The aircraft cabin designs shortlisted for the 2022 Crystal Cabin Awards

(CNN) — From an aircraft concept with an “underwater” twist to an AI-based food scanner that moderates passengers’ eating habits, the Crystal Cabin Awards 2022 shortlist highlights striking ideas that could be the future of aviation.

The shortlisted concepts fall into eight categories, ranging from innovative cabin designs that reinvent the passenger experience to environmentally-focused concepts that could help the airline industry operate more sustainably.

Angus Baigent, marketing and PR manager at Hamburg Aviation, an agency that organizes the Crystal Cabin Awards and represents the aviation industry in the German city, said CNN Travel that the Crystal Cabin judges are looking for concepts that not only stand out visually, but offer something fundamentally different for both airlines and passengers.

Futuristic airplane cabin

AirSleeper is a double-decker aircraft cabin concept.

AirSleeper is a double-decker aircraft cabin concept.

Courtesy of MILLENNIUM

Among the next-generation cabin designs shortlisted this year is the AirSleeper double-decker concept from engineering design firm MMILLENNIUMM.

Indi Rajasingham, CEO of MMILLENNIUMM, suggests that’s also AirSleeper’s goal – the seat would offer travelers the potential for a flat bed, as well as space to work or lounge, on both levels.

AirSleeper has been in the works since 2010.

“We’re excited to see the future we predicted and pioneered a decade ago gain momentum as these concepts gain public recognition,” Rajasingham told CNN Travel.

Another innovative cabin design on this year’s shortlist is the Explorer concept from Lufthansa Technik, an offshoot of Germany’s national airline. Explorer is a private jet with an internal projector system that allows the cabin ceiling and some of its walls to be covered with incredible projections, including underwater scenes.
AirSleeper and Explorer are still in the design phase, but other Crystal Cabin nominees, such as Collins Aerospace’s Airlounge non-reclining business class seat, are further. Airlounge, the brainchild of design agency PriestmanGoode, is co-produced with Finnish airline Finnair and design agency Tangerine, and aims to create a cocoon-like private space for travellers.

Airlounge is a business class seat that doesn't recline.

Airlounge is a business class seat that doesn’t recline.

Courtesy of Collins Aerospace, Finnair, PriestmanGoode, Tangerine

Another nominee, Virgin Atlantic’s The Booth – designed by the UK-based airline in partnership with agency Factorydesign and produced by cabin outfitting company AIM Altitude – premiered late last year. The Booth, now implemented in the upper cabins of one of Virgin Atlantic’s A350 aircraft, is a lounge-style sofa seat for two, surrounded by touch screens and complemented by a table.

The shortlist doesn’t just include the established names in aviation – one of the Crystal Cabin Award categories focuses specifically on submissions from universities. Nominees in this category for 2022 include Jiayi Yu, a student at Reutlingen University, with her rotating aircraft seat design called Shift Cabin Interior and Ken Kirtland’s design for a short-haul electric flight service called Portal.

Hamburg Aviation’s Baigent remarked that it was interesting to see students approaching the aircraft cabin.

“People who work in an academic context […] Your approach to some of these problems or some of these design problems will be very different,” Baigent said.

legacy of the pandemic

The Booth is a new cabin concept making its debut on Virgin Atlantic.

The Booth is a new cabin concept making its debut on Virgin Atlantic.

Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic, Factorydesign, AIM Altitude

The lingering legacy of the pandemic is also reflected in some of the nominees, including Style and Design’s chic switch seat, which envisions a premium economy cabin with fewer passengers spread across armchair-like seats.

Among the nominees in the Clean Cabin category — a new entry for 2021 and staying this year — is Pexco Aerospace’s AirShield device, made in collaboration with design firm Teague, which improves aircraft airflow and to create an invisible “shield” around passengers.

Teague is also nominated for the Elevate cabin design, which visualizes a premium cabin with “floating” seats. Instead of being attached to the floor, Elevate’s cabin furniture would be connected to the sidewall and aisle. Teague, who was nominated for this design in collaboration with aerospace manufacturer NORDAM, suggested in a statement that his Elevate concept could increase space for airline passengers.

Introducing Teague's Elevate cabin concept "floating" seats.

Teague’s Elevate cabin concept features “floating” seats.

Courtesy of Teague, NORDAM

Other nominees focus on making the aircraft cabin more sustainable, with aircraft seat cushion manufacturer Metzo, in partnership with manufacturing company The Vita Group, being nominated for their proposed recycling scheme for old aircraft cushions.

Biometric and AI technology are also featured in some of the shortlisted designs. Airbus Operations’ AI-based Airspace Food Scanner is designed to collect data on passengers’ onboard food consumption so airlines can dine accordingly.

Meanwhile, technology company Gentex Corporation is proposing a camera-based biometric iris scanning system that could be built into the back of an airplane seat, while ACM Aircraft Cabin Modification’s MYZONE is embedding the noise-canceling technology in the airplane seat headrests.

Look to the future

Baigent said the shortlist shows “the scope of the near future” of aircraft interiors and “the distant future.”

The range of concepts on offer suggests an ever-changing aviation landscape, he added.

“If you look back 20 or 30 years to 2022, it’s going to be a very different experience than it is now, but I think you can really see where things are going with some of these designs,” Baigent said.

The Crystal Cabin finalists are expected to be announced at the end of May and the winners, selected by a panel of 28 aviation experts, will be crowned in June at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. The aircraft cabin designs shortlisted for the 2022 Crystal Cabin Awards

Charles Jones

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