Both Airbus and Bombardier have developed new interiors for their aircraft, but their aesthetic ideals have been challenged by the practical needs of their customers.
Both OEMs designed the new cabins in-house and launched new concepts with much fanfare in 2016.
The pictures released at the time showed all the fancy features that could be installed by a customer, but the reality has been rather different, reflecting the day-to-day needs of their respective launch customers.
Airbus launched its Airspace cabin concept along with an announcement at the Farnborough International Airshow that TAP Air Portugal would be the launch customer following commitments for 21 Airbus A330-900neo aircraft
The first TAP aircraft made its maiden flight in May this year and joined two other test aircraft in the certification programme.
It is the first aircraft to be fitted with the Airspace cabin, as it only has light flight test instrumentation installed, mainly to check cabin systems such as air conditioning and the crew rest area.
It was also used for function and reliability tests in June, with three flights visiting 15 major airports over five continents with the aim of achieving 150 flight test hours.
The next stop was Farnborough, where it appeared in the static park and was open for inspection. First impressions were slightly compromised by the fact that entry was made through the L1 door, straight into the forward galley ahead of business class.
The L2/R2 door area will be the primary entrance in service and was shown in Airbus renderings and full-scale mock-up as a dramatic first sight. Instead, the airline has made very modest use of illuminated ceiling panels with a backlit geometric pattern.
However, there are some subtle modifications in this area. The inside of the door and the escape slide have been redesigned to have a much more integrated look, with much of the mechanisms now concealed.
The signage has been changed from the traditional red ‘EXIT’ to the green running man symbol, allowing for a much more stylish mounting to be used.
Business Class is fitted with RECARO CL6710 seats, although these were prototype versions and will be modified before the aircraft enters service in late summer.
New overhead storage bins, based on the A350 XWB, provide additional space for 66 per cent more bags through the aircraft. This means passengers can now stow their luggage above their own seats, thus reducing boarding time and crew workload.
In the Premium cabin, no centre stowage is needed, which opens up the ceiling area and creates a feeling of more space. Each seat has a large monitor for the Panasonic IFE system and in-seat power.
The rear cabin features the RECARO CL3710 in a 2-4-2 configuration, with 96 Premium Economy seats at 34 in pitch and 168 Economy seats at 31in pitch.
At the rear of the Economy cabin, the layout changes from 2-4-2 abreast to 2-3-2 as the fuselage tapers. The first reduced centre row has to be aligned with the seats in front because of the IFE screens, but the last seat has simply been fitted with a blank, flat back.
There must have been some opportunity to brighten this up with graphics or even retain the tray and seat pocket, giving some more space to the adjacent passenger, but it just remains a dead space.
To allow more seats, lavatories are located forward and aft only. These have full-colour LED lighting and a softer, more rounded trim and finish, which makes them feel more spacious.
Improved hygiene comes from touchless flushing and tap controls and antibacterial surfaces.
Bombardier’s new interior was aimed at the CRJ family. Since that time, the design has been developed and was revealed as the ATMOSPHÈRE cabin, on the first of 20 CRJ 900s to be delivered to launch customer Delta Air Lines between late 2018 and 2020.
They will be operated by SkyWest Airlines, based in St George, UT, under a nine-year flying contract to provide regional services and will replace 20 older CRJ700s operated under flying contracts with Delta that are scheduled to expire.
The CRJ 900 has a maximum capacity of 90 seats, but these aircraft will be configured with 70 seats including 12 in First Class (2+1), 20 in Delta Comfort+ and 38 in Economy (both 2+2).
The airline currently operates CRJ700s in two configurations (9F/16C/44Y and 6F/8C/56Y), and all the layouts reflect pilot scope clause restrictions, which limit the number of smaller aircraft that the airline can operate directly and through its Delta Connection regional franchise partners.
The front of the aircraft is dominated by a huge amount of storage space, including 15 carts, as it seems the idea is to carry catering for multiple sectors, reducing the turnaround times needed to restock.
An extra crew seat has been inserted behind the G2 galley for dead-heading personnel. Instead of the larger PRM lavatory with bi-fold door for improved access, this aircraft has a standard sized unit.
As the basin and other facilities are mounted on the forward wall, the length of the unit has simply been reduced by 6in for extra cabin space. Bombardier has now added a window option for the lavatory.
The front of the cabin is given over to First Class, with four rows of seats in a 2+1 configuration. On the starboard side of the cabin, new flatter and taller bins have 50 per cent greater capacity, allowing them to take a 22in x 14in x 9in roller bag.
The hinges are incorporated into the sides of the bins, which, apart from making maintenance easier, gives them a cleaner appearance, the handle being located underneath.
The expectation is that passengers will board when the bins are open and notice the handle location while they are seated during the flight. Smaller bins are fitted above the single seat on the other side of the forward cabin, with the larger bins being fitted on both sides in the 2+2 rows.
The extra capacity gives every passenger space for one full-sized bag. Panasonic wifi can be installed, although Delta is going with Gogo for commonality with the rest of its fleet. There is a power and USB unit at each First Class seat, with one between each seat pair in the rest of the cabin.
Coincidentally, bombardier has also moved away from the traditional red ‘EXIT’ sign to the green running man symbol, using an elliptical style throughout the aircraft.
For more information on the Farnborough International Airshow, visit farnborough.com.