Visitor registration is now open for this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) and co-located World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE), which will take place from 6-8 June 2023, at Hamburg Messe, Germany. Register today and join the global cabin interiors and onboard services community.
Creating the cabins of the future, together
Aviation and rail professionals from across the globe will be able to view the latest products and services from the cabin interiors and onboard services supply chain. Across the three-day show, attendees can touch and test the latest products and services from across:
In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity
Big Data and Analytics
Cabin Management Systems
Lavatory & Waste Equipment
Galleys & Galley Equipment
Lighting / LEDs
BizJet Refurbishment and Interior Design
and much more.
600+ Suppliers, 1,000+ Products
Representatives from key airlines will be joined by leading suppliers including Acro Aircraft Seating, Thales, AJW Technique Interiors, Telesat, ViaSat, Thompson Aero Seating, STELIA Aerospace, Panasonic and KID-Systeme GmbH.
They will be joined by a number of first-time exhibitors including 9T Labs, Lamberts London, SkyFive, Pariani Srl, Hughes and many more.
With the return of AIX Connect, attendees can pre-schedule meetings with new or existing business connections, receive personalised matchmaking recommendations, discover new contacts, and arrive at the show with an organised schedule.
AIX’s IFEC Zone will return to halls B2-B4 to bring all the hardware, software, digital tools, connectivity solutions and content services together that will help airlines to deliver highly desirable consumer opportunities to their passengers.
Passenger Experience Conference
The Passenger Experience Conference (PEC), taking place the day before AIX will return, hosted at CCH – Congress Center Hamburg to offer a programme of conference sessions covering sustainability, passenger experience, revitalised transport modalities and repurposing onboard materials and their effects on the industry.
CabinSpace Live Seminar provides a dedicated theatre at Aircraft Interiors Expo to discuss the cabin of tomorrow and beyond. Gain insights from industry thought leaders and fellow peers as they share experiences and case studies to help you source solutions and elevate your business strategies.
Informational sessions will cover IFEC, cabin interiors, business jets, sustainability, accessibility, and more across the three days of the event and are free to attend.
If you are an employee of an airline, leasing company or BizJet operator, now you can unlock the benefits of being an AIX VIP, including:
VIP AIX Connect Access for upgraded access to so you can network and arrange meetings with exhibitors and other VIP industry peers before the event.
VIP Lounge Access with a place to relax, work or network away from the show floor. Lunch, snacks and refreshments are available throughout the event.
Dedicated VIP Entrance to skip the queue and access the Airline Club Lounge from 8 am on show opening days.
VIP Digital Gift Bag with exclusive deals, giveaways and promo items.
Discounted Rate for PEC to gain valuable insights into the industry and help shape the future of passenger experience.
Register today for AIX
To register for your pass to attend AIX, click the button below.
After a long-anticipated wait, Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX), the destination for the cabin interiors industry, will return to Hamburg, Germany from 14-16 June 2022 for its first physical event in three years. With growing momentum in the recovery of air travel, the event returns at a critical time to reunite the industry, creating a sought-after opportunity to connect face-to-face and source the latest cabin innovations in person.
Take your place at AIX with a ticket to this year’s must-attend event.
Data published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) paints an optimistic outlook for the airline industry, with hopes that it has now left the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic behind it. The data, revealed an 11% increase in international tickets in recent weeks – the fastest increase for any two-week period since the crisis began. This follows an Oliver Wyman report which revealed that the global fleet is anticipated to grow to 38,100 by 2032 – a compound growth rate of 4.1% over the decade.
Resuming its pivotal role in helping the world’s airlines source the latest cabin innovations, technologies, inflight entertainment and connectivity solutions, AIX will welcome more than 400 aviation suppliers this June. Filling 11 halls of the Hamburg Messe, the event returns at a comparable size to the last physical event in 2019, demonstrating a commitment from an industry excited for the opportunity to network and demonstrate their latest products. Among those confirmed to exhibit, major OEMs, Boeing and Airbus, as well as industry stalwarts such as Safran, Stelia Aerospace, Diehl Aviation, Jamco Corporation, Collins Aerospace, Lufthansa Technik, STG Aerospace, Sabeti Wain Aerospace, Tapis Corporation and Recaro will come together to highlight the emerging innovation and collaboration that is fuelling the aviation industry’s recovery.
In addition, the event’s popular In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC) Zone returns to offer attendees a chance to gain insights into the most up-to-date technology solutions covering everything from servers to OTT systems, and 5G to VR from the likes of Astronics, Thales and Panasonic Avionics Corporation.
Building connections in person
Helping attendees make up for lost time and build a schedule of invaluable meetings ahead of the show, the organisers have announced it will introduce its efficient show planning tool, AIX Connect to Hamburg for the first time. With more than 400 exhibitors showcasing over 1,000 products, the programme will facilitate targeted business connections based on specific product requirements. It is designed to help key airline buyers meet exhibitors during the show to build connections and discuss new projects.
Also returning to AIX, the popular, free-to-attend CabinSpace LIVE Seminar Theatre will welcome cabin interior leaders to inspire and debate current market trends and challenges. The carefully curated programme will include an industry market outlook from Cirium, Business Aviation panels and insights from innovative start-ups. Attendees can also join the team from Airbus Scale – an innovative unit that brings together corporate innovation, start-up engagement and company building activities to pioneer sustainable aerospace and develop Airbus’ future programs and businesses. A full programme of topics and speakers will be announced in the coming months.
Providing another reason to celebrate the return of AIX, the CabinSpace LIVE Seminar Theatre will also play host to the winners of the Crystal Cabin Awards – the only international awards for excellence in aircraft interior innovation. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the awards recognise and honour the very best innovations for the aircraft cabin, spanning eight categories. This includes Cabin Concepts, Cabin Systems, Health & Safety, IFEC & Digital Services, Material & Components, Passenger Comfort, University and for the first time, its new Sustainable Cabin category.
Gain a 360° view of the aviation industry
With the world undergoing significant social change, and the aviation sector embracing new business models and revenue streams, attendees can immerse themselves in new ideas and concepts at the Passenger Experience Conference, which returns on Monday, 13 June 2022. Welcoming renowned and acclaimed global aviation leaders, attendees can learn more about how the industry will be building back differently through a wide range of topics from the growing importance of intermodal travel, rapid digitalisation, and sustainability.
Attendees at AIX will also benefit from its co-location with World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) – which will celebrate its 10th anniversary at this year’s event. Drawing a wider audience to the show, the co-location with WTCE and the Passenger Experience Conference offers attendees a 360° view of the industry, providing a comprehensive platform to identify products and services from all corners of the industry.
Polly Magraw, Event Director, commented: “After three years since the last in-person event, we’re excited to bring the entire industry together once again in June. AIX continues to offer attendees the widest range of innovative products, ideas and solutions in one definitive marketplace. We’re counting down the days until we can once again facilitate the much-needed networking and sourcing opportunities needed to accelerate the recovery of the cabin interior and passenger experience industry.”
Get your ticket to Aircraft Interiors Expo
Take your place at AIX with a ticket to this year’s must-attend event.
Not so long ago the main preoccupation of passenger experience thinkers at airlines was how to get travellers in seats and to keep everyone happy.
That was the old reality, but if any message has emerged from recent trend-spotting reports from organisations such as Euromonitor, Springwise and Trendwatching, consumer awareness and expectations have significantly shifted. Let’s have a closer look at those new expectations.
The brand will be key for airlines
Specifically, customers are predicted to be much more brand conscious regarding those organisations that make positive contributions to the sustainability of our planet and our societies. The need for clean, driven by the pandemic, is here to stay. And the adoption of digital technologies that bridge the physical distance between us will continue to accelerate.
Trends that were just over the horizon not so long ago, are now established fact. Digging into the detail reveals both the need to change quickly and areas of opportunity for the coming year.
The recovery is seen as the chance for a green reset. This is underscored by Euromonitor International’s Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2021, which advocates a shift from a volume- to a value-driven economy. “Brands that rebuild a greener and more equitable world could gain not only a competitive advantage but also the necessary social licence, or trust of society, to operate,” it predicts.
Furthermore, this shift is echoed in 5 Forces of Disruption, the 2021 forecast from Re_Set Advisory and Springwise, which highlights that seven in ten consumers intend to make permanent behavioural changes to improve their response to the climate emergency. Quick fixes will not cut it, instead, they must look to make meaningful changes, such as de-carbonisation and elimination of plastics throughout the supply chain. “Sustainability must permeate every aspect of doing business,” state the innovation specialists.
A continued focus on sustainability for airlines
The business opportunities identified in Trendwatching’s 21 Trends for 2021include transcycling, where brands make use of their waste to enter new markets. Another is carbon labelling, whereby revealing the true (hidden) cost of products will win customer trust and competitive advantage. It cites a pop-up shop launched by Swedish food brand Felix, where items are priced according to their carbon footprint, saying this approach is spreading to restaurants and fashion brands as well.
We all know that ultimately travellers will expect their consumer experiences on the ground to be reflected in the air, so how should the interiors community respond? For some time now SEKISUI KYDEX’s focus has been to ensure that the lifecycle of its products is sustainable and materials are 100% recyclable. As part of the full lifecycle approach, it partners with the Aircraft Interior Recycling Association (AIRA) to implement recycling streams for materials that reach the end of their use.
Talking with Design Director Karyn McAlphin, circular solutions will be the way forward. She goes on to say: “Socially conscious brands will pursue lighter weight alternatives, redesign structures we’ve relied upon for years, and determine how to take things apart at their end of life to upcycle for different purposes. Ultimately, brands viewed as contributing to a cleaner, healthier, more equitable world will gain a competitive advantage.”
Safe to fly initiatives needed across the industry
Reassuring passengers that it is safe to fly by implementing rigorous cleaning regimes, plus investigating antimicrobial surfaces and materials have been key to the interiors sector’s pandemic strategy. What Euromonitor calls safety obsessed (but might be more easily understood as hygiene obsessed) is not just desirable, but as good as mandatory, with customers expecting efficiency and cleanliness.
Definitions of wellness will expand to include mental wellbeing, with Trendwatching spotlighting products and services that seamlessly boost mental and emotional health as an innovation opportunity. Think about it for a moment. Even before the pandemic, stress has been hardwired into the journey for many passengers. How then should onboard environments and services be developed to alleviate that stress and make travellers better informed and so feel more in control?
A touchless future onboard aircraft
Another aspect of the past year’s need for clean has been going touchless. In our everyday lives, card and mobile payments have dominated the shopping experience when we are able to go outside. While air travel initiatives have ranged from Emirates and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) trialling a digital COVID-19 pass to Jamco and ANA teaming up on a hands-free lavatory door.
Going touchless complements, the third force for disruption – high-speed adoption of digital technologies. Re_Set and Springwise observe that a comprehensive digital strategy is now essential. In response to the pandemic, businesses have been experimenting with everything from virtual showrooms to social shopping that blends e-tailing with social media. They predict that other content-first strategies are likely to emerge such as using digitisation to drive greater personalisation.
The realms of the physical and virtual are no longer distinct separate entities. Consumers now rely on digital tools for daily activities, with Euromonitor noting that consumers, especially younger people, are indifferent as to whether these activities are physical or virtual; they no longer distinguish between the two.
2021 will still be challenging for airlines
2020 has changed the culture around flying. B2B or B2C, customers and passengers are questioning everything we did before. How the passenger experience community rises to these challenges in 2021 will have a far-reaching impact in the years to come. What is clear is that shape of the industry in 2021 is already looking very different from the way we imagined just a year ago.
In a linear economy, industries produce or extract raw materials from nature, convert them into products, and then discard them as waste. This contributes to the rising climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises. However, a suitable foil for this is embracing a circular economy. So how can carriers and suppliers incorporate aerospace circularity to achieve sustainability goals?
What is aerospace circularity?
Aerospace circularity, also known as circular aviation or a circular economy, is a way of designing, making, and using products within planetary boundaries (boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive) or to maintain the stability of earth. As such, recirculating products rather than discarding them after use minimises waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
A circular economy would encourage aviation to produce high-quality aircraft cabin interiors while minimising the demand for natural resources. Circularity promotes the use of materials in a continuous cycle, mirroring natural processes and eliminating the need for additional input or waste.
How does circularity relate to the cabin interiors industry?
Aerospace circularity influences how aircraft cabin components and designs are developed, produced, maintained, and disposed of.
The lack of appropriate material marking or data sharing between OEMs, airlines, and recyclers is one barrier to the effective realisation of circularity. Material marking helps OEMs, airlines, and recyclers identify the types of materials used throughout the cabin product life cycle. Some materials are more volatile, thus the importance of material marking. Data transparency across the cabin product life cycle will help find cost-effective materials that can be recycled.
“Life cycles are much shorter in the cabin, and there are structural solutions that can be implemented right now.”
Branding is also a challenge, as nearly half of cabin interiors are customised. To apply aerospace circularity, airlines can homogenise the designs for cabin furniture in all classes. This enables re-customisation should cabin products be re-sold. It minimises the manufacturing impact of customisation while maximising experiential differentiation for the customer.
Circularity also needs to be scaled up to business models in the whole cabin industry, not just to individual cabin OEMs. Moreover, the industry should consider what to do during end-of-life scenarios and how to maintain cabin products in the higher-value phases of their lifecycles.
Aerospace circularity is crucial to cabin interiors, particularly in selecting aircraft cabin structures. Recycling cabin materials can sometimes lead to inconsistent structural and visual performance, which makes them unfit for in-flight application by authorities. The industry needs to develop strategies and certification approaches that will not limit the use of recycled cabin interiors.
Why is aerospace circularity important?
AIX and PAX Tech Magazine discussed how the role of the circular economy in cabin construction is crucial to the overall sustainability goals of aviation. Aerospace circularity helps the industry have a holistic lifecycle view. This, in turn, will allow for the development of an infrastructure that will support sustainable activity and look for new recycled materials and solutions for the market.
“I am pleasantly surprised about the discussions taking place from sustainability to production sites.”
François Delaleu, Purchaser, Air France
Cabin interiors are resource-intensive, and circularity promotes resource efficiency, longer lifespans, and easier repair and refurbishment. Aerospace circularity also helps the sector comply with sustainability requirements and minimises costs.
Circularity is a key enabler for a more sustainable cabin. It involves responsible management of materials, design, manufacturing, operations, and end of life. It allows for a common lifecycle assessment baseline and comparisons, consolidating data and tools for sustainability standards.
“The popularity of this show makes it very sustainable for people to find new products but also for suppliers to talk and problem solve on a wider scale”
Eniz Sahbegovic, Head of Sales & Marketing, ZIM Aircraft Seating GmbH
Cabin interior suppliers are also adhering to aerospace circularity.
Diab Group has developed a thermoplastic sandwich panel for aerospace cabin interiors that is 100% recyclable. Meanwhile, Huntsman and V-Carbon Technologies joined forces to recover carbon fibre material systems that could be integrated into existing manufacturing platforms.
Recycling aluminium from decommissioned aircraft and reintegrating it in the aerospace value chain is the goal of Constellium SE and TARMAC Aerosave’s partnership.
Adient Aerospace, a joint venture between Boeing and automotive seating manufacturer Adient, employs thinner and lighter materials to improve fuel efficiency. Boeing uses crop flax on its sustainable wall panels, which can also be applied in manufacturing seat shells, aircraft cabin walls, and other elements. Airbus reduces the environmental impact of the cabin interior supply chain through smart digital solutions, like the Internet of Things.
Attaining sustainable aviation through aerospace circularity
Aerospace circularity is an approach that mainly relies on the extraction of the maximum value from resources in use and keeps materials in circulation for as long as possible. It is being applied in aviation, from converting waste into biomass fuel to using materials complemented by recycling strategies.
Cabin interior suppliers are also practicing circularity, like recovering carbon fibre and aluminium.
While circularity in aviation is valuable, it still comes with challenges, such as significant upfront investments and difficulties in finding recyclable materials that meet aviation safety and performance standards.
FlyZero adds that the cabin is one of the most difficult parts of an aircraft to apply circular economy principles to because it requires intra-sector and cross-sector partnerships. Currently, the industry lacks material and product flows at viable scales. OEMs also rely mostly on less eco-friendly designs and materials.
To achieve sustainable aviation, the industry needs to develop more efficient and consistent solutions to reduce environmental impact without sacrificing passenger comfort or economic growth. While some sustainability efforts are underway, there is a lack of green action in end-of-life solutions, maintenance, operations, and production.
Aerospace circularity is expected to address environmental challenges beyond in-flight operations and even in the production of air vehicles and cabin interiors.
All industries are making efforts to minimise their environmental impact, and aviation is no exception. The aviation sector is working hand-in-hand with governments and regulatory bodies to improve efficiency measures, fuel consumption, and carbon capture technologies, among other initiatives. But one particular area being focused on is sustainable cabins and their vital role in a zero-carbon future.
What are the current initiatives?
The goal of net-zero carbon emissions in the aviation industry is a complex and long-term one that requires coordinated efforts from multiple stakeholders. Collaboration among airlines, manufacturers, governments, research institutions, and organisations is essential to accelerate the development and deployment of sustainable aviation technologies and practices.
Between 2005 and 2019, airline carriers reduced their fuel consumption per passenger kilometre by approximately 39%, according to a McKinsey analysis. The study reveals that the underlying factors behind fuel efficiency gains came from fleet upgrades and fuel-efficiency programmes, such as continuous descent approaches, reduced engine taxis, and optimised routes.
Carbon offsetting is another strategy that the aviation sector is using to take immediate action to combat climate change. Some of the airlines that offer carbon offset programmes include Emirates, Qantas, Virgin Australia, Delta Airlines, and British Airways.
Airports are also adopting different sustainable practices, from using renewable energy sources to implementing energy-efficient infrastructure. Additionally, the industry has been switching to biometrics for screening and check-in at airports. For instance, Alaska Airlines will start to remove its check-in kiosks in airports in 2024 to go digital and “paperless”.
So what actions is the sector taking when it comes to the cabin?
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) vs. cabin interiors design
One of the primary strategies in the industry is the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) to significantly minimise carbon emissions. With SAFs crucial part in the aviation industry’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, the question arises: are SAFs the real key to meeting aviation’s net-zero goals?
Production currently costs costs four times as much as conventional jet fuel. Plus, it makes up less than 1% of fuel available in the market. According to Rhodium Group‘s research, US production of SAF is around 4.5 million gallons per year. This is still not enough to fully decarbonize aviation by 2050, and carriers and suppliers want to act now.
“Most countries in Europe are waiting for the big countries to produce [SAFs]… No European country will be in a condition to produce enough to export anything, because this is transformation to a level we’ve never seen before. So, it is important that every country takes action.”
Rafael Schvartzman, IATA regional VP for Europe
Consequently, in recent years, the demand for updating aeroplane interiors sustainably has also significantly increased. That is just one driving factor meaning that the aircraft refurbishing market is expected to reach a market value of US$5.4 billion by 2033 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7% (2023–2023).
A vital element in the aviation industry’s drive towards a zero-carbon future is cabin interior manufacturing. Maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) plays a crucial role in the aviation industry and can also ensure that older aircraft are more environmentally friendly by aligning cabin components with current standards and regulations.
The primary purpose of SAFs is to replace conventional fossil jet fuels with more environmentally friendly alternatives. SAFs can significantly lower emissions compared to conventional jet fuels.
Meanwhile, the focus of cabin interior design is largely on the passenger experience. But many manufacturers are implementing greener practices, such as recycling and repurposing materials, to drive sustainability.
Cabin interior design can indirectly affect emissions by improving the aircraft’s efficiency and passenger experience. For instance, sustainable cabins with light materials can reduce fuel consumption by decreasing the aircraft’s weight. Cabins may not have a direct impact on the environment, but the way they are manufactured and operated does.
The BDLI Cabin/Cargo Working Group believes that aircraft cabins are vital in reducing the aviation industry’s ecological footprint. The cabin and its operations represent 10–20% of the overall environmental impact during the entire lifecycle of an aircraft. Therefore, sustainable cabins offer plenty of opportunities for fostering decarbonisation, recycling, and circularity.
To achieve sustainability while maintaining superior levels of passenger comfort, Airbus launched its Airspace Cabin Vision 2035+, mainly focusing on three pillars:
Airbus will provide full transparency about the environmental impact of its cabin parts and operations and increase the use of full lifecycle analysis.
The company will also introduce new cabin interior solutions and materials with low carbon dioxide impacts. Airbus estimates that using bionic design and biomimicry on their cabins can reduce the weight of all structural and lining elements by up to 40%. Finally, Airbus will integrate the next-generation cabin using hydrogen-powered aircraft, which will reduce emissions intensity.
Sustainable cabins can contribute to net-zero goals through lightweighting. Airlines can generate fuel savings between 0.65% and 0.85% by simply choosing lighter seats and other weight-reduction practices. And at a fraction of the overall cost, opting for lightweight interior options can produce a high return on investment.
Well-designed aircraft interiors, such as cabins, In-Flight Entertainment (IFE), lavatory, or security systems, that use lightweight materials also help operational savings. Anything that requires less cleaning, fewer repairs and replacements of spare parts equals less supply chain involvement and therefore greater carbon savings.
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) carefully select materials used for cabin interiors not only to improve passenger comfort and safety but also to enhance product design and operators’ green credentials.
Designers at Boeing, for instance, have been working with several seat manufacturers to use lighter-weight components like titanium and carbon fibre frames.
Carbon composites are also a great material for sustainable cabins, known to provide weight savings and durability without sacrificing strength. Replacing traditional aluminium in manufacturing aircraft components has helped reduce the overall weight of aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 by 20%.
Traditional aluminium can be found on various parts of aircraft like, the trims, rivets, fuselage, doors, wings, cabin pillars, and more. However, fibre-reinforced matrix systems are largely stronger. The huge benefits of composite materials include providing a smooth surface as they don’t corrode easily and holding up well in structural flexing environments. As such, using composite materials for airline cabins can also mean lower maintenance and repair costs.
The French designer Expliseat uses advanced materials like carbon fibre and titanium, which make their aviation seats approximately 35% lighter. Note that an individual aviation seat typically weighs from 11 kg (short range) up to 17 kg (long range). This means that aircraft with between 100-700 seats may have a total seat weight of between 1.4-12 tonnes (approx.).
Expliseat’s line of aviation seats produces lower seat mass, which in turn contributes to sustainable aviation. The company will deliver its new TiSeat E2 model to Kuwaiti’s Jazeera Airways by 2024. This is projected to deliver a substantial weight savings of 1.2 metric tonnes per aircraft.
An aircraft may be built to be structurally sound for years, but it will eventually show signs of wear and tear, which can be more apparent in aircraft cabins. This is where retrofitting becomes part of an aircraft’s lifecycle.
As such, retrofitting cabins can mitigate ozone and volatile organic compounds in cabin-air environments. Other types of airline cabin retrofitting that can reduce energy consumption involve the installation of energy-efficient systems, better waste management, the incorporation of noise-reducing materials and engineering solutions, and upgrades to avionics systems.
United Airlines, for instance, has been working on a retrofitting project since 2021. Its fleet of Boeing 737-800s underwent cabin retrofitting and now comes with new, larger overhead bins. The seats are equipped with LED lighting, USB and charging ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and refreshed lavatories.
Carriers and manufacturers are rapidly producing technological advancements that are allowing the aviation sector needs to adapt to a digital future. Although, the concept of digitisation should also aim to solve environmental challenges without creating unreasonable expenses airline adopters.
Another example is IATA’s digital toolkit. With this suite of digital tools, airports can estimate carbon dioxide emissions associated with construction projects. So, whenever airports have development projects for terminal buildings, runways, and multi-story car parks, the digital toolkit can analyse the project’s carbon footprint. Then, authorities can discuss the results with airport operators and find a way to mitigate them.
Applying digitisation in airline cabins boosts passenger engagement through in-flight entertainment systems, mobile apps, and interactive displays. AERQ’s Personal Electronic Device (PED)-friendly inseat system, for instance, allows passengers to customise and deploy applications directly to the seatback display.
Passengers can easily connect to Wi-Fi or pair their devices with Bluetooth for an upscale entertainment experience. And these can also be used to inform people on narratives regarding carbon offset programmes, sustainable travel practices, and ways to minimise their environmental footprint.
Airlines can also customise the content of the seatback system to display food, beverages, or products that can be bought on board. This eliminates the need to print out menus or brochures, as passengers can easily navigate through their options digitally.
Digitisation can also ensure cabins are maintained efficiently without compromising on sustainability. This is evident in the case study led by Air France KLM Group IT and AirInt Services. Their solution was to go digital to simplify process of inspection and defect reporting. In turn, with the delivery of accurate and reliable data, they will reduce the likelihood of mechanical issues that can result in fuel inefficiency.
As part of overall efforts to reduce the environmental impact of air travel, airline cabins undoubtedly play a significant role. Cabin interior manufacturing and supply chain management can buoy sustainability goals whilst the lightweighting of components can contribute throughout their lifecycle.
Incorporating lightweight materials, including composite materials, into cabin construction can reduce the weight of the aircraft, which can minimise the amount of fuel needed to operate. Airline cabin retrofitting can also improve cabin-air environments to keep passengers and crew members safe and healthy.
Subsequently, digitalisation in airline cabins is not just for the connectivity needs of travellers or crew. Digital-forward cabins can also be utilised to promote various sustainable practices, allowing passengers to be informed on the work done by airlines and how to minimise their environmental footprint further.
Overall, sustainable cabin innovations are vital to a holistic consideration when formulating strategies on achieving net-zero carbon targets.
What are the 4 pillars of aviation sustainability?
ATA developed a 4-pillar strategy as a guide for the entire aviation industry, covering aircraft R&D and economic and social measures to reduce emissions. The four pillars include:
Technology covers propulsion systems and recommends adding the latest fuel-efficient aircraft to the global aviation fleet. Operations throughout the entire aviation industry should be overseen. Infrastructure should work on both the needs of air and ground. Socio-economic initiatives like taxation, emissions trading, and carbon offset programmes should be promoted.
How can the aerospace industry contribute to sustainability?
The aerospace industry can implement decarbonisation measures to contribute to sustainability. For one, manufacturers can enhance engine designs or explore the use of lightweight fabrication material for improved fuel efficiency. The aerospace industry can also rely on urban air mobility to further shape sustainability.
Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) and drone deliveries have zero emissions since they are electrically powered. Moreover, the aerospace sector can take advantage of advanced propulsion systems like solar, hybrid, electric, or fuel cell technologies to achieve better fuel efficiency, which can significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Why is sustainability important in aviation?
Aerorplanes emit around 100 times more carbon dioxide than buses or trains. The aviation industry also emits an estimated 2.4% of global carbon dioxide annually. Sustainability in aviation is an important concern as carbon dioxide emissions pose a serious threat to the planet through climate change. The industry needs to reduce its environmental impact and contribute its share in mitigating this whilst improving efficiency and reducing costs for a sustainable future.
Interest in sourcing seating products at Aircraft Interiors Expo this year grew by 16% among visitors and airline buyers, versus the previous edition.
And with airlines, lessors and Bizjet operators looking to either retrofit existing fleets or kit out new designs, suppliers didn’t disappoint.
Some of the most innovative seating solutions at AIX included:
1. Expliseat unveiling their New TiSeat
Expliseat became the manufacturer of the world’s lightest aircraft seat at AIX, unveiling their:
TiSeat E2 for ATR
and Dash 8 and TiSeat E2 for A320 and B737
The innovation will allow passengers to “fly green in comfort” whilst offering airlines saving and sustainable seating solutions. The TiSeat is contributing to lightweighting by enabling airlines to save up to 1.2 metric tonnes on every aircraft.
Plus, the TiSeat ultralight frame technology is made of composite and titanium, making it the “world’s lightest aircraft seat for single aisle” planes according to Amaury Barberot, CEO of Expliseat.
In partnership with Jazeera airlines, the seat will be used on A320 and A321 aircraft in the Middle East.
2. Caynova’s seat heating and cooling system
Caynova enables airlines and seat manufacturers to offer a customisable on-board experience to passengers by providing the compelling well-being seat solutions.
Their Seat Heating and Cooling System (HCS) offers individually adjustable microclimates to aircraft passengers.
And, with the introduction to 787-900 on Lufthansa flights SWISS Senses starting in 2024, the company is setting the standard for personalising the passenger experience.
Collins Aerospace, Adient Aerospace, Airbus Atlantic (ex: Stelia Aerospace), and Thompson Aeroseating, among others, are currently integrating Caynova’s Seat Heating and Cooling on their business and first-class seats.
3. TCI’s seating range
TCI develops and markets products including in-flight entertainment systems, connectivity systems, galleys and lavatories.
But it was their business and economy class seats for wide-body and narrow-body aircraft types that drew eyes at AIX.
The company showcased their:
ELESA S – a lightweight and modular economy class seating for narrow-body aircraft that can be converted into a double business class seat with a large cocktail table in the center.
ELESA N – a weight-optimised economy class seating solution for narrow-bodies aircraft with USB port and PED holder.
EPIANKA – economy class seating for narrow and wide body aircraft with an articulation mechanism for maximum comfort
4. STELIA announced their newly designed seat for Air France
STELIA Aerospace have been designing and manufacturing some of the most advanced business and first-class seats on the market for over 20 years.
The company ranks in the top three for premium passenger seats thanks to the trust of over 50 airlines, one of whom is Air France.
And, after two years in development, the partnership unveiled their business class seat for A350 aircraft at AIX.
By bringing an existing product to the next level to match customers’ needs, the carrier is offering the “highest level of comfort and design” says Fabien Pelous, Senior Vice Preseident, Customer Experince at Air France.
5. Delta Flight Products flexible seat for power wheelchairs
A subsidiary of Delta Airline, Delta Flight Products (DFP) was established to re-think aircraft interiors through, partly, modern engineering and design.
Add to Plan
And it’s safe to say that their flexible domestic first class seat has done just that. Created in partnership with Air4All, the seat can be folded away to create space for a powered wheelchair.
Minimising the need for changing seats without requiring any change in cabin layout is a strong step towards breaking down potential barriers to flying.
Airlines experience a myriad of potential problems, from flight delays and cancellations to workforce shortages and security concerns. And to combat these, airlines may rely on several turnkey solutions — end-to-end systems that solve a specific problem and are ready to implement.
One area of the cabin that has massive upward application for turnkey solutions is In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC).
‘The IFEC zone [at AIX] is fantastic, satellite communication is very ‘trendy,’ and it is highly represented here which has been a great learning and networking opportunity.’
Modifications Engineer Aviation MRO
What are turnkey solutions?
Turnkey solutions are everywhere. They offer the opportunity to integrate third party supplier products and ready-to-go solutions to carriers that, in their best applications, can reduce cost and risk.
By reducing the need for coordination among multiple suppliers, turnkey solutions offer fully packaged products that cut down on implementation time significantly.
The impact of turnkey software and hardware for airlines’ IFEC offerings could be the key to a quicker fleet overhaul while still offering entertainment and connectivity to passengers.
In-Flight Entertainment Turnkey Solutions
It is important to win the trust and repeat business of customers by giving them a great flying experience. And one way to ensure the satisfaction of passengers is by providing them with in-flight entertainment.
Air travel recovery globally is regrowing, if uneven, for now. In the USA, air traffic has already exceeded its 2019 level in 2022. However, international air traffic in the Asia Pacific region is just below two-thirds of its 2019 level. In June 2023, European flight traffic reached 92%.
Without investing in IFEC systems, airlines may be losing the interest of two in five fliers. When passengers have a good time during their flight, it may lead them to book the same airline on their next trip. And IFEC systems can also offer branding solutions for airlines to introduce other products or services onboard or as an advertising space.
This is where IFEC is vital. Ever since the beginning of air travel, IFEC has always been at the heart of the passenger experience. Passengers are coming to expect that they will be able to do everything they can do at home while on a plane. With Integrated IFEC systems, passengers can work, watch a movie, play games, or simply surf the internet while onboard.
‘The In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity Market size was valued at USD 6,144.54 Million in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 11,502.56 Million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 8.29% from 2023 to 2030.’
IFEC holds massive potential for understanding the behaviour of, and tailoring services for, passengers. With these systems, carriers can apply advanced analytic capabilities and adopt insight-driven and behavior-based advertising practices.
This, in turn, can increase the engagement of passengers resulting in ancillary revenue generation. It may also help crew to deploy food and beverages faster, with inventory and promotion management systems. Flymingo IFEC hardware platform by Moment Tech, for example, not only processes galley inventory but also checks seatbelts and tray table positions and identifies free space in overhead bins.
Another innovation is AirFi’s portable IFE solution, which helps passengers to easily purchase goods and services and also relieves the crew from unnecessary administrative tasks.
“Third party partnerships are becoming more commonplace in the airline commercial ecosystem and the Mall in the Sky enables easier third-party integration thanks to our open platform.
By working with their preferred partners (or by choosing some from our partner portfolio), airlines can offer a richer inflight shopping and entertainment experience.”
Connectivity also supports cabin and flight deck services. IFC can be leveraged to boost work efficiency through deploying surveys and analysing flight log information. IFC also supports inventory information, can allow for updating passengers on connecting flights, and record maintenance issues or unruly passenger behaviour.
In-flight entertainment systems are expected to provide high navigation speeds, high-resolution streaming, and protected and secured wireless networks. On long-haul flights, IFEC, with a wide range of entertainment content, can contribute to mitigating boredom or anxiety for travellers. IFE systems contribute to the satisfaction of passengers with airline services, and in turn could positively impact airline revenues.
And seatback technology still appears to be a market leader despite the rise in bring-your-own-device (BYOD) solutions onboard. In fact, Aurélien Timbre, Sales Development at CELSO, thinks that the future will see more seats installed with IFEC systems, and this will continue to be a market driver. He added that “seating suppliers that offer innovations that provide more comfort and luxury to passengers are set to be in poll position.”
Electrochromic windows, for example, allow passengers to adjust the level of tint to reduce glare and heat during flights. Cabin interior lighting systems give the impression of space and freedom, and this is crucial for passengers.
“Airlines always want to do more with the cabin space they have. The combination of photoluminescent and LED lighting can help with space use by providing guidance and subtle indications of cabin usage. This ranges from returning space to passengers for a more premium offering or adding extra rows of economy class seats.”
Custom-built or turnkey solutions?
Turnkey solutions are ready to operate, whereas custom-built solutions may take time to be implemented as they need to be designed following the client’s preferences and requirements.
Airlines may opt for turnkey solutions as these can be implemented more quickly than building solutions from scratch. Turnkey solutions may also be cheaper as they offer a fixed cost compared to custom-built solutions, where expenses may depend on the structure’s specific needs.
The IFE seat-backsolution will give guests access to 4K OLED screens, 100 W of direct current power via USB-C, and programmable LED lighting. This collaboration agreement should meet the changing market requirements and satisfy the constantly evolving expectations of passengers.
Turnkey solutions may be a quick fix for aviation, but they may lack scalability and the customisation businesses are looking for. Since they are not customised, businesses may need to allocate extra funds to make up for additional custom features.
The choice will, ultimately, reflect a business’ budget, goals, scaling plans, and other factors. Both are beneficial to the industry, but businesses may need to assess if the problem they are facing is something that needs to be fixed right away or if following a longer timeline is feasible.
The Future of IFEC
Turnkey solutions, like investing in in-flight entertainment and connectivity, can certainly continue to help the industry recover and leverage resurgent passenger numbers.
And IFEC is beneficial to both airline management and a carrier’s passengers. It helps make the work of the airline crew easier. It also excites passengers and improves satisfaction. And, finally, if passengers are satisfied, this correlates to loyalty to the airline, which potentially means more tickets sold and revenue increases.
The IFEC market is continually growing because of the rising demand from passengers to be connected even while they are onboard. So expect more screens, streaming capabilities, gaming, personalised shopping opportunities, and light, smell, and sound manipulation as in-flight technology and capabilities expand in the coming years.
The bizjet industry caters to individuals and businesses that value time, privacy and a bespoke experience. And one of the key areas where personalisation can be deployed by owners or lessors is the cabin interior. This, combined with the increasing demand for personalised travel, means that there are still areas of the private jet market that are continuously growing. In fact, the global business jet market is projected to grow to $38.34 billion in 2029, at a CAGR of 4.06%.
One particular trend in business jets is the industry’s emphasis on cabins. The growing demand for customisation of passenger seats is just one contributor to the aircraft upholstery market being projected to reach $2.3 billion by 2027.
Armrests, particularly, offer comfort, adaptability and support to passengers. Thus, the armrests segment of the aircraft seat upholstery market is expected to grow quickest. The overall growth of the aircraft upholstery market is driven by the needs of airlines to customise their cabin interiors and aircraft seating during the installation or repair of seats, which generally includes a replacement of upholstery.
Celso, a foam seat manufacturer, believes that comfort in business jet interiors is equally, if not more, important than on commercial jets. By necessity, their cushions are custom-made. Another supplier, Boxmark, a high-quality upholstery leather manufacturer, also tailors bizjet interiors according to the customers’ preferences to give them the essence of exclusivity. The company believes that modernising the cabins not only improves seating comfort but also attracts more passengers.
Sanitation has also always been a concern among passengers, spiked only by the pandemic, and companies across the private jet charter industry are also working towards improving procedures to meet customer satisfaction. Intensive cleaning practices utilising heavy-duty sanitisers are set to continue alongside the demand for smart coatings and “self-cleaning” materials.
Because of this desire for a safer flying experience, the market for business jets is also expanding its customer base. GlobeAir, a private jet operator in Europe, for instance, has recorded a total of 2,678 passengers as first-time private jet travellers. More people are becoming interested in switching to business jets because of the increased cleanliness and related safety they offer.
Features of BizJet Interiors
While business jets provide passengers with varying levels of luxury, not every private aircraft has the same features. Some business jet interiors, for example, don’t feature bedroom as they are too small.
Light private jet interiors
Midsize private jet interiors
Long-haul private jet interiors
VIP airliner interiors
–Ultra-light and light business jets can accommodate up to 7 passengers –Compact but contain luxurious touches –Usually come with an on-board lavatory, as well as spacious cabin and luggage area.
–Midsize business jets can accommodate up to 12 passengers –Can be equipped with a bed or sofa –Can be fitted with a minibar or kitchenette –Usually have a toilet with a sink
–More people can fly on long-haul business jets –Typically accommodate up to 19 passengers –Interiors are spacious, there can be room for a sofa, a bed, furniture, and even a separate bathroom or bedroom
–This type of business jet has a very large capacity and offers increased cabin and baggage space –Often include executive seats, bedroom suites, bathrooms with walk-in showers, a full bar and dining areas, conference facilities, and numerous other luxury amenities.
Again, the bizjet cabin interior depends on the preferences of the airline or the owner. The Cirrus Vision Jet cabin, for example, is made with a carbon fibre fuselage that creates spaciousness. Using carbon fibre offers aircraft designers more flexibility to adapt traditional designs. One Airbus concept has been introduced with a carbon fibre curved fuselage that provides more cabin space. Meanwhile, Embraer Lineage 1000E’s five bizjet cabin interior zones are outfitted with the finest leathers, wools, and silks.
The Embraer Phenom 300 has seats that can be converted to lie-flat beds, while the Dassault Falcon 900 has two seats that can be combined to make a full-length bed. One of the newest business jets, the Bombardier Global 7500, boasts a sky bedroom with a queen-sized bed.
Digitisation in the Cabin
Embracing digitisation has become imperative in aviation. The influx of competition and increase in digital sophistication among passengers calls for airlines to deliver a customer experience rooted in a strong digital foundation. As such, business jets have also been implementing more advanced digital technology onboard.
With digitisation, passengers can easily control their seats and lights. The Gulfstream G700, for example, has a lighting feature that imitates the sunlight of the next time zone using real circadian lighting, so passengers will not have jet lag.
Craig Foster, the author of this Valour Consultancy report, expects that increased IFEC competition could result in business jet operators further adopting connectivity. Because there will be more business aircraft, more IFEC technologies, satellite, and cellular networks will also become available, particularly targeting business aviation.
Sustainable Business Jet Interiors
In a survey by GlobalData, 43% of respondents said that their buying decisions are influenced by a service’s or product’s ethical, environmental, and social responsibility. In the aviation industry, aircraft running on sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) can further pique the interest of passengers due to the increased demand for socially responsible practices.
Private aviation is slowly implementing SAFs into their aircraft. The aviation company, Jetex, for example, partners with oil company Neste to offer SAFs at its Helsinki Airport terminal. Jetex also plans to launch the world’s first “pure green” private terminal at Berlin’s Neuhardenberg Airport and use electric vehicles to achieve zero-net carbon emissions.
Dassault, a French aerospace company that supplies the bizjet sector, applies eco-design concepts into their processes, from mining of raw materials and production to in-service operation, end-of-service, and recycling.
Similarly, the Gulfstream G700’s Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines offer low emissions. It has a lightweight composite structure and advanced aerodynamics that make it eco-friendly. A versatile business jet, the Pilatus PC-12 NGX, has an average hourly fuel consumption of 55 gallons per hour (GPH), which also produces reduced emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.
Steps towards sustainability and carbon neutrality are also being taken in bizjet cabin interiors. Many now use natural materials in bizjet interiors, like woodwork or cabinets. One prime example is Gulfstream Aerospace, whose business jet interiors use sustainable materials.
Gulfstream’s bizjet cabin interiors include aluminium honeycomb cabinets and silk or wool jute or rags. Meanwhile, Bombardier’s Global and Challenger business jet cabins feature upcycled and engineered soft goods made from reclaimed or natural fibre.
New Private Jet Concepts
Because of the increased demand for bizjet passengers, companies are experimenting with new concepts that will continue to meet customer satisfaction and attract more people to choose to fly privately.
A cutting-edge business jet interior technology that is now in the works is the Shapeshifter. This innovation by the design team at F/List is multifunctional furniture that morphs, bends, and stretches via electromechanical sleight of hand.
The prototype space includes a credenza that transforms into a workstation and seating and table configurations that can change. When fully implemented, passengers can easily push the button to transform the layout of the bizjet cabin.
Gone are the days when bizjet interiors were plain. Business jet owners now often partner with a design firm to decorate their business jets with the latest finishes. In the business jet Bombardier Global 5000, the aviation art features a symmetrical pattern that runs through the entire interior creating a harmonious overall look.
Some private jet concepts to watch out for include Aston Martin’s space age-style designed business jet that features a vertical take-off and landing capacity and the PAL-V Liberty business jet, where the propeller tucks into the rear of the vehicle and the rotors fold and store on top. Lufthansa Technik will also design a wide-body private jet with a folding veranda, a lounge, a gym room, and a medical centre.
Business jet interiors market will continue to flourish
The global business jet market is projected to grow because of the increasing demand for personalised travel. People are looking for safety, privacy, and customisation when it comes to travel. To deliver a more personalised travel experience, owners or lessors can invest more in cabin interiors. Aside from elegant bathrooms, fine dining kitchens and facilities, and high-quality leather seats, business jets are equipped with digital capabilities like seat and light controls and IFEC systems.
The future of business jet flying will need to increase the use of technology to further enhance the passenger experience. And because of the growing demand for business jets, the number of private-only airports may well rise. The growing demand for luxury and efficiency in air travel will keep the business jet industry evolving and innovating, therefore leading to a bright future for the sector.
In association with PAX Tech Magazine, Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) hosted a roundtable discussion with industry leaders in the lead-up to the 2023 event to examine notable cabin interior trends, and explore how suppliers, through their work with brands and airlines, are continuing to revolutionise the cabin environment.
Demands for improved in-flight connectivity and passenger comfort continue to spark new interior trends, while the focus on creating lightweight, efficient, comfortable and sustainable solutions continues to challenge designers and manufacturers.
Discussing the notable cabin interior trends emerging in the industry, Karyn McAlphin, Design Director, SEKISUI KYDEX; Beth de Young, VP Business Development, Aircraft Interiors, Safran; Sama Wain, Account Manager, Sabeti Wain Aerospace; and Carsten Laufs, SVP Product Innovation and Digitalisation, Diehl Aviation joined Alex Preston, Senior Editor at PAX Tech magazine to look to the future, discussing the challenges of responding to expectations in respect to cleanability and connectivity, and how sustainability is continuing to drive change.
Mirroring recent outlook reports on the state of the industry, all participants shared their optimism for the future of the interiors market. “It’s very exciting right now because after the pandemic, the market is kicking in again and we are seeing a lot of very, very good discussions on the future of cabin interiors, regarding cleanability, sustainability, and all those interesting issues,” explained Carsten Laufs, SVP Product Innovation and Digitalisation, Diehl Aviation.
He continued, “connectivity is one of the most important trends. And, we see airlines coming back and asking questions, starting upgrade solutions packages. So, there is a lot of movement.”
Beth de Young, VP Business Development, Aircraft Interiors, Safran, agreed: “It really is exciting and it’s changing on so many different fronts that it’s a wonderful time to be in the industry. I think Carsten hit it when he said that sustainability and digitalisation are big.
Passenger comfort is important too. And while, during the pandemic, there was a tremendous amount of research on cleanliness in the cabin, there are a few items that have stayed, and we will expect to see them in the future. But fundamentally, the building blocks of the interior are changing and it’s a great time to be in the aircraft interior business.”
Reflecting on the challenges presented by the pandemic, Sama Wain, Account Manager at Sabeti Wain Aerospace, agreed that despite it being a difficult couple of years for the industry, the general trend was “onwards and upwards”. While Karyn McAlphin, Design Director at SEKISUI KYDEX, said it was “thrilling to see what’s going on the industry right now”, suggesting that the evolving interest in sustainability, was leading to “exciting times ahead.”
Embedded technologies put smart cabins on course
In response to the pandemic, airlines were quick to explore new materials for aircraft seating to enhance cleanability and cabin hygiene. It left cabin interior suppliers racing to embrace antimicrobial technologies, putting many on a steep learning curve to meet airline expectations. “One of the most interesting things we learned (during the pandemic) was that there is a lot available in terms of antimicrobial materials, and other ways of making clean surfaces, but it’s not enough,” said Beth.
She continued: “You also must have the appearance, durability, and flexibility in terms of branding, along with a range of other requirements. So certainly, incorporating these types of technology into the product moving forward makes sense, as long as you can meet the other demands of the market.”
Karyn concurred that there was tremendous interest in antimicrobial protection early on in the pandemic and that at SEKISUI KYDEX, lots of samples were put forward for testing: “It’s been very interesting to see the transition to an interest in cleanability. We’ve been supporting our partners by providing details about how our material holds up to these aggressive cleaners that have been used throughout the pandemic.
And now it really has transitioned, I think, for airlines to support the whole antimicrobial topic. They really needed to focus on their marketing and communications to customers. And there haven’t been many airlines that have been willing to take that on, quite honestly. It has been more about the cleaning and how you’re going to maintain it. And Beth made a very good point. It’s about durability and aesthetics, maintaining the finish.”
Perception and educating passengers are key considerations for airlines according to the panel. Karyn explained: “I think about everyone’s laptops, about how it has that little badge that says Intel inside. Unless you wanted to put something similar on your passenger tray tables, for example, no one would know that it was an antimicrobial material. Airlines don’t have in-flight magazines onboard any longer, so you really can’t communicate to passengers with a message from the president about this amazing technology that is keeping the aircraft clean.”
Sama agreed and highlighted how the interest in these technologies peaked at the beginning of the pandemic, and that a subsequent move towards leather and synthetic materials has been noted.
Transparency in communications with suppliers and passengers was also noted as a positive transition emerging from the pandemic. Carsten said: “We did a tremendous job in showing transparency regarding the materials, material durability, and using those technical solutions for cleanliness and hygiene. I agree that some of those technical solutions are relevant today. And for example, in the galley or lavatory areas some of them will stay as standard.”
Along with antimicrobial technologies, Beth suggested that touchless technologies were no longer seen as high-end features, but as a standard in what the airlines look for, particularly in areas like onboard lavatories.
Speaking about its adoption in the cabin, Beth said: “We introduced touchless into the lavatory on the A350 and have added it to the 737 in the past. What we see is an acceleration of this trend within our industry since the pandemic. The adoption rate is likely much faster than it would have been without it, but it probably would have come anyway, particularly in areas outside of the lavatory and galley, for example.
“You’re seeing a lot of touchless or low touch features getting incorporated into seats in the surrounds where it may not be an actual push button, but a very, very light touch surface that is easily cleaned. And, while mechanical is good in some ways because it’s simpler to control, we’re moving into the digitalisation of the cabin, and I think we’ll see more of those types of electronic interfaces as we learn to make them more reliable.”
Carsten agreed that touchless technologies would likely become the norm in the cabin. “I think there will be an increasing demand for those components. But the major purpose when we bring such equipment on board is that it’s maintained well, functional, and reliable at all times.”
Hidden innovation, seamlessly integrated
With the concept of touchless travel – from self-service, hands-free accessibility and surface hygiene improvements – quickly being embraced, those suppliers specialising in the more tactile elements of the cabin environment are also noticing a step-change.
Hinting at announcements to follow at this year’s show, Karyn explained that low touch and easy cleaning features that are clearly indicated are being incorporated into new designs, and “there has been tremendous interest in infusing wireless symbols into our materials so that [people know they can] charge their cell phones in an easily accessible area. It’s exciting to see some of the things that you see in automotive now making their way into aviation.”
Echoing this, Sama suggested that there was an increased demand from customers requesting wireless logos to be embossed into the trims of their business class or first-class seats for indication. And, while the developments in the premium offering onboard were leading these technological developments, the panel agreed that changes were being adopted throughout the cabin and not just in particular classes.
He explained: “Some airlines really push the economy product. I think it’s standard to have mobile phone charging now and even the low-cost airlines are retrofitting these technologies. Wireless charging is just the next step that we will see soon.”
The future of the connected cabin
While wireless charging features were considered to be common onboard most fleets, the connected cabin was declared a major focus of recent innovation. Carsten explained that in this space there is a heightened demand for connectivity within the cabin that isn’t limited to seats or any one specific cabin element. He explained that “there is a necessity for monitoring and collecting data throughout the cabin” and as a result, “multifunctional interoperable systems are needed.”
He went on to explain that this is a major focus for Diehl. “We work on specific solutions that are already available, and they will be enhanced in the future to manage all of this data and ease the work within the cabin interior. So, crew operations and passenger experience will be prominent topics we will follow up on.
“The other focus area is that when we talk about monuments and galleys, there is a lot of energy to manage all these systems and drive these systems. What we provide are energy-efficient solutions that tick the sustainability box as well. There is a great demand for a reduction in that energy consumption and therefore energy efficiency and weight reduction are a major topic for us.”
Enhancing the performance of the cabin, as well as the passenger experience, is a key topic that the supply chain has a notable focus on according to the participants. Karyn explained: “At SEKISUI KYDEX, we bring out new products and make some suggestions about how people might use them, and then we sit back and wait and see how people use them.
Sometimes they come up with amazing things that have never occurred to us. I’ve seen a lot of designs recently from various design firms where they’re using clear screens, where dividers have traditionally appeared, and information that is relevant to what the passengers are experiencing at that point in the flight is being cast upon that screen.
We have several new materials that can be used in that way and we’re looking for partners to explore that with us. That’s part of the development process. We know the technology exists in other places, as we’ve referenced before, and I think we can begin taking advantage of it within the aircraft environment.”
And, while the focus on innovation in product design continues, there is an increased focus on examining the manufacturing processes themselves to see where improvements can be made in the full product lifecycle. For example, sourcing sustainable or recycled materials for use within new product development.
“It is obviously a very big drive to find sustainable materials and for the whole supply chain for an airline to be more sustainable,” explained Sama. “It is difficult in the dress cover area because the lighter you go with a material, the more likely you are to have a flam test failure in the full combination test. Material suppliers are always trying to reduce the weight of their material but it’s not that simple.
So often lighter materials potentially mean poorer durability, and sometimes you do have to introduce a heavier fire blocker and it’s counterproductive. It’s also difficult to use recycled materials generally in all areas of the cabin because we have to use highly engineered materials that are not allowed to have foreign objects or inconsistencies. But material suppliers are all working on new sustainable materials.”
Karyn celebrated the emphasis on sustainability but admitted it had taken a while. “People are embracing this and realising that it’s a serious problem for our planet. SEKISUI KYDEX has been recycling material for 20 years, so it’s nothing new to us, but we’ve been very working very closely with Tony Saville at AIRA to recycle scrap. Beth’s company, Safran, is one of our best customers and we’ve been working with Tony to get their scrap recycled back into the thermoplastic that we’re manufacturing for them.
“Last year we did a soft launch of a new product called 5555 RCL – RCL for recycled – and there has been tremendous interest in the product.”
“It needs to go through all the testing, and everyone works with us over an extended period of time to make sure that it will work for them and that they embrace the concept”. Adding to the discussion, Beth explained that recyclability as well as the lower weight and longer life span of the aircraft, are all key sustainability goals for interior suppliers.
“If you’re going to achieve it, it’s going to take fundamental building block changes, she explained. We can’t just make a small adaptation of the fundamental materials in this industry. It’s going to take new materials, new production methodology, and new specifications. A lot is going on and we’ll see incremental solutions, everything from the product to the systems to the passenger experience”.
“It’s important to passengers and its probably the number one thing we hear about from our customers. Meanwhile, manufacturing processes such as additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, are helping to create lower-weight products”, as Beth explained. “Additive manufacturing is being used and deployed in our industry now, and on a production basis”.
“There may be opportunities because of the way that you can build up some products, instead of assembling them, that you can end up with lower-weight products. Material science is a big part of what has to happen for the future of our industry. We’re all working very hard in these areas”.
Carsten agreed, highlighting that sustainability and new manufacturing processes are not only important for innovation but need to be realised for multiple reasons. “There are two major streams. One has already been mentioned the carbon-neutral production of our products. That includes our own production and of course, incorporating all the material suppliers and supplier landscape we work with.
There is a tremendous effort already being done, but further efforts are needed for this to be realised. The other element is looking at our products in life, in service. And there we have two topics weight saving and of course recyclability. We have always saved weight on all our new platforms, and we have always used recycling processes within the production cycles of our products. But I think were entering a new decade of these things now, and so we need new solutions.
The key to success is to use the right technology for the right product to balance weight reduction and recyclability as one part of the circular economy. We need to rethink our product design to use different materials and enhance recyclability. And so, there is a lot of effort being done right now and we will carry it on into a very bright future”.
Karyn agreed, stating that it starts with design. She elaborated, “As new items are being developed, they need to be designed in such a way that they can be taken apart at the end of their life, separated, recycled, and put back in for acradle-to-cradle experience.
And what we found with a lot of seats and monuments that have been developed in the past is that they might have had materials that had a capped surface or something that you can’t separate easily. Going forward, we need to be very cognisant of how we design these items that are going into the aircraft cabin”.
Speaking about who holds the responsibility for enacting change, all participants agreed that it is a group effort. “I think we in the industry need to embrace it and move forward and come up with great solutions on our own,” Karyn explained. “Otherwise, we will face regulation.
And I think the aviation industry typically has tried to avoid that in the past. If you develop something on your own, then it can be on your own terms as opposed to being forced to do something a certain way.”
Carsten added: “I believe that the passenger is one of the major drivers because we’re globally connected. Globalisation is a key topic and people want to see and experience other cultures. So, they will travel in the future, but they will want to travel sustainably. As a group, we need to serve our customers very well and have answers to their questions.”
The science of colour onboard
Colour psychology has long played an important role in the design choices made by airlines, either to complement brand identity and represent national culture, or to build on common associations by matching certain colours with certain emotions.
However, with a drive to increase the use of recycled materials, the selection of bespoke colours has become notoriously difficult, as Karyn explains At SEKISUI KYDEX, we create custom colours for our seat manufacturers and our airline customers. And you can have any colour you want on your seat. But then when that scrap gets recycled, it results in colours that may have some variation because weve committed to a minimum of 50% recycled material and up to 100sed on the available scrap in our RCL product.
Airlines that want to visually demonstrate the use of recycled materials may be disappointed. Going back several years, I think a lot of designers were very interested in recycled materials and so they were looking for material that looked recycled, Karyn explained. I think they were hoping that Thermoplastics could have that recycled look. When it gets extruded,its combined together and comes out in a flat sheet and it’s as smooth and even as can be.
So, the RCL product that I referenced earlier that we launched last year was black.We’re trying hard to develop other colours and make those available to people. But designers don’t seem to be as concerned about having something that looks recycled as just having a product that is recycled. I view that as a significant evolution in the market that is positive because it’s embracing something that has been a challenge in the past.”
Beth added: “The current trend with passengers right now is comfort and colours that bring about comfort. Feeling safe and clean is also important. The airlines generally have a colour preference; I think our job is to be flexible and to be able to enable the colour palette, but also the comfort items.”
Colour was also deemed an important topic for Diehl, as Carsten explained: “More standardised, more bright colours are a topic for us. On the other hand, we see more standardisation and that is a very good topic for the complete sustainability story of the cabin as well. If we can achieve more standardisation and we can achieve weight savings, it serves two aspects.
So, we always use a double approach: comfort, and cleanliness, but also the design approach of our products as well. And that is incorporating the surface finish not only one colour, but it’s the complete surface finishing when we introduce new technologies to make a surface decoration that serves both those items.”
External factors inspiring change
To close the discussion, all four roundtable participants were asked about their inspiration and influences not only as aviation professionals, but as passengers. Beth pointed out the undeniable role of technology and digitisation: “We talked about connectivity within the cabin, but one of the biggest things that’s happening is the air-to-ground communication that is also being added to that.
So, while you have flight attendants with their pads on one network, you have also a whole maintenance aspect going on with air-to-ground communications. And it’s going to revolutionise the cabin experience.” Carsten agreed, putting connectivity as the biggest trend impacting life on the ground and in the air.
Sama suggested that there was a growing domestic influence on cabin designs that enhance the image of comfort within passenger perceptions. While Karyn suggested that the focus on affecting the passengers’ emotional response to their environment and creating aesthetically pleasing finishes to surround themselves will be a key focus, and an exciting development to see in the industry.
Thank you to Alex Preston and PAX Tech Magazine for moderating the AIX Cabin Interior Trends roundtable. A special thanks go out to Karyn McAlphin, Design Director, SEKISUI KYDEX; Beth de Young, VP Business Development, Aircraft Interiors, Safran; Sama Wain, Account Manager, Sabeti Wain Aerospace; and Carsten Laufs, SVP Product Innovation and Digitalisation, Diehl Aviation for their candour and insightful contributions.
Small, consistent changes, pioneering leadership, and more education are vital if the airline cabin interiors industry is to achieve its net zero and circularity goals; so said leaders from different sectors within the cabin interiors industry, brought together by AIX to discuss the role of the circular economy in cabin construction as part of a series of roundtable events.
The lively panel discussion was led by Matthew Nicholls from Tapis Corporation with contributions from Chris Brady, CEO, Unum Aircraft Seating; Nico den Ouden, COO, Generation Phoenix; Sohaib Ahmed, Programme Manager – Interiors, AJW Technique Interiors; and Ben Smalley, Director of Business Development, SEKISUI KYDEX.
The session began with panel members sharing their views on the role cabin interior manufacturing can play in the drive towards a zero-carbon future for the airline industry.
“We have to play a role as citizens of the planet, much less of the industry and all businesses; people are going to have to make lots and lots of small changes. We’re not looking for some magic wand or one great big banner-waving initiative. It’s about just chipping away,” said Unum Seating’s Chris Brady, who stressed his belief that progress lies with leadership, rather than technology.
“There are lots of technologies that are going to be deployed, but we need to create demand for them, and we need to create a burning platform as leaders to make sure that the people who work around us are making changes in the right direction,” he said, highlighting that this means supplying all the information people and businesses need to make informed decisions.
He added that where currency – be it dollars or any other currency – is currently the ultimate measure of competing products and profitability, the conversation needs to shift. “We’ve got to add another currency to profitability, which is climate impact and carbon dioxide equivalent… As a society, and certainly as an industry and as managers, we’ve got to work out how we’re going to measure what good looks like.”
He underlined that most people understand the price of a cup of coffee, but few have a sense of how many kilos of carbon dioxide emissions or equivalent is produced by making a cup of coffee on a flight, adding: “We’ve got to change that.”
Small changes, big impact
Nico den Ouden, COO of Generation Phoenix, the materials recycling and repurposing specialist, said it is possible for the industry to ‘move the needle’ towards a circular economy by learning from other industries, such as consumer markets where many products provide cradle-to-cradle, life cycle information.
“That’s a starting point of dissecting what one material versus another will contribute to carbon emissions…The planet has produced enough natural resource of raw materials in the past and we should be learning how to reuse what’s around us while trying to maintain the economic value as much as we can,” he told his fellow panel members.
Ben Smalley, Director of Business Development for SEKISUI KYDEX stressed net zero is achievable if everyone plays their part. “I think we know that we all have to play a part in it…and that will be incremental. It’s not going to be through just recycled plastics or leather.
It’s how they’re made. It’s down to the manufacturing process, how they’re shipped. However, I get worried that the industry is so hung up on this massive net zero target, that it’s not making those little incremental steps that need to be made.”
He told the panel that education is crucial, followed by a need for the industry to take a look at itself and measure its output in a coherent way. “I think we as an industry have to get aligned on tackling the fundamentals before we can reach for something like net zero, and every single one of us has to play a part in it – whether that’s providing products that are recycled and/or sustainable, down to the manufacturing process of products.”
Sohaib Ahmed, Programme Manager – Interiors, AJW Technique Interiors, made the point that the right conversations are taking place, with operators asking about the life cycle of materials at the point of seat cover changes.
“Unfortunately, when seat covers are made with the lamination foam and adhesives, 90% of the time they do end up in landfill. But there are some repurposing programs, such as that for Southwest Airlines, where they’re converting leather seat covers into school bags for certain communities,” he said, also pointing to companies that can convert fabric seat covers into yarns for carpet and underlay manufacturing.
“Every operator we’re working with right now has the same question… ‘What do we do towards the end of the life of seat covers?’”
However, he stressed there is still the issue of who pays for that repurposing. “Do airlines remove all the covers from, let’s say 100 aircraft, send them to a facility where, there’s a team working on them, sorting out the covers and manufacturing into these bags, for example?”
Matthew then asked the panel if sustainability and design for end-of-life means compromising.
Chris was emphatic that designing products with sustainability in mind does not mean compromising. “Idon’t agree with the mindset that says green is worse or somehow less luxurious or will diminish the passenger experience. To design is to choose.
You make a series of choices, and you make those choices based around the requirements and your constraints. And you just need to add a new constraint, which is how much carbon is involved and what the end-of-life story is. And then you come up with really clever new solutions.
“That’s why I say there are loads of small choices, because every time you pick up the pen to draw a shape or to define something, you’ve got to consider its performance – it’s old-fashioned performance, as in certification strength and cost, which is the business requirement, and now, a new business requirement which is it’s life cycle analysis.”
Driving change from the top down
Matthew then asked panel members how they believe the industry can increase its knowledge around zero carbon and the circular economy, and better understanding of materials. “And then how do we track and trace and sort of control those materials?” he asked.
Ben stressed:“It has to come from leadership and be part of your company’s core DNA.” And Nico added: “There’s still there’s still a lot of hurdles to overcome, but I’m convinced it has to go in that direction because otherwise, how would you know you’re moving towards your target of net zero and you’re moving the needle in the right direction?”
Chris added that it was important to understand that the industry’s net zero efforts should not be a tick box exercise, but a conviction that it’s the right thing to do. He also made the point that sustainability moves can only continue to improve the passenger experience.
He also made the point that “there’s nothing special about aviation”, and it should learn from other industries. “We just need to join in with the world and get on with producing life-cycle analysis,” he said, with Ben adding that the industry needs “more pioneers to lead the way”, because regulations typically form over time and by example. “I don’t want everybody to get so hung up on waiting for regulation rather than pioneering what the future can be.”
Concluding the discussion, Nico said: “It comes back to my life cycle analysis. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we should just utilise the tools, which are around it and drive them through the industry.”
Industry leaders come together to debate the future of flight
Preceding the three days of unrivalled opportunities to hear from the industry’s most inspirational thought leaders and grow business connections, Passenger Experience Conference (PEC) returned on Monday, 5 June to the CCH – Congress Center Hamburg.
Opening the day’s packed programme, Seth Miller, Editor of PaxEx.Aero, welcomed Eric Bogner, Executive Creative Director at Teague, to the stage to ‘debunk the seamless journey’. Setting the scene for the landscape in which airlines and interior suppliers are working, Eric highlighted how passenger expectations are diversifying, underlining the importance of considering the full continuum of the travel experience holistically.
He explained that recognising the multitude of passenger needs creates all-new opportunities for brands and that technology would not only increase but improve passenger interaction. He suggested that rather than creating a seamless journey, the industry could look to co-create better seams that reach across the divide.
By embracing the ‘pinch points’ in the passenger journey, the industry can create opportunities for innovation and collaboration, moving to a position where airlines, suppliers, and brands build experiences together and think in ecosystems.
Eric was then joined by fellow industry leaders Adam Wells, Design & Experience Lead at Joby Aviation; Kerry Reeves, Head of Aircraft Programmes at Air New Zealand; and George Land, Executive Director Sales at Hybrid Air Vehicles to unpack how the aviation industry can successfully meet the needs of the future passenger.
Two conference streams followed and continued throughout the rest of the day, with representatives from Air Canada, Avensis Aviation, PriestmanGoode, Safran, Expliseat, Green Cabin Alliance, Tapis Corporation, the Airline Passenger Experience Association and more joining sessions to share their perspectives on the most prominent issues facing the industry today.
This included sessions on how to ‘define new passenger experience benchmarks’, the opportunities to ‘differentiate and introduce sophisticated onboard digital services’, and ‘how technology and in-flight entertainment and connectivity can help airlines meet the expectations of the next generation of passengers’.
Cabin sustainability was also a prominent topic during the conference, with speakers helping delegates understand how to transform cabin waste, and exclusive insights from the world’s major large passenger aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, on their visions for a sustainable future. Presentations from this year’s speakers are now available on the Passenger Experience Conference website here.
Aircraft Interiors Expo: The place to do business
Following a packed day of educational insights and networking opportunities, Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) opened its doors on Tuesday, 6 June, setting the scene for an exciting array of new product launches and partnership announcements.
Among the new products on display, Collins Aerospace unveiled two new premium airline seating products, including its “Signature Dream” first-class suites and “Aurora” – the company’s first fully lie-flat Business Class suite designed exclusively for narrow-body aircraft. It also revealed its cost-effective wireless connectivity solution giving airlines new insights into system health with connected galley inserts.
72% of visitors to AIX 2023 had purchasing power
In the popular IFEC Zone, Panasonic Avionics unveiled an extension of its Astrova IFE portfolio with new 4K OLED monitors for First and Business Class cabins. The larger screens are available to airlines in five sizes: 19, 22, 27, 32, and 42 inches, boosting the appeal of Astrova for the widebody aircraft market.
Product interest in IFEC Hardware increased 64% at AIX, year on year
Elsewhere on the show floor, during presentations to a packed audience, Airbus revealed cabin enhancements to its Airspace Cabin Family, with the Airspace XL Bin, developed by Diehl Aviation, delivering 60% extra luggage capacity on the A320 family, and 66% for the A330neo.
On the A220 Family, the bins – which will become available from 2025 and will be retrofittable – offer an increased capacity of around 19 more passenger bags (on the A220-300). It also announced its redesigned and improved passenger service unit (PSU) – provided by Astronics.
Keeping passenger comfort high on the agenda, Safran Seats and Air New Zealand launched its innovative business class seat. The “Visa” concept is due to enter into service in 2024 with a retrofit of the airline’s current 787-9 fleet. Elsewhere on the show floor, RECARO Aircraft Seating unveiled its new PL3810 premium class seat. 10% lighter than its predecessor, the PL3810 is designed to give airlines more cabin flexibility and reduce fuel costs, contributing to more sustainable fleet operations.
79% of visitors and 88% of exhibitors said they were likely to return to AIX next year
Unum Aircraft Seating was also among the exhibitors unveiling new product launches, debuting the Unum Two forward-facing, lie-flat, direct aisle access business class seat. Muirhead launched three new high-performance sustainable leather innovations, including its lightweight LightCore product, CareGuard anti-soil product, and self-disinfecting ActiveHygiene leather.
Product interest in composites increased 78% at AIX, year on year
ZIM Aircraft Seating presented its new ZIMLITE product family covering the entire spectrum of configurations in all aircraft types and short, medium and long-haul flights. While STELIA Aerospace and Air France unveiled the airline’s latest long-haul business seat. The OPERA seat’s widebody version has been exclusively designed for Air France and features a sliding door that allows passengers to create a private space.
Expanding the focus from commercial tobusiness jet operatives, ATR, the leading regional aircraft manufacturer, introduced its ATR HighLine Collection. This new collection features high-end cabins designed for both commercial and business operators, aiming to provide a premium flying experience to all passengers. Embracing urban air mobility, Aviointeriors demonstrated its “Seaty Flyer” concept, a seat specifically designed for eVTOL aircraft installations.
Airlines partnerships were also the focus for many exhibitors at this year’s event. Airbus announced that Emirates would become the first airline to operate Airbus’ HBCplus agnostic satcom connectivity solution following its line-fit selection to equip its 50 new A350-900 aircraft with the service. Panasonic Avionics revealed two major contract announcements with Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) and United Airlines.
The first will see the national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia install the Astrova seat-end solution on up to 30 of its aircraft. Meanwhile, United Airlines would be the first customer in the Americas for its new Astrova in-flight engagement (IFE) solution, this represents the largest-ever investment in Panasonic Avionics’ IFE by any airline.
Etihad Airways and Viasat announced the installation of its high-speed in-flight connectivity (IFC) and Live TV streaming solutions for the airline’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet. Meanwhile, Burrana confirmed that Jazeera Airways has selected its lightweight in-seat power solution for its cabin retrofit program. Jazeera Airways was also the topic of conversation at the Expliseat booth where it was announced it was the launch customer for its second-generation TiSeat model. The French designer and manufacturer confirmed it would deliver 2,000+ seats for Jazeera’s nine A320s, including an A320 Neo and two A321s.
Supplier partnerships were also a big draw at this year’s event, with several exhibitors announcing their collaborative efforts to define new solutions for the cabin environment. West Entertainment announced a collaboration with CineSend, setting the stage for the company to redeﬁne its IFE Lab Services with a powerful technological shift through the adoption of CineSend’s groundbreaking technology to automate the encoding and delivery of IFE video and audio assets.
Fokker Services Group confirmed it has selected Aviation Glass as its partner of choice to replace standard inner polycarbonate window lenses with ‘RealGlass’ technology on the Airbus ACJ330 aircraft. While low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company OneWeb announced a distribution partnership agreement with Hughes Network Systems to provide LEO connectivity services to the global airline market.
CabinSpace Live sessions discuss connectivity, accessibility and aircraft seating
Among the topics to be explored in the CabinSpace Live theatre, connectivity was high on the agenda. In a session exploring ‘The Technology Behind the Journey’, speakers from Inmarsat, ThinKom, SES, OneWeb, and SmartSky Networks highlighted the increasing trend of collaboration to enhance capacity and functionality onboard. Speaking on behalf of OneWeb, Ben Griffin, Vice President of Mobility Services, suggested that disruption through new technology was critical but that airlines first have to decide what it is they want to deliver to their passengers, not how.
The panel revealed just how much the technology has accelerated over the past decade, and that today specialists in this area are collectively working towards providing the services passengers want. Neale Faulkner, Regional Vice President Europe, Middle East and Africa at Inmarsat, added that ultimately, passengers want ‘fast and free’ connectivity, and it was up to airlines to work collaboratively with suppliers in the sector to deliver this.
Addressing the importance of frictionless connectivity, a panel of experts from Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, OneWeb, and Intelsat discussed the new era of inflight connectivity, and the impact of state-of-the-art Low Earth Orbit (LEO) technologies. The continued focus on replicating the experience from on the ground to in the air was a point agreed on by all panellists, suggesting that with new trends in working culture, and social media use, technologies that can keep up with such changing behaviours are vital.
Experts also came together to discuss accessibility and ‘Meeting the Existing and Emerging Passenger Needs’. With the buzz on the show floor growing in response to Delta Flight Products and Air4All’s first-of-its-kind prototype, the pace of change and innovation was under the spotlight. Panellists from Flying Disabled, All Wheels Up, Diehl Aviation and Wings For All explored the critical steps the industry can take to make the inflight experience accessible for all passengers, from training and regulations to effective marketing and cabin design.
The CabinSpace Live Theatre also welcomed this year’s Crystal Cabin Award (CCA) winners, giving them a chance to share insights into their winning concepts and innovations. Among the winners, Air New Zealand, AirFi, Collins Aerospace, Lantal Textiles, Teledyne Controls, Thales Avionics, and TU Delft demonstrated an all-new standard and vision for air travel in the future.More information on this year’s winners can be found on the CCA website here.
“This year’s AIX has demonstrated just how much the post-pandemic recovery is in full swing, and we’ve been blown away by the optimism and enthusiasm demonstrated by our exhibitors and visitors as they look to the future. With airline buyer attendance up by 59% on last year, we’re delighted to bring a high-level audience to the event and continue providing a platform for the aircraft interiors industry to do business.
“The sheer quantity of new products and contract announcements is an example of the innovation and commitment to transforming the passenger experience, further demonstrating that AIX is the central place for the aircraft interiors industry to coalesce. We can’t wait to see many of these new products onboard over the coming months and years.”
Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) will return to the Hamburg Messe, from 28-30 May 2024, with the Passenger Experience Conference taking place on Monday, 27 May 2024. For more information and to register your interest, visit:
Even to the layperson, the historical differences between the design of business jets and commercial aircrafts have been identifiable. We associate private jets with comfort, luxury and exclusivity, with commercial aircrafts it’s safety, durability and efficiency. However, in recent times, thanks to the proliferation of choice, the dividing lines between the two are becoming increasingly blurred.
We spoke with six Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) exhibitors, across a variety of sectors, to learn more about this phenomenon.
Comfort is critical, regardless of the cabin
While historically comfort has always been one of the key considerations of the cabin in business jets, it would seem a seamless, relaxing and comfortable flight is increasingly high up the priorities list for commercial passengers in the present day.
Marjan Trobis, CEO of Boxmark, d.o.o Slovenia, believes a key transition in the industry is the modernisation of commercial cabins “by adding more comfort and making them more attractive with sophisticated design”. He notes that Boxmark has noticed that more and more airlines wish to improve the seating comfort and attract more passengers with their unique design, adding that Boxmark is “convinced that design, functionality and greater comfort will become even more important in commercial cabins.”
Despite the increasing importance of comfort for commercial passengers, for Celso, a foam seat manufacturer, comfort in business jet interiors remains a much greater consideration. Aurélien Timbre, Sales Development, argues “the comfort of the passengers of the business jet is largely superior to the commercial cabins.
The volume of foam of the cushions is superior and allows us to optimise and work on the comfort to its maximum because the cushions are ‘custom-made’ and not a series as one can find in commercial aviation.”
That said, despite obvious disparities around comfort in both cabin types, Timbre notes a “major similarity in terms of design for private and commercial aviation cushions,” in part due to “the regulatory constraints in terms of fire, and crash tests lead us to use and propose similar materials for the design of our products.”
For Trobis, there is one thing that stands out when designing for business jet interiors. “Exclusivity is what prevails,” he notes. “Material tailor-made to the customers’ preferences and unique details are also of utmost [sic] importance. On the other hand, what counts in commercial cabins more and more is that design, comfort and sustainability are ensured through affordable serial production.”
And is there potential for designers of products in both cabins to learn from one another? Timbre believes so. “The business jet industry can be inspired by research in terms of weight savings and lighter cushions. Also, the manufacturing methods and processes implemented for commercial aviation can be a source of development applicable to the business jet sector, which sometimes remains locked in a “luxury high-end craftsmanship”.
Commercial cabins catching up on connectivity
Inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) is one area which is experiencing considerable change when it comes to its impact on business jets and the commercial cabin. The ever-changing state of play in these respective cabins is being dictated by an increasing digital dependency, accelerated by the pandemic, of consumers who are demanding the same connectivity experience they have on the ground, 35,000 feet in the air.
According to Alois Sanktjohanser, VP Sales, SkyFive AG, the demand and expectations for inflight connectivity on commercial flights are catching up with that of business jets, to the extent that it is “highly demanded by regular travellers using commercial airlines.” He adds that today “an ever-increasing percentage of passengers on commercial aircraft rate inflight connectivity as important for their overall journey experience, much more than other amenities.”
Sanktjohanser’s statement is supported by the research. Inmarsat’s Passenger Experience Survey found that over three-quarters (77%) of passengers now view inflight Wi-Fi as critical to their inflight experience – an increase of 40% since 2018. Moreover, 82% of passengers said that they would be more likely to rebook with an airline that provided quality Wi-Fi.
According to William Huot-Marchand, SVP Inflight Connectivity, Inmarsat Aviation, this “demonstrates that reliable connectivity is now a must-have, not a nice-to-have” and that airlines, especially with regard to their commercial fleets, must “keep up and deliver the connectivity experience their passengers crave.”
Despite the twin-demand for IFEC across fleets, there are different considerations for designers of both types of cabins. According to Sanktjohanser, considering the aircraft size and the number of passengers, “a commercial aircraft obviously requires more Wireless Access Points to be distributed in the cabin” while it’s the “size of the system that matters a lot” for business jets, considering the importance of comfort and the smaller size of the craft.
He adds airlines “typically aim to provide a comprehensive (walled garden) entertainment and e-commerce environment to enable ancillary revenue creation through onboard and offboard connectivity.” Despite these differences, Sanktjohanser believes that fundamentally, there are strong parallels between the two. “The approach to designing and implementing a base connectivity concept to meet client needs is very similar, if not the same.”
Durability key in the long-term
When it comes to coatings and materials, clear coat systems are common across wooden surfaces in business jets, as René Lang, Executive Managing Director Aviation at Mankiewicz, explains. “The special feature of [clear coat paints] is that they ensure the usability of the surfaces for years and protect the wood veneer from damage. The clear coat is a hidden champion for these substrates, bringing protection and depth of image together.”
And it seems the protective properties of coatings and materials are a key consideration, irrespective of the type of cabin. In commercial aircrafts, where the objective is to transport large numbers of people from A to B efficiently, Lang contends that its “the long-term robustness of the surfaces” that is of the “utmost importance.
“Even during the boarding process, the priority of the passenger is not to treat the surfaces gently. Therefore, every design concept is supplemented by advice on the surface durability in an aircraft life cycle and the perspective of easy inflight repairability.”
This importance of durability in the commercial cabin is also emphasised by Verena Bintaro, Head of Marketing & Public Relations, AERQ. While on business jets the exchange of passengers is on average much lower, commercial cabins are “characterised by high occupancy and utilisation” and must prepare for the incessant turnover of passengers. Therefore, the materials need to be “very durable, to extend the MTBUR (meantime between unscheduled removals),” i.e., the length of time an aircraft part can expect to stay on the aircraft until it needs to be removed.
Are there any similarities between the design of the cabin in relation to coatings? Lang thinks so. “There is an overlap. Within the last few years, sustainability has become a crucial perspective while the requirements for the surface and design remain at the highest level. Preference is given to sustainable alternatives to previous technologies. In the coatings sector, this leads to increased use of water-dilutable paint systems, the replacement of heavy foils with light topcoats, and the representation of metal optics with appropriate paint systems.”
Furthermore, regardless of whether the aircraft is business or commercial, and how creatively a cabin is designed, Lang adds that one essential consideration, in the context of a fast and sustainable implementation of design in industrial practice, is aviation-specific requirements like fire behaviour. “This is one of the reasons we only work with our design partners with aviation-approved paint systems so that once a design has been defined, it can go into industrial implementation anywhere and without delay.”
The organisers of Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) and Passenger Experience Conference (PEC) have today announced the much anticipated expanded speaker programme, as the industry gears up for the must-attend conference in just one weeks’ time.
The annual Passenger Experience Conference, taking place on 5 June ahead of AIX, will return with one of the strongest speaker line-ups in its history, featuring representatives from Air Canada, Avensis Aviation, Airbus, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Expliseat, Green Cabin Alliance, Tapis Corporation, Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), and more.
With the promise of ground-breaking transport innovations arriving as soon as the latter half of this decade, the plenary session of PEC 2023 will explore the multi-modal future and how the aviation industry can successfully meet the needs of the future passenger with insights from Eric Bogner, Executive Creative Director, Teague, Kerry Reeves, Head of Airline Programmes, Air New Zealand, and more.
Following a short break, where attendees can network with leading experts and visionaries from airlines, airframers, OEMs, suppliers and designers, PEC will split into two streams: Delivering for the new generation passenger and Succeeding in the green revolution.
Joining the former stream will be a diverse group of experts, including Raymond Kollau, Senior Trend Analyst at TrendWatching; Rick Salanitri, President of Delta Flight Products; and Peter Azzouni, Head of Interiors & Design – Guest Experience at Riyadh Air. Together they will share their perspectives on Defining new passenger experience benchmarks with perspectives on consumer trends, new travel ecosystems and inclusive travel.
Also within this stream, an interactive roundtable will explore how technology and in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) can help airlines Meet the expectations of the new generation digital customer. Among the confirmed speakers will be Ben Murphy, Vice President of Airline Accounts – Americas at Intelsat; Chris Demange, Senior Director – Media & Partnerships at Viasat; and Norman Haughton, Director, In-Flight Digital Entertainment, Wi-Fi, Media, Sales and Analytics at Air Canada.
With uncertainties around the globe on the aviation industry’s impact on climate change, the second dedicated stream will focus on reinventing the passenger experience with ‘reuse, repurpose, and recycle’ in mind.
Cristian Sutter, CEO of Avensis Aviation, will moderate a morning session on Cabin sustainability – understanding the way ahead, before Anaïs Marzo da Costa, Head of Aircraft Interiors Marketing at Airbus, shares the leading aircraft manufacturer’s sustainable aerospace visions for 2035 and beyond.
Later in the day, Marzo da Costa will go on to join an interactive panel discussion, titled Evolving sustainability initiatives, with Brenna Wynhof, Regional Director, Cabin Marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Amaury Barberot, CEO of Expliseat, and others.
The sustainability stream will continue providing valuable insights into the evening, with a sessionon Designing cabins that are better for people and the planet, moderated by Elina Kopola – the Trend & CMF Specialist at TrendWorks, who is also the Founder of Green Cabin Alliance.
The session will explore new thinking around how sustainable materials and finishes, within the context of meeting the demands of the cabin interior sector, can provide a robust approach to recyclability and circularity. In other sessions, Matthew Nicholls, Sales Director at Tapis Corporation; Christian Seifert, Product Manager at Lufthansa Technik; and Kristen Allison, Global Director, Business Development at LanzaTech, will each holding a magnifying glass up to the use of sustainable fabrics will feature
“Each year, we strive to deliver on our promise to provide an esteemed, world-class list of speakers and panellists from the leading aviation and interiors providers – and this year we will not disappoint.
With the expanded programme now officially revealed, we are pleased to share such an illustrious line-up of experts to discuss their perspectives on the most prominent issues facing the industry and bring one of the most insightful, impactful programme schedules to date.”
This year’s Passenger Experience Conference will take place at the Congress Center Hamburg (CCH) on 5 June, the day before Aircraft Interiors Expo which runs from 6-8 June 2023.
Registration is now open for both events, and the co-located World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo. To register today, click the button below:
The long-range Boeing 707, developed in the mid to late 1950s, was the first narrowbody airliner developed for domestic and transatlantic flights. Ahead of its time, it was the first to enjoy widespread recognition and ushered in the Jet Age – a revolutionary period defined by the advent of aircraft with jet turbine engines.
The era was characterised by the development of bigger, faster, more spacious, and more productive jetliners. When Juan Trippe, president of American airline Pan Am, requested an airliner “two and half times bigger” than the 707 in 1969, the Boeing 747 was born, the long-range, wide-body, twin-aisle airliner which became the very first “jumbo jet”.
These days, however, demand for new aircraft paints a different picture. In 2020, Boeing CEO David Calhoun announced the final 747 would be delivered in 2022 as a result of “current dynamics and outlook” stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. And as for jetliners, it seems like the halcyon days of the previous century are a thing of the past, as against the backdrop of mounting economic pressures, socio-political uncertainties, and consumers’ piquing interest in sustainability, a new aircraft is ready to make its mark.
Many have predicted that the narrowbody aircraft, with its increased efficiency, attractive cost-savings, and environmental advantages, would dominate the market. And, with passenger numbers set to soar over the next decade, carriers and the entire supply chain will be faced with a host of opportunities to grasp, and challenges to overcome.
The Aircraft Interiors Expo team spoke to a number of representatives from some of the industry’s leading cabin interior suppliers and designers to understand what the future of narrowbody travel looks like, and what it means for future passengers.
Waiting for the green signal
It is undeniable that the fight against climate change and society’s rising awareness of the environment has played a pivotal role in the re-emergence of narrowbody aircraft. The benefits of long-haul narrowbodies especially, from a sustainability and operational efficiency perspective, have been widely recognised by the industry for a while but, like most societal shifts, things take time. Jo Rowan, Associate Director at PriestmanGoode, believes the shift to narrowbody is part of an “all-round drive for sustainability,” with sustainable cabin interiors included.
“These aircraft are operationally efficient in terms of boarding, turnaround and crew numbers, and fuel efficiency. With each new generation of aircraft, there’s an opportunity to question and rethink interiors and continue the shift from a linear to a circular economy. Our process for influencing this change, called ‘Route to Zero’, follows three pillars; Reduce, Reuse, Rethink, with actions such as reductive design to move towards a more skeletal approach, and reducing weight and materials in manufacture as well as in use.
“We’re also striving for circularity, utilising materials that can be infinitely recycled and disassembled without compromising the option of the material to be reused in the future – all subject to certification, of course. New fleets are an opportunity to challenge the norm, the way we fly, the items we bring onboard, and how we spend time during the journey. These factors open the possibility of a very different interior in the future.”
Narrowbodies with widespread impacts
With much of the industry predicting a narrowbody future, Rowan says there are “widespread possibilities to explore” and it will be an “interesting challenge for designers” throughout the supply chain, namely in onboard experiences.
She said: “From a passenger experience perspective, whilst there are clearly differences in the space and logistics onboard, airlines are striving for consistency to make the aircraft as identical as possible to their widebody fleets, which is an interesting challenge for designers. Rather than simply translating seating and other features from a widebody format, a narrowbody layout requires a new programme that considers the different dimensions and structure of the aircraft.
“What’s important is the experience across both is seamless. Some airlines operate different fleets on the same route, and passengers, especially frequent flyers, will expect the same experience each time. Consistency is also vital for crew, to help streamline service, training, and maintenance.”
Like all downsizing of facilities, ensuring a positive experience and high levels of satisfaction for the passenger remains key to customer and brand loyalty, so the cabin interiors industry has an unusual task of balancing luxury and cost-efficiency. Touching on common pain points of the downsizing process, Rowan continues:
“In some scenarios, it is possible to fit a slightly wider seat in a narrowbody, depending on the layout, but the overall look and feel must be consistent. The galley, however, is a potential pain point, with less space to work in over potentially longer distances as airlines deliver multiple meal services. Good design can unlock the potential in this space, but also as part of our Route to Zero we see digital as another means of reducing weight through pre-ordering that ensures that only the food and beverages selected are brought onboard.”
As leaders in aviation, transport, product and environment design, PriestmanGoode continues to dominate in optimising limited spaces, while ensuring passenger experience remains at the forefront. Its work supporting Airbus with its Airspace cabin, for example, focusses entirely on creating open spaces, giving an immediate first impression enhanced by lighting and seating options.
“[Our] specialist skill in optimising limited spaces have been used in projects for many airlines, but also for the airframe manufacturers,” Rowan explained. “We start each project with a discovery phase – or at least, we highly recommend it. Here, the investment of time in gathering insights and identifying barriers and pain points is vital to drive improvements and build interiors around people, and their needs today and into the future.”
Luca Vetica, CEO of Aviointerios SpA, echoes the view that the industry has a “considerable challenge” adapting to the needs of long-haul passengers. He said: “Historically, narrowbody airliners have been used for short- and medium-haul flights, […] but technological advances are making it possible to fly [them] longer distances.
“The fuel efficiency and smaller capacity make these aircraft a pervasive tool for long-haul flights to secondary airports with less demand. We have to keep that in mind when designing new seats for narrowbodies because we have to make sure that the passenger experience would always be pleasant.”
Putting passengers first
A niche yet significant challenge the cabin interiors industry faces is in business class travel. Rowan highlights how passengers, who expect a certain level of space and luxury on their journey, are unlikely to compromise. She explained: “Making the business class experience as comfortable and spacious on narrowbody compared to widebody is particularly challenging. Obviously, there’s not as much space to integrate features or try different layout options – it tends to be herringbone. We believe that there’s more to discover in terms of reaching an optimal layout in the cabin.
“Progress in ensuring that experiences onboard are fully inclusive is shifting from just meeting regulations, to a real desire to do the right thing. This is easier with more space on a widebody but will need to be consistent across aircraft types. Overall, we embrace the differences and enjoy the challenge to deliver something new on every project.”
Another challenge posed comes in light of a number of incidents involving airlines failing to accommodate passengers travelling with disabilities. Take paraplegic British TV presenter, Sophie Morgan, who was left stranded when her wheelchair was destroyed during a flight between Los Angeles and London.
Christopher Wood MBE, disability lobbyist and campaigner, aviation accessibility consultant, and Founder of Flying Disabled, will host a talk onRevolutionising air travel for passengers with reduced mobilityat Passenger Experience Conference (PEC). He too says there is “much evidence that air travel is way behind other forms of transport with accessibility and inclusion” and that changing the cabin for greater accessibility “is a broad spectrum.”
He went on: “I always feel that innovation could do more – this might be the trigger. But we do know that the rules of engagement in aviation are different. This is a pressurised cabin, flying at 500 miles per hour, 30,000 feet in the air. We have to consider everybody’s safety, and that word – safety – is something we have not, and will not, deviate from.”
While the move to narrowbody aircraft might appear counter-intuitive when it comes to improving accessibility, Rowan stresses accessibility is a “major topic of focus” in the [PriestmanGoode] studio. “We stand for empathy, respect and inclusivity,” she said.
“Our work on Air 4 All alongside Flying Disabled and SWS Certification is a demonstration of our commitment to make a passenger experience inclusive to all. The system aims to revolutionise air travel for passengers with reduced mobility by allowing powered wheelchair users to remain in their own wheelchairs for the entire journey.
“Whilst we progress with the development of Air 4 All, we are led by the needs of the wheelchair user community and they have highlighted how business class suites with doors and herringbone configurations can create barriers, especially for those transferring from a wheelchair to an aircraft seat. So, these requirements and accessible lavatories are important considerations in future iterations of narrowbody layouts.”
Despite the challenges airlines and the supply chain face in adapting current operations to a ‘slimmed down’ model, the uptake of narrowbody designed aircraft by leading airlines is showing no signs of slowing down. While the pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the aviation industry, it found its feet in long-haul, narrowbody designs that kill two birds with one stone: offering cost savings and helping to reach net zero targets.
Learn more about narrowbody possibilities and products showcased at Aircraft Interiors Expo, register below.
Connectivity, accessibility and sustainability will be among the topics up for discussion at this year’s CabinSpace Live when it returns to Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX). Running from 6-8 June 2023, the dedicated theatre will feature leading figures from the aircraft interiors industry discussing the cabin of tomorrow and beyond.
Enabling mile-high connectivity
Demand for mile-high connectivity has increased year-on-year, climbing the list of passenger expectations within the cabin. According to Inmarsat’s annual passenger survey report, 77% said that inflight Wi-Fi is important to them – an increase of 40% since 2018. For airlines, offering seamless connectivity has fast become an important part of their value proposition, with 82% of passengers confirming they would rebook with an airline that offered quality inflight Wi-Fi – rising to 92% for business travellers and 90% for parents with children aged under 18.
Helping attendees understand the complexities of connectivity onboard, this year’s CabinSpace Live programme will feature a number of invaluable sessions. Among the speakers confirmed this year, Daniel Welch, Senior Research Consultant at Valour Consulting, will lead a discussion on the technology behind the journey, and the key factors to achieve the ‘ultimate connection’ onboard. He will be joined by William Milroy, Chairman and CTO of ThinKom Solutions, and David Coiley, Regional Vice President (Asia Pacific), Inmarsat.
Exploring the wider implications of offering free connectivity and better in-seat power onboard, Corinne Streichert, Founder of IFECtiv, will challenge attendees to think about how connectivity enables the passenger experience.
The panel session will see industry leaders including Tal Kalderon, Head of Inflight Entertainment & Connectivity, EL AL Israel Airlines, Neale Faulkner, Regional Vice President, Inmarsat Aviation, and Mark Reed, Director of Business Development, North America, IFPL Group assess the benefits, helping attendees understand how they outweigh the associated costs.
Discussions on connectivity will set the scene for Freelance Aviation Journalist,Gordon Smith to lead a session on high-tech ancillaries, and how to tailor onboard retail to help airlines sell more. He will highlight how these solutions offer limitless revenue opportunities and explore the role of passenger engagement to make buying onboard more appealing and accessible for all.
Responding to passenger needs
Accessibility will be a headline topic at this year’s Passenger Experience Conference, which opens on 5 June, the day before AIX opens. Continuing the discussion in the CabinSpace Live theatre, Christopher Wood MBE, Founder of Flying Disabled, will explore the diversity of passenger needs, focusing on age, physical and behavioural conditions. He will be joined by Walt Fluharty, a board member for All Wheels Up, as they reflect on the pace of change and innovation, and how operators can meet both existing and emerging needs.
Embracing sustainability in the cabin
Another topic set to dominate discussions across the Passenger Experience Conference and CabinSpace Live Theatre will be sustainability. Satu Dahl, Editor of Inflight Magazine, will be among the speakers touching upon the role of sustainability in cabin design, specifically addressing aircraft seating. The session will consider sustainability as one of the key factors when choosing aircraft seating, along with comfort, safety, ergonomics and cost.
Bundesverband der Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtindustrie (BDLI) – the German Aerospace Industries Association will take to the stage to present its recent findings on the role of the cabin in sustainable aviation. Representing the voice of the German aerospace industry, the association will share insights on the path to climate-neutral flying, with exclusive extracts from its latest research.
Celebrating award-worthy innovations
Celebrating the only international awards for excellence in aircraft interior innovation, winners of all seven categories at this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards will present their winning concepts in the CabinSpace Live Theatre.
The winners, which will be announced at a gala dinner on the evening of 6 June, will present their concepts in person the day after the winners are announced, offering a deep dive into the motivation behind their product designs, and the innovation and ingenuity which helped them scoop one of the industry’s most prestigious awards.
Getting fleets back in service
Highlighting the changing landscape of retrofit programmes, and addressing if turnkey solutions are the answer, Ahmad Rajei, Sr. Director, Design, Engineering and Innovation at Etihad Airways Engineering, and Nina Schulz, Managing Director of the Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance, will reflect on how the retrofit market has changed since the pandemic.
Together they will examine the shift from fully integrated solutions to individualised purchasing strategies and what this means for the industry, as well as offering advice on how businesses can best adapt to this change.
Also joining the CabinSpace Live line-up, Holly Ballantine, Key Account Manager EMEA (Aerospace) at Cirium, will examine how post-pandemic traffic recovery is driving demand for new and reactivated passenger aircraft. Holly will be joined by Henk Ombelet, Head of Advisory Operations at Cirium, and Gary Weissel, Managing Officer of Tronos Aviation Consulting, who will deliver valuable market outlook presentations. Culminating in a panel discussion, the session will explore the challenges facing the sector, from retrofitting cabin equipment to ongoing supply chain constraints.
Polly Magraw, Event Director, of Aircraft Interiors Expo, commented:
“CabinSpace Live promises yet another year of insightful and timely discussions to help attendees elevate their business strategies. The speakers’ experience and expertise leave me with no doubt that every attendee will leave with a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.
From a wider market outlook to deep dives into sustainability, accessibility, and the role of connectivity, we look forward to welcoming the industry back to AIX to learn how to shape the future of the passenger experience.”
To register visit the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) click the button below:
AirFi is a global leader in portable IFE and inflight retail technology for airlines. Having joined us before for our exhibitor interview series, AIX sat down with founder and CEO, Job Heimerikx to discuss how AirFi’s inflight connectivity solutions can contribute to ancillary revenue, passenger experience personalisation and even a greener future for the airline industry.
How have airlines’ IFEC offerings changed in the past 5 to 10 years?
“If you look at how the industry has evolved over the last decade, you’ll notice at first there were only expensive in-seat solutions that were exclusively accessible to bigger, wealthier airlines.
Back in 2014, we (AirFi) launched a portable inflight entertainment (IFE) solution. It got a lot of traction because it made it possible for competitors — smaller airlines with less aircraft and less buying power — to provide IFE to passengers.
At the same time, low-cost carriers (LCCs) were becoming more and more prevalent, so the focus on ancillary sales was magnified. As a result, we’ve seen portable IFE systems being used to boost ancillary revenues. This is a trend that has been rapidly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Those on longer flights really want to stay connected, which is something that airlines are increasingly trying to cater to.”
Job Heimerikx, CEO and Founder, AirFi
We’ve brought these two things together in one cabin innovation that allows passengers to purchase goods and services and to enjoy IFE content, all while relieving crew from unnecessary adminstrative tasks.
Finally, in the past few years, enabling third parties to bring more eCommerce-like offerings to the aircraft via seatback or portable solutions has been a big trend. We’ve captured that in one phrase, which emphasizes the experience AirFi hopes to deliver, that of the ‘Mall in the Sky’.”
How have we seen passengers’ expectations for connectivity and entertainment offerings on board change in that same time period?
“During the same period, we’ve seen passengers come to expect to communicate with their peers and loved ones, wherever and whenever. We’ve seen the rise of WhatsApp and iMessaging and all these things that have exploded in the last 5 to 10 years, and now it feels like they’ve been there forever. They’re almost a basic human need.
“Simply offering connectivity as a paid service is not a compelling business case for an airline.”
Job Heimerikx, CEO and Founder, AirFi
Now if we translate that to the aircraft, into the cabin, then having IFE content is a great benefit for short-haul passengers, but those on longer flights really want to stay connected, which is something that airlines are increasingly trying to cater to.
We’re trying to do the same thing with our AirFi LEO product. Airlines have been giving away free messaging for the first half hour or first hour of a flight to incentivise people to buy a connectivity package that allows them to browse the web and send emails.
But actually the messaging itself is primarily what passengers want to do, the same as they would at home. That’s the biggest change we’ve seen in the last 10 years.”
How can connectivity on board play a role in supporting airline efforts to deliver ancillary revenue and more efficient onboard service operations?
“There are big GEO satellite providers as well as operators like Air Canada that openly claim simply offering connectivityas a paid service is not a compelling business case for an airline.
Additional functions are required in order to have a positive business case. The connectivity needs to boost or support cabin services and even flight deck services to really generate profit from installing an antenna on top of the aircraft.
At AiFi, we see connectivity supporting cabin operations from a commercial standpoint by providing payment validations and eliminating fraud, as well as enabling third parties to have eCommerce services running on the onboard server platform.
From an operational standpoint, we see an enormous demand for ACARS over IP (AoIP) synchronisation of electronic flight bags. Connectivity also enables crew to report inventory information for the replenishment of food and duty-free stock; provide passengers with updates on connecting flights; and log unruly passenger behaviour or maintenance issues such as broken seats.
These things shorten turnaround times, and every five minutes that an airline gains saves a significant amount of cash.”
Will we see a complete IFEC paradigm shift in the next 10-20 years?
“Yes. I hope these functionalities and this kind of technology will contribute to a greener future for airlines.
It’s not very fuel efficient to have a big antenna on top of an aircraft, because it increases drag by about 4%. This issue is negated by our LEO solution, which is located in the aircraft windows. It’s also more efficient to opt for air to ground solutions, which only require a very small tip antenna on the bottom of the aircraft.
In my opinion, we should very much aim for technology that contributes not only to the passenger experience, but that significantly reduces weight in the cabin and, most importantly for antenna systems and technology, seriously reduces drag.”
Besides thinking green and lightweighting, do you see any other IFEC trends in the industry?
Yes – there’s a huge amount of waste going on within the industry. If you have buy-on-board catering, the perishable items at the end of the day contribute to a significant amount of food waste, which can be reduced quite easily.
The solutions we’re now bringing to the market, again with our ‘Mall in the Sky’ approach, include a system that takes note of the fact it’s the last flight of the day, for example. It looks at both inventory and passenger demand to see whether to reduce the price of, say, a sandwich.
“Connectivity needs to boost or support cabin services and even flight deck services to really generate profit from installing an antenna on top of the aircraft.”
Job Heimerikx, CEO and Founder, AirFi
It’s cheaper to sell a $10 sandwich for $1.00 on the last flight than to dispose of it in a proper manner. Waste reduction is a trend within catering that’s been around for a while, and it helps with reducing the aircraft weight too.
During the pandemic, there was some legislation that said paper menus weren’t allowed anymore, they had to be digital. That’s gone again now, but at least by digitising inflight magazines, our technology has eliminated “bring on board” newspapers.
All these little functionalities significantly reduce the use (and waste of) paper within the cabin space.”
How do you see IFEC offerings differing classes and across airlines?
“Going from business class to economy class; that kind of split is quite simple. AirFi, and also others, can provide different offerings to different travel classes. We have apps to do that, where we provide voucher codes if economy class passengers need to pay for certain goods.
We can also bypass the paywall for business class passengers. That’s all existing technology.
“We should very much aim for technology that really contributes, not only to passenger experience, but that really reduces weight significantly.”
Job Heimerikx, CEO and Founder, AirFi
One of the bigger trends we’re looking at is not so much how to differentiate betweenclasses, but how to differentiate between every single passenger. To make sure that, both from a commercial standpoint as well as from an entertainment and product offering standpoint, you create an environment that is relevant to the traveller.
A very simple explanation example would be:
Are you a leisure or business flyer?
Are you going to a meeting or returning from a meeting?
Are you embarking onyour holiday or coming back from your holiday?
These are all different mindsets that require different offers and different content. With the filter of business class versus economy class on top, you can get much more relevant information to an individual or group of individuals.
Then you can share that information between individuals, like, “Other people of similar interests are looking at this movie , would you be interested in watching it?’ Or, “You’re looking at this product, can we also interest you in this product?” That kind of technology is now evolving very rapidly.”
Take your place at AIX, the latest world’s leading marketplace for airlines and the supply chain to meet exhibitors like AirFi with solutions to enable the cabin concepts of the future.
ABC INTERNATIONAL is an EASA Approved Design Organization (EASA.21J.529) able to manage and approve any minor/major modification to aircraft cabin Interiors and external livery by means of Engineering Order/Service Bulletin or STC
As part of our exhibitor interviews series, AIX sat down with ABC INTERNATIONAL’S Chief Commercial Officer, Rodolfo Baldascino to understand how the company is helping their customers to “enhance their aircraft cabin, optimise space on board and ultimately, improve the passenger experience”.
“All of our industry is concentrated at AIX in these few days once a year. You won’t find the same “cocktail” in any other place in the world”.
Rodolfo Baldascino, Chief Commercial Officer, ABC INTERNATIONAL
Can you introduce yourself, your company, and your products and services to us?
“I am Rodolfo Baldascino, Chief Commercial Officer at ABC International. I have spent almost my entire career within the aviation industry and the last eighteen years in aircraft cabin interiors. I love this world and I enjoy working in this industry, dealing with planes daily and having the opportunity to meet and work with lots of great professionals from all around the world.
For me, this is a unique value that this job offers me; it is a privilege to be part of this industry.
And ABC INTERNATIONAL is my baby. The company was born approximately fifteen years ago but is still promising and fast-growing. We look after cabin modifications and cabin revamping by helping our customers to enhance their aircraft cabin, optimise space on board and ultimately, improve the passenger experience.
As an approved DOA (Part21J) we can approve several modifications under our privileges, and we are extending continuously the number of STCs we are obtaining from EASA on commercial aircraft platforms such as the A320 or the B737”.
What will you be showcasing at AIX 2023?
“We will present our entire range of products and services for cabin modifications such as soft furnishings, small monuments including stowages and partitions and many other customised solutions.
However, we are also well known in this industry as the cabin branding specialist, and we are very proud to display branding elements, logos and signs that we have developed for our wide customer base spanning years of successful projects delivered. This year we will add ITA Airways, LATAM and Air France”.
What innovations or trends are you anticipating in the aviation and interiors industry this year?
“Our dynamic MCD for A320 is registering remarkable success among our customers and we are delivering many units to both airlines and lessors. We will also showcase new products such as a customised and newly designed seat track cover for Embraer jet family aircraft and different models of rigid life-vest boxes that have been fully designed, certified and approved in compliance with the latest and extremely stringent FAA requirements.
A rigid box appears to be an easy seat component to create but we have developed a very sophisticated design exercise in cooperation with our seat OEMs’ customers to achieve a proven design able to fulfil their requirements.
We mainly supply services, so we speak of performance, and we have to deliver tangible added value to our customers to be successful. Often, it is not a matter of innovative products but innovative ways to give them what they need, when and as they need it.
This is what I call “process innovation”. To be able to do that ABC INTERNATIONAL which is a DOA — a design and engineering company without internal manufacturing capacity — has, in the last few years, equipped itself to be able to become a real integrator of products and services.
ABC INTERNATIONAL’s offering is integrated into more or less complex packages to be delivered to final customers (namely small and medium-sized airlines and lessors). The aim is to relieve them and make their process pertaining to aircraft cabin modification and revamping across their entire value chain easier. That is how we deliver added value.
“AIX is the perfect place for a “first appointment”.
Rodolfo Baldascino, Chief Commercial Officer, ABC INTERNATIONAL
To be able to do that we have strongly invested not only in design and engineering skills but in supply chain ability and our own warehouse of raw materials. We are able to guarantee fully integrated solutions for our customers delivered with competitive lead times and with the right value for money”.
What are looking forward to seeing/experiencing again at AIX and why?
“That’s very simple: all of our industry is concentrated at AIX in these few days once a year. Customers, suppliers, partners, other stakeholders and also all your competitors are there. You won’t find the same “cocktail” in any other place in the world. This allows you to maximise the experience and be exposed to many stimuli and new opportunities.
The only limit, despite efforts to be well organised and have a large delegation attending the event, is the inability to catch all the potential opportunities you see there!”
Why are you coming back to AIX? Can you share any notable experiences or customers that you’ve gained during the show?
“Participating at AIX, as I have done for many years, is all about opportunities to meet the right people and initiate the right relationships that can bring you new business in the future. Sometimes, I meet people at AIX who contact me after several months or even more than one year.
In other cases, AIX is the opportunity to meet for the first time with other potential customers you were already talking to before but hadn’t met in person yet. AIX is the perfect place for a “first appointment” because your company wears its best dress! It helps to catch customers’ interest and secure new opportunities”.
Would you recommend AIX to other companies? Please share why.
“Of course! Afterwards, you will identify how important it is and it will be much easier to spend/invest that money for the next year.”
Register today for AIX to join the main marketplace for airlines and the supply chain to meet.
AIX – taking place in Hamburg from 6-8 June – has released its Diversity in Aviationreport, celebrating the industry’s progress and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DE&I) initiatives.
Featuring insights from some of the world’s leading airlines and suppliers, including JetBlue, United Airlines, British Airways, Airbus, and Virgin Atlantic, the report explores the most pertinent sociopolitical topics facing the industry today. Split into five chapters, Diversity in Aviation delves into disability, female leadership, race and ethnicity, self-expression, and the business case for diversity.
One of the biggest challenges facing the commercial airline sector is accessibility. More than half (56%) of passengers living with a disability find flying and using airports difficult and airlines are investing heavily to make flying more accessible to all.
However, Christopher Wood MBE, disability lobbyist and founder of Flying Disabled, who contributes to the report, has suggested that air travel is “behind other forms of transport with accessibility and inclusion”. Ahead of this year’s Passenger Experience Conference on 5 June – where Wood will talk about revolutionising air travel for passengers with reduced mobility – the report analyses what airlines have implemented and how they are innovating the cabin for all passengers.
Having released its Women in Aviation campaign earlier this year, AIX’s report further explores gender equality and female leadership, citing a poll that revealed 63% of women are put off a career as a professional airline pilot – for reasons including a lack of visible role models and being told it was a ‘man’s job’. Under the surmise that ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’, the report concludes the industry must improve visibility of female leaders both at the top and in broader roles to achieve gender equality and instigate wider cultural change.
Following an all-Black British Airways cabin crew operating a flight for the very first time, the report also reviews how airlines around the world are implementing racially diverse and inclusive cultures. A spokesperson for the UK’s flag carrier said: “As part of our BA Better World strategy, we’re creating inclusion and diversity programmes, and building partnerships with groups like Fantasy Wings to help break down barriers and ensure underrepresented groups can access the exciting opportunities available within the aviation industry.”
The report goes on to explore self-expression in the cabin, a prominent topic in an industry historically known for its firm dress codes. A number of aviation professionals discuss the ways airlines are allowing cabin and ground crew to express their identities freely. Estelle Hollingsworth, Chief People Officer of Virgin Atlantic – a trailblazer in this space, said: “Many people use tattoos to express their unique identities and our customer-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be excluded from doing so if they choose”. The chapter also reviews the policies of other major airlines that are helping transform the sector.
Concluding the report is an evaluation of the business case for diversity, exploring how it can boost an organisation’s customer engagement, marketplace reputation, talent acquisition, and profitability. Citing research from McKinsey & Co. that finds companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to score above-average profitability than other quartiles, the chapter highlights how airlines can implement a D&I strategy that drives real value and performance.
Commenting on the AIX Diversity in Aviation report, Polly Magraw, Event Director, Aircraft Interiors Expo, said:
“The aviation industry is one of the most globalised, international industries, and it’s vital that it is reflective of the modern world. Ahead of this year’s AIX event, where a large number of suppliers will be showcasing solutions to make the cabin more inclusive, this report takes a broad look at the challenges the industry has faced and what it has achieved already.
We hope that the report can act as the keystone on which the industry can continue to work towards creating a fully diverse, inclusive workforce with equal opportunities for all.”
The AIX team sat down with William (Bill) Milroy, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer at ThinKom Solutions. Bill started ThinKom with his co-founders back in 2000 with the goal of developing a new breed of antenna access solutions for the broadband wireless communication market.
We asked him how the in flight connectivity and entertainment landscape had changed in this time, and what the industry can expect in the future.
How have airlines in flight connectivity offerings changed in the past five to 10 years?
“I think it’s been pretty dramatic. I think when we entered that period 10 years ago, air-to-ground (ATG) was the primary, if not the sole, way of getting two-way internet access on planes. And at that point I think it was a novelty and it had that cool factor – that:
“Wow, I’m not disconnected from the internet, I can actually text, I can do a little bit of internet browsing.
It’s a little bit slow, but I’m OK with that because I’m on an airplane and I’m at 40,000 feet and it’s pretty amazing. It’s kind of expensive, but that’s ok because I’m doing some legitimate business on this.”
I think that’s where we entered 10 years ago, but as connectivity has become more ubiquitous in our lives now, expectations have risen quite a bit. And so air-to-ground services, although some of them are still available, have really been stressed.”
And how have passenger expectations changed in that time?
Now the expectation is to have that “in office” or “at home” experience – to be able to stream entertainment; to be able to do legitimate and productive office work.
That has gone from a novelty to an expectation. And the onus is on all the different hardware, software and media companies that are going to be at AIX, including ThinKom, to make that happen.
“I believe that this multi-orbit (meaning NGSO and GSO and multi constellation) is indeed the real deal.”
Bill Milroy, Chairman and CTO, ThinKom Solutions, Inc.
And it can be a little bit confusing to airlines when making those choices. The airlines at AIX are really the rock stars, the most important folks walking around and they have to make those decisions on:
● who do I choose?
● what service do I choose?
● what’s important?
● how much does it cost?
So we try to make that decision as easy as possible. And in the case of ThinKom, we offer airline terminal options that are multi-orbit; multi-constellation. So we try to make that choice easy in that if you pick a ThinKom product, you are going to be able to use a whole myriad of different connectivity options now and in the future. And I think that’s where everyone is trying to move to.”
“It’s a very big show – really, the biggest show of the year. And we’re very excited to be there.”
Bill Milroy, Chairman and CTO, ThinKom Solutions, Inc.
What are airlines and suppliers doing to respond to these expectations and changes?
“They are looking to go into multi-orbit and multi-constellation. So, the ability to be able to work on geosynchronous satellites – the ones that have been around for a while and will continue to be in Ku-band and Ka-band varieties offered by half a dozen different constellation providers – remains critical.
Those are very important and in some cases the preferred way of getting large amounts of data down to the aircraft. However, we’re hearing a lot about the non-geosynchronous satellite – the multi orbit, meaning the NGSO (non-geostationary) orbit, and some of those well known companies.
OneWeb, Starlink, Kuiper will be coming online soon, and there’s Telesat. These offer an alternative way of bringing connectivity to the aircraft. And I believe that this multi-orbit (meaning NGSO and GSO and multi constellation) is indeed the real deal.
I don’t think, in my personal opinion, that many mainline airline are willing at this point to make a LEO (low Earth orbit)-only connection and certainly not to only one particular provider.
“Our products are recognised as having the highest operational efficiency – bringing the most amount of data using the least amount of expensive or potentially expensive satellite resources.“
Bill Milroy, Chairman and CTO, ThinKom Solutions, Inc.
Nor, I think, are they any longer happy with a GEO-only solution. They are looking for solutions that can work on both types of constellations. I think that’s a new thing and is probably going to be one of the major IFC topics that we’ll be addressing AIX.
And another dimension is the aircraft themselves. Traditionally, widebody aircraft have been the top of the heap in IFC and IFEC capabilities. And to some extent, I think particularly for IFE, that will continue just because of the nature of longer trips. And narrowbody aircraft have also been a kind of a bread and butter area for IFC.
But generally regional jets, smaller jets, Embraers, CRJs – they have been disadvantaged. A lot of that has to do with the size of the aircraft, the equipment, limitations on size, weight and volume of the equipment that can be put on the aircraft.
On regional jets, we’ll be looking at how to provide that same IFC service that’s currently available on widebody and mostly available on narrowbody, but extending that down to the smaller fuselage of regional jets.
As the airlines themselves make regional jets a larger part of their hub structure, it’s very important that a customer (to earn and keep their loyalty) has the same IFC experience on a widebody, on a narrowbody, and on regional jets.
Passengers are going to be spending time, potentially, on a trip on all three types of that particular airline’s aircraft. And that they’re going to expect (and airlines want to follow through on) that same IFC experience; a homogeneous experience in the near near future.”
“Rather than outfitting planes in the retrofit market, the preference is moving towards having equipment put on the planes when they’re delivered.”
Bill Milroy, Chairman and CTO, ThinKom Solutions, Inc.
How can connectivity on board play a role in supporting airlines’ efforts to deliver ancillary revenue?
“We’re really a means to that end. We’re not the end itself, being a hardware provider, but I think what’s really important here is to provide these services. At ThinKom, we’ve always been an industry leader, if you will, in OpEx.
Our products are recognised as having the highest operational efficiency – bringing the most amount of data using the least amount of expensive or potentially expensive satellite resources.
And I think that trend is going to become more important. I think it’s going to become increasingly appreciated as we move to these all-for-free models, as per the expectations of the passengers; but the airlines are the ones we’ll be paying for it.
Even more so, they are going to be scrutinising the operational expenses of providing these “free services” for passengers.
As expectations rise the impact of not meeting those expectations is going to become larger.”
What does the future of IFC look like?
“The airlines would very much prefer to have full agnostic capability not only to pick between constellations, but to recompete contracts to get the best cost per data rate. Likewise, with the equipment on the plane, we are moving from a retrofit market now to a line fit market.
So rather than outfitting planes in the retrofit market, the preference is moving towards having equipment put on the planes when they’re delivered from Airbus or Boeing or Embraer.
That’s an area that ThinKom and all the different hardware suppliers are working very hard on. Thinkom has already been designated by Airbus as the Ka-band antenna for the High Bandwidth Connectivity (HBCplus) line fit program.
Meaning, if you want to buy an Airbus aircraft and you want Ka-type service then Airbus will sell you the ThinKom antenna. So that’s great, we love to have that position.”
How can ThinKom’s low profile antennas help airlines in their journey towards sustainability?
“Every little bit helps in this area. Let’s take the drag of a large inefficient radome on the top of the fuselage as compared to a lower profile radome. Less drag is better because it means less fuel consumption; less carbon emissions. So we’re doing our part in that area. The name of our company is ThinKom and the thin part alludes to the size of our products.
For the same amount of throughput for the same amount of capability, our products are generally not only lower profile but also smaller in fuselage footprint.
They check the boxes on the parts that all of us can play in making the airline industry a more green and, hopefully, eventually a carbon neutral industry.”
ThinKom at AIX 2023
“We are going to be showing our new Ka2517plus product at our exhibit which is a hybrid of two separate antennas in a single installation. It combines a ThinKom VICTS phased array and a proprietary LEO-only ESA bringing the highly coveted ‘trifecta’ capability of IFC (multi-constellation, multi-beam, and multi-band).
By offering simultaneous GEO/NGSO operation, the passenger experience will be heightened to that of a home office, as the bulk of the high capacity data is managed over the GEO link and the latency sensitive traffic is managed over the LEO link.
We will also be exhibiting the Ka1717, our new regional jet product and expect the 2Ku system will be shown at the Intelsat booth. I always think that a measure of success isn’t the amount of hardware you have in your exhibit, but rather the amount of your hardware that’s in other people’s exhibits.
And so without giving away anything, I believe the ThinKom hardware will be on display at four other people’s exhibits at AIX.
It’s a very big show – really, the biggest show of the year. And we’re very excited to be there in Germany in June.”
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CELSO’s extensive knowledge of cellular materials, transformation machinery and technical experience allows the company to offer aircraft foam solutions across a variety of classes and fleets.
As part of our exhibitor interviews series, AIX sat down with CELSO’s Business Development Manager, Aurélien Timbre to discuss how the company’s cellular foam products are used for much more than just seating in the aeronautical market.
Can you introduce yourself, your company, and your products to us?
“I am Aurélien Timbre, CELSO’s business development manager. CELSO is a family-owned industrial company (of which I am the 5th generation) based near Toulouse in France that specialises in the transformation of flexible cellular materials (foams) for technical applications in various sectors, including aircraft cabin interiors.
For nearly 30 years, CELSO has been involved in the aeronautical business, particularly in the design and manufacture of seat cushions (seat pan, backrest, headrest, leg rest & armrest). Our in-depth knowledge of cellular materials, our processing tools and our technical experience enables us to offer each of our customers a foam solution that’s adapted to their needs.
“All the major players, decision makers and innovators meet and share news and trends during this event.”
Aurélien Timbre, CELSO
CELSO produces cockpit seats, notably for the entire Airbus family and also for Boeing. In addition, we manufacture seats/armchairs/benches for passenger seats (Business, First Class) for commercial aviation, private aviation (aeroplanes and helicopters) and also for military aircraft. We also provide technical solutions including weight reduction, comfort improvement, optimisation of the development cycle and integration of solutions.
In the aeronautical sector, CELSO does not limit the use of its foams to seats; we also produce window seals and customised cellular foam protection for sensitive parts (such as turboprop blades).
CELSO is well-known by its customers for meeting the technical requirements, specific standards, and tests of the aeronautical sector, thanks to our materials characterisation laboratory and our design and engineering office.”
“Aircraft Interiors Expo […] is the aeronautical event of the year for us in terms of knowledge exchange.”
Aurélien Timbre, CELSO
What will you be showcasing at AIX 2023?
During the 2023 edition of AIX, we will present several cushions, window-shades, and finished products made by our upholstery workshop. We particularly want to show our know-how in terms of transformations, complexing/assembling of cellular materials and high quality upholstery finishes for various aeronautical applications.
What innovations or trends are you anticipating in the aviation and interiors industry this year?
“We know that passenger comfort is an important issue for the aviation industry, so we are always on the lookout for new developments and have an R&D department that works on future foam solutions to improve the passenger (and pilot) experience.”
What are looking forward to experiencing again at AIX and why?
“We have been exhibiting at Aircraft Interiors Expo since the beginning, and over the years we have found that it is the aeronautical event of the year for us in terms of knowledge exchange on interior topics. During these 3 days, we have the opportunity to meet most of our customers in this market and through this we collaborate with almost all the seat manufacturers.”
Would you recommend AIX to other companies? Please share why.
“Due to our experience in the aircraft interiors market and our long history as an exhibitor at AIX, we can only strongly recommend that companies offering solutions for this market attend this 3-day meeting of industry professionals. All the major players, decision makers and innovators meet and share news and trends during this event.”
Register for Aircraft Interiors Expo today to join the world’s leading marketplace for airlines and the supply chain to meet.
9T Labs has developed a new design & manufacturing standard allowing their customers to produce strong, lightweight, sustainable parts with continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastics (CFRTP). Having raised $17M Series A funding, 9T Labs is commercialising its Red Series® Additive Fusion Technology (AFT) – a seamless solution including software tools, additive manufacturing and moulding equipment .
AIX sat down with Director of Business Development, Yannick Willemin and Sales Manager, Hannes Schütte to discuss how 9T Labs are helping to make “aerospace parts strong, lightweight and sustainable like never before”.
9T Labs, headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland, was founded in 2018 by a team of pioneers, passionate about bringing the next generation of high-performance manufacturing. 9T Labs helps mobility OEMs reach climate neutral products by introducing the new design & manufacturing standard for strong parts at lowest weight, lower cost and zero waste.
This standard, named Red Series® Additive Fusion Technology (AFT), is an all-in-one solution which is particularly attractive to help customers reduce their carbon footprint with environmentally friendly materials & processes that eliminate waste and minimise use of resources.
9T Labs’ software as a service suite, powered by integrated FEA simulation tools, allows quick turnaround of highly optimized designs. In combination with innovative additive manufacturing equipment and advanced post processing technology, it gives producing companies the needed tools to start their production in small batches and scale it up in no time. With this end-to-end process, industrial users will be able to massively reduce their time-to-market, while limiting the financial risk they take.
The company has also recently partnered in a new collaboration with Purdue University to research and test the potential of manufacturing structural aerospace composite applications at scale with 9T Labs’ Additive Fusion Technology (AFT).
The unique hybrid solution, which combines high-resolution additive manufacturing with the speed of bulk moulding compound (BMC) to automate manufacturing, offers a cost competitive option versus the traditional production of aluminium aerospace parts.
Tell us about your company and the products you provide
“We are an innovative company founded in 2018. It is a spin off from ETH Zurich which gives us our engineering background. We are now 65 full time employees, based mainly in Zurich, with an office in Boston as well.
Our focus is, let’s say, software and hardware development to produce or to allow the production of very light parts. So, composite parts which combine strength and lightweight properties, for serial part applications.
We use additive manufacturing as 3D printing in one step of our process, but we are not a typical 3d printing company looking for more maintenance or one-off parts. Our AFT solution is meant to produce serial parts in volumes between thousand and hundred-thousand parts/year.
The first step is always using our fibrify design software in order to develop the part in a digital environment through simulation. Then we print the validated part. This pre-form is then brought into post processes to make very strong parts with the necessary properties in high volumes.”
How did 9T Labs enter the aerospace market?
9T Labs’ innovative 3D-fabricated parts have already been assessed in the transportation, medical/surgical and robotics industries, among others.
“Obviously, if you are into lightweight and strong parts, aerospace is a very good fit. That’s where you make the highest impact. If you bring lighter parts…that’s what all aircraft manufacturers are looking for – to have very high performance; as light as possible. However, the solution must also be cost-competitive. So that’s, say, a very easy fit for AFT from the marketing perspective.”
What advice would you give to a company looking to secure their first airline listing?
“We are really looking into speaking opportunities just to be able, in a quick manner, to present ourselves and what we do. Sometimes you are just a booth away from a potential customer and everybody’s busy with visitors and at the end you may be missing an opportunity.
So, in general, what we try to do is get in touch with those people before the event. Of course, if we can arrange a meeting before we are physically on site, it’s always a plus. On site we all know it’s possible to have an opportunity, but it’s a little bit trickier. You just need to be good at planning your attendance at the show and then to stick to the plan with the entire team.”
What are the most important trends we’re seeing in the aircraft cabins interiors industry?
“Really, for these clients, the number one priority is sustainability i.e. decreasing the energy consumption during the flight. This is where lightweighting has a major impact when looking at the entire lifecycle of the parts. And where AFT offers a demonstrated solution to substitute structural metal parts with composite parts.”
9T Labs’ composite aerospace hinge
“The combination of a zero-waste approach, the possibility to recycle thermoplastics, and the positive impact on part performance being at least 50% lighter than the metal benchmarks makes AFT a very attractive standard of manufacturing.”
How is your business keeping up to date with, and responding to, these trends?
“Well, lightweighting is still the biggest leverage you have in aerospace to be more sustainable. And this is where we really bring a new standard and a new approach to designing parts. That’s why we think this is a perfect spot for us to be in.”
“Traditional composite manufacturing is expensive, wasteful and limited in its geometric freedom, particularly for small-sized applications.” Yannick Willemin
“I mean they [an airline] will not pay a premium just to be sustainable. So, you have to also show that you can guarantee the cost competitiveness. But if you can merge that with sustainability then it’s a no brainer. And that’s what we are trying to prove through certain applications.
Of course, we cannot solve everything. but on some applications, we can really display our point. Now it is about making people aware of our solution. We are a young company; we need to be visible – hence, being physically there.”
9T Labs’ first time exhibiting at AIX
What are you most looking forward to at your first AIX event?
“We’re looking forward to setting up on the first day and getting the chance to pitch ourselves. The network and atmosphere sound a perfect fit – all reference companies, their experts, and the decision makers will be attending.”
How do shows such as AIX help towards getting your product on board?
“Because we are creating a new standard of design and manufacturing, we always need to speak with companies having the design authority on specific applications. So, this means most of the time – the OEMs and major Tier 1 suppliers who really influence what comes into the planes.
Therefore, here we are really targeting these companies. We are already in touch with some of them. At AIX, we are looking to introduce ourselves to additional companies and to grow our networks with the ones we already know.
How are shows like AIX particularly important?
“For us, it’s really critical if we want to scale this process into the market. Ultimately, our design and manufacturing standard is going to be operated within the supply chain of the OEMs. But first, we need the green light of the OEMs.
That’s why we target them first. And secondly, the users of the technology might be tier one and tier two suppliers in the future, once the projects are really advanced. But for now, it only makes sense to work on projects in collaboration with big companies i.e. design authorities, which are more often exhibitors rather than visitors.”
“We’ve chosen to collaborate with 9T Labs because we believe that their development of AFT and their novel hybrid approach is the future of the composite manufacturing industry.” Dr R. Byron Pipes, Professor of Engineering, Purdue University
What are your main objectives for exhibiting at AIX?
“For the last two years, we were pretty opportunistic. We were very broad in picking which markets we were going for. Now we have a very focused approach and aerospace interiors is one of our two focus markets. By exhibiting at AIX, we want to signal that it’s really a strong focus of the company.
We will obviously share some applications in this field that we’re working on and why it makes sense to use this kind of solution — like, what are the benefits? And we will also bring some content into the pitch. Last but not least, the goal here is to attract customers, to generate leads and then move forward on projects.”
AIX sat down with Paul Colley, Chief Technology Officer at Spafax, a leading content service provider for the airline industry to learn how the company is redefining client-facing in-flight entertainment (IFE).
About Paul Colley, Spafax
Paul Colley has been instrumental in revolutionising Spafax’s delivery process in developing and launching innovative products like:
and, most recently, Lens
Based in London, Paul holds a degree in computer science from University College London and brings over 25 years of experience building and delivering software solutions that add value to businesses large and small.
“AIX is crucial for Spafax because it allows us to showcase our latest and greatest innovations.”
Paul Colley, Chief Technology Officer, Spafax
Spafax delivers content technology and media assets at scale for the world’s leading airlines and curates a vast catalogue of global movies, TV, audio and games across every major entertainment market.
Current clients include:
Delta Air Lines
the Lufthansa Group
Singapore Airlines and many others
Spafax provides brands unique access to a global network of a billion passengers across hundreds of touchpoints. The group is headquartered in London with over a dozen offices worldwide.
It’s important to note that this is a client-facing and not a passenger-facing solution – we designed Lens to give airlines a more engaging and visual approach to backend IFE content management than traditional methods like Excel grids.
“AIX is a way to stay ahead in a rapidly evolving aviation and interiors industry.”
Paul Colley, Chief Technology Officer, Spafax
It’s about giving our airline customers a crystal-clear view of their IFE content selection, making it easier to grasp their programming choices, and offering total transparency over content curation.”
What innovations or trends are you anticipating in the aviation and interiors industry this year?
“In response to the challenges posed by the global pandemic, the industry has been making significant strides in optimising supply chains. For example, Spafax has dedicated the past couple of years to enhancing our automation and cloud solutions, implementing artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies. The goal has been to shorten content timelines and achieve cost savings for airlines, which has proven successful.
In the near future, we’re confident that IFEC systems will continue evolving into richer customer experience platforms. This will allow airlines to connect with their passengers more sophisticatedly, offering a better experience that can rival other entertainment platforms.
This will enable airlines to present their brand more immersively during flights and create a more memorable and engaging journey for passengers.
With this in mind, we’ll continue developing new services and products that elevate airlines’ onboard and on-ground experience. It’s essential that our solutions play a leading role in shaping the industry’s future and enhancing the overall travel experience for passengers.”
What are you looking forward to seeing/experiencing again at AIX, and why?
“AIX brings together the full spectrum of suppliers that deliver passenger-centric technology to airlines. It’s an opportunity to see some of our clients face-to-face, discover new ideas, share insights with industry leaders, and stay updated on trends. It also provides a platform to network and connect with key aviation and interiors sector players.”
Can you share any notable experiences or customers you’ve gained at AIX?
“Previous positive experiences drove our decision to return to AIX in the past, where the expo facilitated fruitful conversations, establishing notable partnerships and acquiring new customers.”
“This will enable airlines to […] create a more memorable and engaging journey for passengers.”
Paul Colley, Chief Technology Officer, Spafax
Why is exhibiting at AIX important for you and your company?
“Coming to Hamburg and exhibiting and attending AIX is crucial for Spafax because it allows us to showcase our latest and greatest innovations, such as our new Lens platform, to a global industry audience. It’s a chance to engage with potential clients and partners, demonstrate products and services and, ultimately, maintain a competitive edge in the industry.”
Would you recommend AIX to other companies? Please share why.
“Absolutely, it offers a platform to network, learn about the latest trends, and gain exposure to a global audience. Participating in AIX is a way to stay ahead in a rapidly evolving aviation and interiors industry environment and position your company for growth and success.”
STG Aerospace is an a partner of choice for the Aerospace industry for emergency exit marking and cabin lighting systems. They meet these demands through the application of two core technologies, photoluminescent & LED based lighting solutions.
As part of our exhibitor interviews series, AIX sat down with Kate Williams, Brand Marketing Manager at STG Aerospace to discuss how cabin lighting can positively impact passenger experience onboard.
Could you introduce yourself, your company and your products to us?
“Hi, I’m Kate Williams. I’m the brand marketing manager at STG Aerospace – we are a specialist lighting manufacturer. We specialise in emergency exit marking and cabin lighting systems for the aerospace industry.”
What will you be showcasing at AIX 2023?
“For AIX this year, we will be showcasing a number of things. At last year’s event we launched our universal lighting concept and this year we’re taking that a step further. So we’ll be showcasing the first product to be launched from that universal cabin lighting family.
“Pretty much everybody from within the industry is located at AIX.”
So please come to our stand where we’ll be showcasing The Curve LED flexible light. We’ll also be sharing where we are on our sustainability journey towards a greener future. We’re doing it the STG way – we’re being really rigorous in terms of researching new materials, considering the entire manufacturing process and the complete life of our products. So we’ll be sharing where we are along that journey.”
What innovations or trends are you anticipating in the aviation and interiors industry this year?
“In terms of trends that I anticipate seeing, particularly in the interiors industry, is the continued focus on passenger experience. More and more airlines need to differentiate themselves and they’re doing that through their passenger experience and we can support that from a lighting perspective.
The other key trend we’re seeing is in terms of sustainability, people looking for greener, more sustainable products. So, I anticipate that to continue.”
What are you looking forward to seeing or experiencing again at AIX and why?
“As always, it’s meeting and seeing our customers in person. We always love to do that at STG and it’s a great opportunity to be in front of our customers, understand what their challenges are and showcase our products and services to them.
“Why do we keep coming back to AIX? Well, simply, it’s the place to be for aircraft interiors.”
This year in particular, we’re looking forward to welcoming back more of our China and APAC customers, because we anticipate that there’s going to be a greater contingent from that region, which we’re really looking forward to.”
Why are you coming back to AIX? Can you share any notable experiences or customers that you’ve gained during the show?
“Why do we keep coming back to AIX? Well, simply, it’s the place to be for aircraft interiors. We’re constantly encouraged by the number of customers and influencers from across the industry that we see there.
And that’s why we keep coming back year after year because it’s a great place to speak to our customers, to understand their requirements and to showcase what we can do and how we can support them.”
Why is exhibiting or attending AIX important for your company?
“Well, we’re innovators in aerospace lighting and it’s where our audience is really. All of our contacts, all of our customers, all the industry bodies – pretty much everybody from within the industry is located at AIX.
It’s the place to understand, to learn more about our customers, what’s going on in the industry; but also to showcase what we can do and how we can support them.”
Would you recommend AIX to other companies and if so, why?
“Definitely. Especially if you’re involved in any shape or form in aircraft interiors, it’s the place to be. It’s where all of the OEMs and airlines are; everybody is there. If you’re involved in this industry in any shape or form, you need to be at AIX.”