The Crystal Cabin Award is one of the most coveted seals of quality in the global aviation industry. The finalists have now been decided for each of the eight categories. Competition was never tougher for the 24 places in the finals. The international expert jury viewed and evaluated some 94 shortlisted entries. Airlines, manufacturers, suppliers and universities from all around the world have made it to the last round. Just who will be taking one of the precious trophies home will be decided in Hamburg on 2 April at a celebrity gala dinner for the industry during the leading global trade show, Aircraft Interiors Expo.
An overview of the finalists: 8 categories, 24 innovations
Three well-known heavyweights of the aviation industry are going head-to-head in the “Cabin Concepts” category. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has come up with a new use for the space underneath the passenger cabin with its Lower Deck Pax Experience Modules. Today, the space is used for, amongst other things, cargo containers. In the future, though, it could contain lounge areas or quiet zones for Economy class passengers to make ultra-long haul routes more pleasant. Travel with First Class, on the other hand, and you can already experience such luxuries on the newer aircraft in the Emirates fleet. The Boeing 777 First Class Fully Enclosed Suites have the atmosphere of a private jet. There are also numerous high-tech components such as video calls from the passenger to the crew and virtual windows for suites located in the centre of the plane. This means that every seat has a guaranteed window view. Rather than opulence, Safran Essential Business Class is focused on efficiency and sustainability. Doing away entirely with heavy mechanical components, the concept relies instead on innovative cushion structures. The result: 25 percent less weight and almost 20 percent more space for the passenger.
One of the central questions shaping the “Cabin Systems” category is how to most efficiently use the space within an aircraft. Collins Aerospace provides a great example with its Flex Duet self-service counter for snacks and drinks. During cruise flight, it can just be opened up like a closet door, folding in front of the aircraft door to give a purpose to otherwise unused space. The X-Tend Seat from Airbus increases efficiency in individual seating rows by partially folding down the seat cushion when the passenger stands up. This provides the passenger with more freedom of movement within the row, whilst the airline can compress the seating pitch in emergency exit rows. Diehl Aviation, meanwhile, offers greater seat pitch independence with its Flexible Passenger Service Unit system. The modules, containing for example air vents and reading lamps, are not fixed in place above the seats; instead, they can be repositioned for optimal passenger convenience.
And if perfectly positioned air vents aren’t enough to keep everything smelling of roses, one finalist’s concept for the “Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment” category may have the solution: the nanoe air filtration system by Panasonic extracts pungent smells from the cabin, for example after meals, improving the air quality. Sadly, the concept is currently only available for Business Class. For some years already, the Skycouch from Air New Zealand has led the way in creating a genuine luxury upgrade for Economy Class passengers, converting an entire row of seats to a bed on demand. And now, this practical concept is available in a family edition, with new belts and safety guards ensuring that even babies and infants can be safely put to bed here. The jury showed its appreciation of this enhancement with a place in the finals. Diehl Aviation provides the third candidate in this category, too, with an innovation equally advantageous for old and young. The UV-LED Water Disinfection Unit is a retrofit antibacterial filter for the toilet area. For the first time, tap water is reliably drinkable on board.
A different type of passenger wellbeing, meanwhile, is at the heart of the “In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity” category. One entry here has won over not just the jury but also the Emirates airline. The virtual windows from Collins Aerospace are already in use in the airline’s concept that has made the finals in another category. Global Eagle has a product that benefits not just First Class passengers: the Low-Earth Orbit Satellite, LEO. Floating in space at a relatively low altitude, it provides extra-fast broadband internet for airborne clients, even in regions currently subject to poor connectivity, such as polar regions. United Airlines, on the other hand, is here with connectivity between the passenger and the in-flight entertainment system. “Entertainment for All” provides passengers with diverse, semantically valid settings to personalise the multimedia experience on board.
Another Collins Aerospace concept is in the spotlight — in the truest sense of the word — in this year’s “Material & Components” category. The µLED Reading Light replaces existing cabin reading lamps with ingenious LED technology. With precisely targeted light cones, a single lamp can illuminate several seats. The Lumina concept from KYDEX is all about pleasant lighting, too. The US company has developed a thermal plastic that can conduct light and provides mood lighting via plastic panels in the cabin. If privacy is what you need for a sense of wellbeing, the Flexible Door from supplier Safran may be your thing. The thinly coated element is integrated in the side wall of the Business Class seating berth and can be drawn across between the seat and the aisle, almost like a blind, when needed. For passengers, it means more privacy; for airlines, the ultralight weight makes it attractive.
The “Passenger Comfort Hardware” category is home to physically larger amenities. This includes the Active Noise Control technology for Business Class seats from Panasonic. Noise-cancelling headphones will be a thing of the past with this seat, which filters the cabin and engine background noise by itself at the press of a button. Calming music or bird noises can be added if required, accompanied by the appropriate lighting. It brings sleeping in the skies close to cloud nine. And in Economy Class? Here, too, attention has been paid to long-haul sleeping comfort. Seat manufacturer RECARO has enhanced its long-haul route seat with a number of comfort elements that make it a little more like an armchair at home. This includes a flexibly adjustable head and neck support as well as movable back and leg upholstery. French design studio Style & Design has taken an even more radical approach to long-haul seating. The Moments concept significantly extends the seating space in Business Class, offering a range of sofa-like positions for sitting, lying and tuning, without costing the airline in terms of precious space.
Radical new travel ideas are traditionally the domain of the “University” category for the Crystal Cabin Award, with students from all over the world bringing their competing plans for the future to the arena. Sahngseok Lee from Hongik University in Korea, for example, has designed the 1 For All concept in collaboration with seating manufacturer Adient. It interweaves the various seat classes to achieve the maximum possible use of space. Premium and Economy passengers may find themselves next to one another or even above or below one another — alone or within compartments. Clément Heinen of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has undertaken a redesign of Business Class, in collaboration with Safran. The innovative “Stratus” seat can not only be ergonomically tilted, it can also be turned into a standing desk for completing office work. Joseph Lane from the University of Cincinnati, meanwhile, has developed an innovative approach to on-board catering. With the SkyDining app, passengers will not just have the choice of “chicken or pasta”; instead, they can order a meal from a restaurant at the departure airport in advance, using their smartphones. The meal is delivered to the airport at the gate and served hot during the flight — in an environmentally friendly cardboard box, of course.
Creative ideas from outside the academy find their place at the Crystal Cabin Award, too, in the “Visionary Concepts” category. Flexibility is the order of the day here again this year, as seen in the Ultraflex Zone from AIM Altitude that has made it to the final round. Passengers of all classes can use the snack bar, relax in lounge chairs, work on a presentation at a laptop workstation or do something for their physical comfort in the yoga zone. The Peacock Suite from Paperclip Design in Hong Kong offers more space for airlines to vary their First Class products, with flexible partitions and seating arrangements allowing for individual products to be put together on a flight-by-flight basis as required, ranging from family compartments to three-room luxury suites. Boeing, meanwhile, has approached visionary cabin redesign from a different perspective. The Smart Cabin transforms the aircraft interior into an “Internet of Things” for crew members. Similar to a Smart Home infrastructure, it allows for all components to be digitally managed and controlled with voice commands, from lighting to seating and even lavatories.
The innovations of the year — showdown on 2 April
The Crystal Cabin Award, an initiative of the cluster Hamburg Aviation, is presented in eight categories: “Cabin Concepts”, “Cabin Systems”, “IFEC”, “Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment”, “Material & Components”, “Passenger Comfort Hardware”, “University”, and “Visionary Concepts”.
To win one of the coveted snow-white 3D printed trophies, the 24 finalists now have to present their ideas in person to the 27 members of the international expert jury. Winners will be announced at a prestigious Gala Dinner taking place in the trading floor hall of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce on 2 April, as always as part of the Aircraft Interiors Expo (2 – 4 April in Hamburg). Guests of honour will include Hamburg’s Governing Mayor, Dr Peter Tschentscher, along with the Federal German Government’s Coordinator of Aerospace Policy, Thomas Jarzombek. All winners will then present their concepts once again at the Hamburg show in the Cabin Space LIVE Auditorium, near the official Crystal Cabin Award Gallery on the first floor in Hall B4, at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 3 April. Information on all finalists will be available there throughout the entire Expo. This year, for the first time, trade fair visitors can also take part in a popular vote.
Respected industry award — respected industry support
The following sponsors and media partners support the Crystal Cabin Award: Airbus, Aircraft Cabin Management, Aircraft Interiors Expo (Reed Exhibitions), Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, AIME 2020 - Aircraft Interiors Middle East, Ameco Beijing, APEX, The Boeing Company, Bluebox Aviation Systems LTD., Boltaron Inc. – A SIMONA Company, BURRANA, Collins Aerospace, DIEHL Aviation, Emirates, FERCHAU AVIATION Division, FIT AG – Additive Manufacturing Group, Flightchic, Flightglobal, Future Travel Experience, HAECO Cabin Solutions, Inflight Magazine, Jetliner Cabins, jetlite, Lufthansa Technik AG, NORDAM, Panasonic, RECARO, Runway Girl Network, SEKISUI SPI, tesa SE and Vartan Aviation Group.
You too can join the list of sponsors and supporters of the Crystal Cabin Award. Information on sponsoring opportunities and packages is available from Carmen Krause: carmen.krausecrystal-cabin-award.com