From sleeping quarters in coach to social spaces in first, high-tech seat fabrics to personal entertainment systems, biodegradable meal trays to lighter and more fuel-efficient catering containers, this year’s Crystal Cabin Award shortlist offers solutions to a host of issues relevant to the modern-day traveler. 

Airbus's Airspace Cabin Vision 2030 includes cubicle-like seating with headrests that extend for privacy
Airbus's Airspace Cabin Vision 2030 features cabins with flexible seating © Crystal Cabin Award

The international accolade celebrates ingenuity in aircraft cabin design, and this year, 105 submissions from 21 countries are contenders for the win. The award is broken down into eight categories, including cabin concepts, in-flight entertainment and connectivity, material and components, visionary concepts, and greener cabin, health, safety and environment; three finalists from each will be selected by a jury in early March, with the winners to be announced at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg on 31 March.

Heinkel Group's Flex Lounge, two rows of economy-class seats that can be rearrange to face each other
Heinkel Group’s Flex Lounge would create a cozy seating area for families and groups of friends © Crystal Cabin Award

It may look like a nightmare configuration for anyone who values their legroom, but Heinkel Group’s Flex Lounge could be a boon to families and groups of (very close) friends, who could book two rows in economy on a long-haul flight and rotate the first row to face the second for a cozy communal seating area. 

A design from Delft University of Technology imagines a comfortable long-haul flight on the Flying V concept plane, thanks to economy-class seats for that transform into flat-beds while passengers are airborne. Airbus’s Cabin Vision 360 features flexible cabins with multiple seating and sleeping configurations, social spaces like gyms and bars, and amenities including individual in-seat ambience settings. 

A diagram showing an aircraft cabin with a wheelchair in the row of seats, then in the aisle, then rolling out the door
Ciara Crawford's ROW 1 airport wheelchair system uses a chair that parks onto and straps into the existing aircraft seat © Crystal Cabin Award

For travelers with limited mobility, the boarding process can require multiple seat transfers from wheelchair to plane and back again, but Ciara Crawford’s ROW 1 system would give passengers a chair that straps onto the plane’s existing seat, taking them from curbside check-in to their final destination in one go.

With the business traveler in mind, students and faculty at the University of Cincinnati and the Live Well Collaborative came up with the idea for a coffeehouse cabin, a “productivity-focused zone” with personal workstations at a communal table set between two rows of basic-economy seats. (During takeoff and landing, the seats would turn to face the front of the cabin, and the tables would fold down for storage.)

The Coffee House Cabin from the University of Cincinnati and the Live Well Collaborative is a "productivity-focused zone" with a row of communal tables between the two aisles
From the University of Cincinnati and the Live Well Collaborative comes a "productivity-focused zone" priced above basic economy and below first class © Crystal Cabin Award

There's a proliferation of ultra long-haul flights on the horizon, and cabin designers are increasingly focused on making sure passengers get their rest. Stelia’s Sleep Care app would give personalized sleep and nutrition tips before departure and alert the crew about the best time for meal service based on individuals’ sleeping patterns, and on the luxury end of the spectrum, a lighting system from Collins Aerospace called Circadian would let passengers tailor the ambiance in their suites to their personal sleep needs

A young boy and a woman in an airplane suite with purple and pink lighting
Circadian's lighting system would let suite passengers adjust their environment when it's time to go to sleep or wake up © Crystal Cabin Award

Efforts to increase sustainability and decrease carbon emissions are also coming to the fore, from Diehl Aviation’s greywater reuse unit, which takes water from the sink to flush the toilet, to PriestmanGoode’s Zero economy meal tray, made from edible, biodegradable, and/or commercially compostable materials. 

For more details on the shortlist, visit crystal-cabin-award.com

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