Passenger air travel have come a long way. Just a few decades ago, fully enclosed suites and onboard bars and showers were unthinkable on commercial flights, but today there are featured on more than a handful of airlines. But for the most part, we are still confined to a “chair” concept, and a lot of the bells and whistles are only available for those traveling in premium cabins.
Well, Airbus is hoping to turn the passenger air travel on its head. Transpose is a project from A³ by Airbus Group, who describes it as “a clean-sheet rethinking of aircraft cabin architecture and passenger experience possibilities.”
The modular concept means airlines can have different “detachable” cabins meant for different routes, and can swap them out for a plane in just minutes. For example, a flight to a leisure destination might include a spa and shopping area onboard, while a business traveler-heavy route might get more sleeper seats or work spaces.
— A³ by Airbus (@AirbusSV) December 13, 2016
Currently, you essentially choose whether you’d like a standard chair (Economy), a chair that reclines a bit more (Premium Economy), a chair that turns in to a bed (Business), or a bigger chair that turns into a bigger bed (First Class), and the service that comes along with each of those classes. But the Transpose team are imaging a future where instead of booking a seat on a flight, you will be booking an experience. Would you like a spa experience? A cafe experience? A gym experience? Or a sleeper experience?
Airbus is also touting a list of benefits for the aviation industry. Instead of waiting until the final weeks of aircraft manufacturing to outfit the interior, the processes can happen parallel to each other. While Airbus is building a plane, the interior manufacturer can be making the modules for the aircraft, ready to load as soon as delivery, allowing the aircraft to be deployed sooner. The modular concept also means seat (or interior) manufacturers can test out new products in just small section of an existing aircraft.
Of course, airlines stuck with the standard “chair” concept fora reason. It’s an efficient way to pack as many people onto a plane as possible, and it helps maximize their revenue. Since most consumers are extra price-sensitive when it comes to flying, they too, appreciate the “lower” airfares. Additionally, current cabin designs are so heavily integrated with the aircraft design, meaning airlines can’t really update their cabins all that often without incurring huge costs.
But the Transpose team says they had cost in mind when working on the project. Their designs are based on the framework of existing models, meaning the “Transpose” cabins can be deployed without needing entire new airplanes. The team also says that the modular cabin concept might not drive up the cost to passengers all that much:
Besides providing an unprecedented amount of choice and flexibility for passengers, our modeling and research shows that many experiences can be provided with little to no increase in the amount passengers currently pay for comparable experiences on the ground. Additionally, we’ve identified significant opportunities for advertisers and businesses to provide new revenue to airlines, potentially sidestepping the need to pass on some costs to passengers.
Airbus has long been working to improve passsenger experience in the air. In 2013, they called for the industry to maintain a minimum seat width of 18 inches. In 2015, they filed for a patent for modular cabins, though at the time it was believed to be a solution to speed up the boarding process.
What makes this exciting is that they this is more than just a concept. The A3 team is already in the process of building a full-size mockup, so there is actually a chance Transpose will come to fruition.
Now, I just have one question…what about the windows?
What do you think of Transpose?