Although the airline industry took a serious hit in 2021, flying is far from dead, and innovations in the field of airplane cabin designs are constant. New concepts are being devised to make flying more comfortable, efficient, and environmentally responsible, from collapsible beds to sustainable food trays. The Crystal Cabin Awards highlight the most innovative and exciting ideas out there. The shortlist was initially announced in January 2020 though COVID-19 delayed the ceremony by a year. Finally, the designers were honored at a long-overdue virtual ceremony this week.
Carmen Krause-Bösterling, the project director at the Crystal Cabin Award Association, told CNN, “If the demand for air travel is to increase again, what is needed now are convincing ideas that inspire passengers in equal measure and give them a good feeling, how an industry is responding to the challenges of our time.”
The following are some of the coolest ideas from the Crystal Cabin Awards that we selected:
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Loft
The Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Loft was created for Virgin Atlantic’s first A350-1000. It features mood lighting in the entry area where passengers board and replaces the previous Upper Class bar with a unique lounge for premium class passengers to gather, grab a drink, or dine during the flight.
Collapsible beds for the Flying V
Developed by the Delft University of Technology in cooperation with KLM, these collapsible beds utilize wing space to create sleeping bunks in economy class in this uniquely shaped aircraft. The new configuration would allow three passengers to lay down horizontally. With this design, both passengers and luggage take their place inside the wings and the seats/beds would be made much lighter, reducing airplane fuel consumption.
Coffee House Cabin
Developed by the University of Cincinnati in partnership with The Boeing Company and The Live Well Collaborative, the Coffee House Cabin is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a productivity-minded zone in an airplane cabin, focusing on the needs of business travelers, offering dedicated workstations and personal space.
ZERO — Economy Meal Tray
This sustainable product created by PriestmanGoode would reduce the amount of plastic waste created by the meal service on passenger flights. These lightweight, sustainable trays are made of edible, biodegradable, and compostable materials.
Greywater Reuse Unit
This innovative system takes hand-wash water from the sink in airplane bathrooms and repurposes it for flushing the toilet. This significantly reduces the amount of potable water used by a plane, resulting in CO2 savings of about 550 tons per year per aircraft.