The Crystal Cabin Award is one of the most coveted seals of quality in the global aviation industry. The finalists are now in place in the race to win one of the trophies. A total of 24 finalists go head-to-head in the eight categories. Competition for a place in the finals was tougher than ever in 2020. Some 105 shortlisted entries were viewed and evaluated by the jury of international experts, a record in the fourteen-year history of the Crystal Cabin Award. Airlines, manufacturers, suppliers and universities from all around the world have made it to the last round. Just who gets to stand on the winner’s podium will be decided in Hamburg on 31 March at a celebrity gala dinner for the industry during the leading global trade fair, Aircraft Interiors Expo.
An overview of the finalists: 8 categories, 24 innovations
Luxury and the future come together in the “Cabin Concepts” category. The “777X Sky Architecture from Boeing in cooperation with Teague allows for a flexible “mix-and-match” approach to baggage bin and ceiling configuration in the aircraft cabin. The Loft from Virgin Atlantic in cooperation with AIM Altitude, Factorydesign, Boltaron, Isovolta, Mankiewicz UK and F.H. Lambert, 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 premium class passengers during the flight. The first purely electric regional jet, Alice, from Israeli company Eviation Aircraft and Portugal’s Almadesign, was first presented at the Paris Airshow in 2019 and will be able to carry nine passengers over a distance of up to 1000 kilometres. The development has made it to the Crystal Cabin Award final for its innovative cabin concept with a fishbone seating layout.
Finalists in the “Visionary Concepts” category also provide a glimpse of the future. Airbus presents an extension to its “Airspace” concept with the AirspaceCabin Vision 2030, equipping the cabin with more flexible seating and sleeping configurations along with exchangeable modules. The aircraft galley has hardly changed since the 1960s, and with it the way in which food is served to passengers. If the ARCAGalley System from AIM Altitude is anything to go by, the future will see some “meal prep” happening: instead of trays, passengers will be served food packets chosen online in advance, which can be stacked practically in the reconfigured galley. This saves space and protects the environment, because the lunch boxes can be recycled. The Galaxy seat from AirGo Design is all about passenger comfort, too. Designed for long-haul flights, which will soon also be operated using single-aisle aircraft such as the Airbus A321XLR, the seat can be completely reclined and, with the help of partition walls, converted into a private sleeping area, making smart use of space in the narrow cabin.
From visionary ideas, we move on to challenges we have to face today: the Crystal Cabin Award finalists in the “Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment” category look at the demands of our time from very different perspectives. The Greywater Reuse Unit from Diehl Aviation makes it possible to re-use water from the hand basin to flush the lavatory, rather than precious drinking water. The result: the aircraft has to carry less water reserves, making it significantly lighter. For a Boeing 787, this means savings of up to 550 tonnes of CO2 per year. Saving resources is also on the menu for finalist PriestmanGoode. Today, the plastic consumption per passenger is enormous, starting the moment you get your first on-board drink. The ZERO Economy Meal Tray promises that absolutely everything on the tray is either edible, biodegradable or recyclable, completely. And the tray itself, meanwhile, is made from coffee powder. Do you have trouble understanding the crew’s announcements? For passengers with normal hearing, this is often an annoying side effect of various other noises, but for the hearing impaired it is an insurmountable challenge. ATR and cooperation partner Bacqueyrisses have reached the final of the Crystal Cabin Award with the first aid for hearing that is laid like a pillow on the headrest. Audioback® connects with the passenger’s hearing aid and allows the passenger to be part of on-board communication.
Crystal Cabin Award finalist Ciara Crawford is also focused on inclusiveness in the passenger experience with her entry in the Passenger Comfort Hardware category. Her wheelchair means that passengers with reduced mobility can move between the gate and the aircraft without having to change from one wheelchair to another. The Row 1 Aircraft Wheelchair is issued at check-in and simply slides above the seat on board the aircraft. If you are the sort of person who likes to cuddle up with the whole family in bed, and you don’t want to miss out on that when you fly Economy, you will love the idea from finalist Adient: it equips the seat row behind the bulkhead separating Economy from Business Class with “SFASpace for All”, a new extension/retraction mechanism that turns the seats into a large single surface for parents and children. Individual seats in the row can also be converted into beds. Another product that’s all about Economy passengers is Modulair S. Developed by Safran Seats in cooperation with the French ENC Si University, the seat can be extended with various features, giving “cattle class” passengers the benefit of such niceties as neck support or a tablet holder.
Innovation is often to be found in the detail, as is shown by Schott AG in cooperation with PriestmanGoode, finalists in the “Material and Components” category. Their Jade Reading Light made of glass is the first such product to make it this far. It is designed not just to feel like a premium smartphone surface, but also to be touch controlled. Canadian company e₂ip technologies is also bringing new materials to the aircraft cabin. Together with the National Research Council of Canada, the company presents a panel based on In-Mold Electronics (IME), surface-printed electrical circuitry that saves on complex, heavy cabin electronics. The IME control element can be seamless integrated in its environment, taking on a range of functions such as the positioning of the aircraft seat. Cabin lighting that aligns with the airline’s colours or uses designs and moods to prepare people for the destination has been around for a while. The Experience Line BRIDGE from Diehl Aerospace extends this “digital decor” idea with numerous colours and patterns and can even project onto curved surfaces. The system is “retrofittable”, making it suitable for a wide range of existing aircraft.
Underlying of Hamburg startup jetlite’s products is the idea that the right light can have an impact on the comfort and even the biorhythm of passengers. Their concept is now being applied in the lite2fix cabin wall system, developed in collaboration with SFS Intec GmbH Aircraft Components. The wall shells can be installed into the aircraft fuselage with a simple snap-in process and integrate lighting scenarios and information displays for passengers. This “all in one” idea was jointly developed at the ZAL Center for Applied Aeronautical Research in Hamburg and has made it to the final round in the “Cabin Systems” category. SOPHY™ from Safran Cabin also succeeded in reaching the final in this category. The tiny module is integrated in the catering trolley and provides the operator with information on the entire journey of the equipment, from maintenance and cleaning needs to load. As the elements within the cabin become more connective, so too do the passengers. Over the next twenty years, passengers will increasingly carry more mobile devices with them, meaning even more demand for on-board data volume. The Next Gen Connectivity Mobile ONAIR 4G hardware from SITAONAIR strengthens the on-board network and will in future even support 5G connectivity in the air.
Finalist JetBlue Airways, one of the airlines hoping for a Crystal Cabin Award trophy this year, is also looking at the reality that more and more in-flight entertainment is being streamed and passengers are at the same time using their own tablets, smartphones and wearables. The carrier’s Multi-Screen Experience, developed in cooperation with Thales Avionics, Spafax, Viasat and Astronics, allows passengers to watch films, surf the web and communicate without interruption, whether on the in-seat entertainment system, their own devices or even both at the same time. Spafax is in the running a second time in the “In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity”category. In cooperation with Air Canada, the Canadian content agency provides the Spafax IQ data analysis platform. This allows airlines to more precisely evaluate the content that is particularly popular, by time and route. The fact that passengers are increasingly using wireless headphones to enjoy on-board entertainment is a challenge for many airlines, because conventional Bluetooth connections fail when the demand in the cabin reaches a certain level. RAVE Bluetooth from Safran Passenger Solutions saves the day, connecting the entire aircraft without disruption.
In 2020, the “University” category is once again the cradle of creative finalist concepts. In a repeat of last year’s success for America’s University of Cincinnati, a student there has made it to the final, working with The Boeing Company and The Live Well Collaborative to transform the aircraft into a Coffee House Cabin, a long boardroom table for meetings, productive work and the occasional coffee. Students at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW Hamburg), too, can fasten their seatbelts and take off for the final. With Isotravel, they have developed an adapter that makes use of proven ISOFIX technology to allow child car seats to be safely installed in the aircraft cabin without outside help. Delft University of Technology returns to the final three again, too, with a team of students. They have combined a hostel with a futuristic aircraft, equipping KLM’s V-shaped Flying V concept aircraft with Collapsible beds that turn into seats for take-off and landing.
The Innovations of the Year – the whole world is watching Hamburg on 31 March
The Crystal Cabin Award, an initiative of 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 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, as always, at a prestigious Gala Dinner taking place in the trading floor hall of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce on 31 March as part of the Aircraft Interiors Expo (31 March to 2 April in Hamburg). All the winners will present their concepts once more on Thursday 2 April at the Hamburg trade fair in the Cabin Space LIVE Auditorium. For the first time, the Crystal Cabin Award Gallery, with an overview of all the finalists, is to be found in the Hamburg Pavilion, jointly operated by Hamburg Aviation and Hanse Aerospace in Hall B6, Stand 6B90. You can also take part in the public voting for the Crystal Cabin Award here and win a ticket for the 2021 awards ceremony.