EVs & Mobility

This article was published on June 29, 2022

6 bizarre airplane interior designs that could change flying forever

These designs will make you rethink flying


6 bizarre airplane interior designs that could change flying forever
Cate Lawrence
Story by

Cate Lawrence

Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart ci Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart cities, and the future of alternative energy sources like electric batteries, solar, and hydrogen.

Long-haul flights are a necessary evil and I was intrigued this week to see Air New Zealand is launching the world’s first sleep pods for economy class travellers. 

This is a rare bit of good news for aviation design. I’m still smarting from Ryanair’s idea to remove toilets from planes and its Skyrider concept, a “standing seat” from the pits of hell. 

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Fortunately, it’s not all bad. There are plenty of people designing airplane interiors with passenger comfort in mind. Here are some of the latest (and greatest) ideas: 

Sleep pods 

Fly Air New Zealand and you get to lie flat in a pod. Image: Air New Zealand

When you fly long-haul, all you want to do is lie flat. And now you can — all without shelling out for tickets you need a mortgage for.

Yes, I’m talking about Air New Zealand’s sleep pods. Each bunk-bed unit has its own mattress, sheets, privacy curtain, USB charging, and ventilation. 

However, the pods are communal, and the passengers can only book a pod for four hours. 

Worse, there are only six pods per plane. A plane flies about 200 passengers, so assuming they service about 24 over several four-hour shifts, there will be 176 other passengers who are mightily pissed off that they didn’t get a booking.

Just wait for the air rage, people. 

Cloud capsule 

The cloud capsule is designed to increase passenger comfort while making the airline more money. 

The pay-extra capsules sit above the outboard aisles and can be used to sleep, relax, or focus on work in a private setting.

Feel the resentment of others as you sleep. Image credit: Toyota Bosoku

So it’s a bit like having people sleeping in an overhead locker. Or you can just lie there and feel the burning resentment of those unfortunate enough to be sitting underneath you. A touch creepy, but it’s not like I’d say no. 

SpaceChiller

SpaceChiller gives you your very own mini bar. Image credit: Collins Aerospace

SpaceChiller by Collins Aerospace is a personal mini-bar requiring half the power of traditional designs. 

SpaceChiller uses advanced heat sinks, initially developed by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), reducing power consumption by up to 50% over alternate thermoelectric systems and can be leveraged across multiple service areas and passenger seats.

I love the idea of not having to ask for a drink at 3 AM when I’m deep into bingeing whatever nonsense the airline has decided I must watch. Bring it on. 

Elevate cabins

aircraft design in luxury surrounds
Luxury you don’t even have at home. Image credit: Teague

Imagine a cabin with natural materials and “floating furniture” attached to wall braces so you can easily store stuff under it. Designed by Teague and NORDAM, the design creates space without removing seat capacity.

The downside, of course, is that you likely need some serious coin to be able to afford to use it, but I can dream.

Chaise Longue Airplane Seat

aircraft design
This prototype design looks a bit like a torture chamber, sorry. Credit: Crystal Cabin Award

You can blame Delft Technical University for this design. It’s the brainchild of graduate student Alejandro Núñez Vicente who told CNN Travel of his goal to “change the economy class seats for the better of humanity, or for all the people that cannot afford to pay for more expensive tickets.” 

Lofty ambition or masochistic design? 

I like the under-storage for those seated above, and I’m short enough that being that close to the ceiling in an upper seat wouldn’t bother me. But I dislike my chance of staying upright when stepping down — especially after a few gin and tonics. 

But while some marvel at Núñez Vicente’s innovation, the internet is divided, with posters on Reddit concerned about ease of evacuation, the risk of breaking your knees, and claustrophobia for the lower passenger. One commenter declared: “just sedate me and put me in a drawer already…”

Vincente is apparently in talks with investors and airlines. 

The Coffee House Cabin

When airplane meets workspace. Credit: Crystal Cabin awards

This design is a winner from last year’s Crystal Cabin awards in the University student category, but I dig it, so I decided to share it with you. 

A long table runs down the center of the cabin, creating a handy space for remote work, meetings, and coffee drinking. Imagine it. You can open your laptop without fear that the moron in front of you will push their seat back and break it. 

While most of these ideas are more in the design than the commercial phase, what’s clear is that flyingespecially luxury aviation — is still incredibly popular. As we create new aircraft modes, we need new cabin interiors, and these designs might be the start of something amazing. 

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