Founder and CEO of conference company RedCabin Monica Wick talks to Satu Dahl about setting up an international working group to explore standards for cabin hygiene

    Zote Foams

    Germany-based aviation summit organiser RedCabin announced in the summer that it is launching a virtual working group focused on building passenger confidence with a clean cabin. The group met for its first session in September, led by Sekisui Kydex research and innovation manager Sean Stabler to discuss cabin interior hygiene and explore how innovative disinfectant technologies can be used most effectively to enhance passenger safety.

    The group combines science, perception and collaboration to help industry executives understand how the use of disinfectant technologies can maximise the cleanliness of their aircraft cabins. The first session’s wide-ranging agenda included detailed discussions around new disinfection technologies such as UV disinfection, fogging, antimicrobial surfaces and disinfectant wipes and a look at how antimicrobials, microbes and disinfectants affect aircraft interiors.

    RedCabin Panel 2019
    RedCabin Panel 2019

    RedCabin’s Monica Wick says the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in an unprecedented shift within the aviation industry. “Airlines are having to adapt to this dramatic change and, naturally, passengers are cautious about their safety. Following the success of our previous webinar series, we are launching our virtual working groups to enable aviation leaders to come together and work collaboratively to develop new solutions which allow the industry to thrive post-Covid-19.”

    Changing priorities

    So how did the concept for the virtual working group develop? “Cabin hygiene has been a focus at many of our summits in the past, with airlines always looking to enhance the on-board experience with new materials and designs,” Wick explains, “but the coronavirus pandemic ripped up the rulebook and made cleanliness the single most important factor of the flying experience – almost overnight. And the industry needed to react.”

    In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, disinfectant routines became more rigorous and several new cabin concepts were launched with the aim of improving passenger safety and cabin cleanliness, notes Wick. “A few months on and many airports and airlines have invested heavily in creating a seamless, touchless travel experience built around hygiene.

    RedCabin interspace seat
    Interspace Seat launched at RedCabin London

    “As we begin to see border restrictions ease and a cautious rise in air traffic, there is still lingering passenger anxiety about air travel – especially in economy where passenger density is at its highest.” The RedCabin working group stems from the need to tackle this anxiety and do its bit to support the global recovery of aviation.

    “The working group programme has been developed in partnership with Sekisui Kydex to bring industry leaders together to understand these concerns and develop new solutions to proactively address them,” confirms the RedCabin CEO.

    Collaboration is key

    Wick shares the main aim of the working group: to bring all parts of the aviation industry together to share knowledge on all aspects of cabin hygiene, from antimicrobial surfaces and materials to the impact of UV and disinfection technologies and the viability of new materials and cabin concepts.

    “In doing so, we hope to create an open and collaborative forum where new solutions can be created to help our industry tackle the biggest challenge it has faced in decades,” Wick explains.

    “At times pre-Covid, aviation could be something of a closed book as competitive advantage took priority. But what has made our programme so effective is that it is predicated on everyone coming to the table with a willingness to share experiences, successes and challenges for the benefit of everyone else. That level of openness means our working group can go beyond the superficial to the very heart of the issue – with everyone working together to find a way through.”

    Regarding which technologies the working group will be exploring, Wick says the focus for the first working group session was on disinfection technologies and how they impact the cabin interior and the wider passenger experience, as well as clarifying the differences between surface protection and human contact protection.

    “It is extremely important when you consider the various high-customer touch points within the cabin,” Wick says, noting that by identifying and improving understanding of these technologies, and sharing the challenges associated with implementing them in an aircraft, new ways to provide a safe and clean flying experience for passengers and crew can be developed.

    Etihad RedCabin

    Bringing the industry together

    A wide range of industry stakeholders is taking part in the working group. “We cannot bring about real change without all parts of the industry coming together to play their part. To make sure all voices are heard, our working groups are bringing together the most creative and experienced minds in aviation from the world’s leading airlines, OEMs, design houses and suppliers,” Wick explains.

    “Each party contributes by bringing their own viewpoint and experience to the discussion. For instance, airlines may have a deep understanding of what their customers want from air travel post-coronavirus, but lack the technical expertise to make it a reality. That is where designers and material suppliers can come in and add to the conversation.”

    Wick notes that RedCabin is founded on the ethos that collaboration leads to true innovation, which is never more applicable than now. “We all recognise the status quo has shifted and, for passenger demand to return to pre-Covid levels, the aviation industry needs to continue to work together and adapt quickly. Things may never be the same, but this is an opportunity for things to be better.”

    Regarding what topics will be explored in future sessions, Wick says the agenda will be driven by the needs of the industry. “Cabin hygiene is vital right now and creating industry standards for cabin cleanliness to tackle viral transmission onboard will likely be a priority for the months ahead too.

    “But longer term there is still lots of important work to be done in other areas too, such as improving accessibility in aviation, bringing new innovations into economy and finding new solutions to make aviation more sustainable.”

    Read about more of the latest cabin innovations and news in the latest issue of Aircraft Cabin Management.