7 Concepts Shaping the Airplane of the Future

Lightweight, responsive materials are laying the foundation for a more comfortable flight.


Air travel is slow to change. Airlines can introduce different ticket classes, new routes and à la carte amenities, but the in-flight experience remains more or less the same. The Crystal Cabin Awards, now in their 11th year, honor the most innovative concepts in air travel, covering cabin design, communication systems and health and safety. Trends among this year’s winners include a reduction of weight onboard, increased comfort, and access for passengers in all ticket classes and innovations to simplify the work of cabin crews.

Cabin Concept: Delta One Suite

Bringing first-class amenities to business-class travel, Delta’s One Suite cabin features customizable ambient lighting, memory foam cushions and 18-inch high-resolution monitors.

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Cabin System: Diehl Power Line Communication

Weight adds up quickly on airplanes — from wiring and cables, especially. Diehl’s Power Line Communication system is designed to drastically reduce aircraft weight by combining data and electricity cables into existing power lines.

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Electronic System: Global Eagle Entertainment Airtime Portal

Delivering inflight movies, magazines and internet access to passengers directly from their personal devices, Global Eagle Entertainment’s Airtime Inflight Entertainment system is accessed not through broadband satellite connectivity (which can be burdensome to install), but in-cabin servers and wi-fi routers.

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Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment: Airbus ReTrolley

Developed through Airbus’s BizLab accelerator initiative, ReTrolley allows flight crews to sort and compress waste in one cart while passing through the cabin.

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Material & Concepts: Vanema/Boxmark Octaspring Lightweight Seat Cushion

Developed in collaboration with Vanema and Boxmark, the Octaspring was developed to ease the discomfort of long-haul flights. Foam springs made from an elastic material distribute weight evenly and adapt to each passenger. It’s also 30 percent lighter than existing seat fillers, allowing for a dramatic reduction in aircraft weight.

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Passenger Comfort Hardware: Airbus Smart Cabin Reconfiguration

Proposals to add and remove seats according to flight capacity are nothing new. But Airbus’s Smart Cabin Reconfiguration, developed in collaboration with Recaro, requires minimal effort. By mounting seats on rails, spacing between rows can be adjusted and seats can be added or removed by in-flight crew with ease and without prior mechanical knowledge.

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University Submission: Hamburg University of Applied Sciences Smart Onboard Wheelchair

Submitted by students at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW), the Smart Onboard Wheelchair concept is specially designed to be rolled directly over an airplane’s toilet, allowing passengers to use the lavatory without any assistance.

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