Is this the future of airline travel?

Invisible COVID shields, fire control systems and noise-cancelling seats are just some of the ideas to come out of the 2022 Crystal Cabin Award shortlist.

The Crystal Cabin Awards is an international awards event for excellence in aircraft interior design, and the ideas range from sensible safety measures to how to combat that natural enemy of international travel – COVID-19.

The money-is-no-object big ticket item goes to an onboard projection system designed by Diehl Aviation that will allow cabin walls and ceilings to be covered with images, creating whatever atmosphere you choose. Underwater paradise, why not? Groovy disco lighting or soothing abstract background … it can all be done.

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The catch is that it only comes on your private jet, a Lufthansa Technik, and they cost $605 million. And it’s still only a concept so they don’t actually exist yet, but sure, dream your little dream.

One major bugbear on planes, and long-haul flights especially, is the issue of noise.

The incessant droning of the engines is not conducive to sleep or in any way relaxing. You can bring your own noise-cancelling headphones, but what if you just sat down, and it was all done for you?

Well ACM Aircraft Cabin Modification’s MYZONE is here. The innovative system effectively turns your seat into a noise cancelling pod with the tech embedded behind your head.

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ACM claims it can be installed in any airline seat and can achieve a three-decibel reduction in airplane noise by releasing conflicting sound waves. Frankly, that doesn’t sound that much when 10 decibels is the sound of rustling leaves, but maybe you will be happy to take anything you can get for a bit of sleep.

Of course, COVID-19 is a huge issue, and tech companies and airlines have been scrambling to restore some confidence in the market and improve travel safety.

Industrial design studio Teague has developed a system to minimise the possibility of being infected by COVID on a plane.

They found that short of giving everyone a row to themselves, it’s impossible to social distance on a plane. Their solution is a new airflow system called AirShield. The system uses those little air vents above your head and ‘blades’ to move air around each passenger.

These ‘blades’ disrupt the usual airflow and when a passenger breathes, coughs or sneezes, they push the surrounding air down to filtration units before it can enter the personal space of fellow passengers.

Read: The worst food you can eat while flying

Of a more reassuring nature for those afraid of flying, Safran Cabin has developed a fire-resistant cargo container that can inhibit fires for up to six hours, giving cabin crew plenty of time to land safely.

And the industry is acutely aware of its poor environmental record and continues to make flying ‘greener’. To this end, the Crystal Cabin Award shortlist includes seating upholstery made from recycled leather waste and aircraft cushion maker Metzo is planning a recycling system for old cushions.

And while these all sound good, many will never come to fruition. We could have had bunk beds, more leg room and lounge bars on planes years ago, but the airlines make more money from us by forcing us to sit up and be squeezed in like sardines. Noise-cancelling seats and projected screen walls are a long way off on your red-eye to Bali.

Crystal Cabin Award winners will be announced on 14 June 2022. The event is sponsored by the City of Hamburg, Germany, and is designed to motivate companies to develop new products and designs for aircraft cabin interiors.

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Written by Jan Fisher

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