Photo: Airbus

New Airline Awards Show What Planes of the Future May Look Like

News Airports + Flying
by Matador Creators May 30, 2024

Going on right now in Germany is an airline trade show called the “Aircraft Interiors Expo.” And while that may not sound exciting, it is if you like travel and flying, as the biggest brands in the world are showing off their designs for planes of the future. One of the biggest parts of the show is the “Crystal Cabin Awards,” recognizing the best designs proposed in the world of air travel — and 2024’s winners were just announced.

Winner: BermudAir


Small-ish airline BermudAir (based in Hamilton, Bermuda) took the top spot in the “Cabin Concepts” category. Its design removes economy seating to make way for roomier business class seats for flights between Bermuda and the US, offering each passenger roomy seats, a privacy screen, and a large tabletop space. It also scored points for its use of repurposed materials and ability to be assembled (and disassembled) in more eco-friendly, reusable ways.

Nominee: Airbus

new plane designs - airbus concept

Photo: Airbus

A noteworthy runner up were the rethought interior cabins from Airbus. The conceptual look and feel of the passenger space includes recycled fabrics, larger windows, and natural lighting. It was introduced in a promotional video you can watch here, which shows a future-looking cabin with nighttime ambient lighting, larger overhead storage bins, and personal dividers between seats — but no word on whether it’s an actual design in the works, or just a backdrop for the video. The video also touts the manufacturer’s commitment to more sustainable air travel, mentioning initiatives to reduce food waste, reduce its carbon footprint, and optimize on-plane energy consumption.

Nominee: Japan Airlines

JAL (Japan Airlines) also introduced a host of new design concepts for all classes of seat. Its designs for new business-class cabins were nominated in the “Cabin Concepts” category and praised for their blend of modern and traditional Japanese designs. The first-class cabins are private rooms with seats that can be configured as couches or beds, along with clothing storage space, large TV screens, and surround-sound audio built into the headrests.

The concepts for business class show smaller but still luxurious suites with doors, and the same built-in audio as first class. Turning the chair into a couch isn’t an option, but travelers in the smaller suites can still switch to lay-flat mode to catch some Z’s during flights. Economy class passengers don’t get too many perks in the new concepts, but it does mention a cool concept for all classes: the ability to access inflight entertainment in advance to make a playlist, so you’re ready to relax the moment you step on board.

Winner: Qantas Airways

new airplane designs - qantas wellness station

A conceptualized image of the Qantas “Wellness Zones” for long-haul flights. Photo: Qantas Airlines/Diehl Aviation

In the category for “Passenger Comfort,” Qantas Airways won for its concept of a “Wellness Zone” to be installed on long-haul flights between Sydney and London or Sydney and NYC. The area is accessible to all passengers regardless of seating class, with a snack and drink station, as well as space for stretching and movement, paired with guided video wellness exercises. It would also have lighting designed to help people adjust to new time zones. It was introduced in 2023, but won’t go into production until 2026 at the earliest (if it happens at all).

Nominee: Collins Aerospace/Panasonic


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If you’re lucky enough to fly in a premium-class cabin in the future, you may get to experience the new MAYA business-class concept. It’s a collaboration between Collins Aerospace and Panasonic Avionics and described as “immersive.” There’s a 45-inch LED screen controlled by passengers’ personal devices, as well as the integration of “Arise” technology, which monitors passengers’ movement to automatically adjust the seat position and cushion pressure. The hope is that passengers will be disturbed far less by temperature changes or airplane movement, allowing them to get better sleep in the air. It was also a finalist in the category of “Passenger Comfort.”

Nominee: Boeing/Virginia Tech

new airplane cabin concept - wheelchair users

Photo: Virginia Tech/Susan Sale

Boeing debuted a new concept for passengers in wheelchairs, created in partnership with a team of students from Virginia Tech and Collins Aerospace. The concept allows wheelchair users to stay in their chairs during flights, rather than having to move to an airline seat. It works by folding up a row of three seats and pushing the wheelchair into a locking system to hold the chair in place. “Existing airplane seats don’t include the harnesses and other [safety] gear that may be essential for passengers who use wheelchairs,” reads the release from Virginia Tech, “so another traveler must be there to hold the passenger’s body up during take-off, turbulence, and landing.”

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