiors Expo (31 March – 2 April in Hamburg). The winners of the 2020 Crystal Cabin Award will be announced at a gala dinner in the trading floor hall of the Chamber of Commerce on the evening of 31 March.

Respected industry award — respected industry support

Several sponsors and media partners support the Crystal Cabin Award: Airbus, Aircraft Interiors International magazine, Aircraft Interiors Expo (Reed Exhibitions), AIME 2020 (Aircraft Interiors Middle East), Ameco Beijing, APEX, Bluebox Aviation Systems, Boeing, Boltaron, Burrana, Collins Aerospace, Diehl Aviation, Ferchau Aviation, Fit AG, Flightchic, Flightglobal, Future Travel Experience, Hamburg Invest, Handelskammer Hamburg, Jetliner Cabins, Jetlite, Lufthansa Technik, Panasonic, RedCabin, Runway Girl Network, Sekisui SPI, TSI Seats, Vartan Aviation Group and The World of Aviation.

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About Author


Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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