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Take a look at the latest cabin interiors from Airbus – coming to a plane near you

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I was in Hamburg yesterday to attend the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo exhibition.

It’s where all the aircraft seat manufacturers, as well as everyone who makes anything else which goes into an aircraft cabin, get together to show off their latest initiatives.

This is the sort of article that Rhys would normally write but (ironically) he is at the Airbus factory in Toulouse this week so I headed off to the Airbus media event at AIX instead. This means you get the slightly dumbed down version 🙂

Airbus luggage bins

See the new bigger luggage bins, side by side

We’ve discussed the deeper and wider Airbus luggage bins in recent weeks because British Airways made a big play of how they are being installed on the latest short-haul deliveries, along with the new short-haul seat.

In fact, they had already been added to the last few Airbus deliveries made to BA with the old short-haul seat, although no formal announcement was made. I think BA wanted to hold the news back to launch with the new interior.

If you’ve not been on an aircraft with the new bins, the image above is a great photograph and one which you won’t see in the wild – an old-style and new-style luggage bin side by side.

As you can see, the new bins are deeper (which means less headroom for you when seated) and wider (so they extend further over the aisle seats, not just the window and middle seats). The upside is that a standard wheely cabin suitcase can be stored ‘wheels in’ on its side, leading to a 60% increase in capacity.

Airbus is able to retrofit these bins to existing aircraft, albeit that it takes 3-5 days. Some airlines have already done this (eg see Lufthansa here). British Airways has made no commitment even though it would end short-haul baggage issues overnight and improve punctuality. It would cost money though ….

A new short-haul galley is coming

Whilst I don’t have any photographs, Airbus had some VR images of a new galley concept for short-haul.

The net result will allow an extra row of seats to be installed in front of the exit row. This has been done in three ways:

  • the crew jump seat is now built into the wall of the loo, so when the jump seat is up it is flush with the wall (and, of course, the loo is narrowed slightly) – this creates an extra couple of inches of space
  • some parts of the galley are spun around, so that as you walk into the aircraft you will see the racking etc directly in front of you – again, this saves more space
  • bulkheads are removed on both sides of the cabin

The net result is enough space freed up to add an extra row of seats in front of the exit row, as long as the seat pitch in the first 12 rows (to become the first 13 rows) is reduced to match the pitch behind the exit rows.

Obviously this doesn’t sound great to you as a customer, but the airlines will love it.

New Airbus A330neo cabin lighting

A new A330neo interior package was launched

Whilst you won’t see this on an aircraft until 2027, from yesterday airlines will be able to order some new interior features on the A330neo. Virgin Atlantic is a major user of the neo and may well be in the market to order more if it chooses not to extend the lease on the Boeing 787 fleet.

These are generally ‘passenger friendly’ improvements:

  • a new cabin lighting system, which will include the ability to have lighting panels down the centre of the cabin in business class (where there are usually no luggage bins) in an airline-specified pattern such as the company logo
  • new linings for the ceiling, door panels and sidewalls which will reduce the aircraft weight by 100kg – for passengers, the benefit is 5 mm extra shoulder clearance at every window seat and 50 mm more foot space
  • very funky new dimmable windows in business class (similar to those on the A350) which give you complete control via a slider up to 99% opacity

The image above shows the new ceiling lighting as it could look in a doorway area.

Expliseat shows at the Airbus AIX stand

New lightweight short haul seats are really VERY light

Airbus had teamed up with French seat manufacturer Expliseat to highlight its latest seat developments. Expliseat has the lightest seats on the market, and this is a key way to reduce carbon emissions.

(There was some discussion about life cycle pollution. New seats tend to be made of specialist materials which cannot be recycled as easily as legacy seating, but of course save huge amounts of CO2 over their lifetime.)

The photo above shows a standard row of seats at the front with the lightest Expliseat behind it. The reduction in weight is huge, from over 11kg to 6.8kg. The frame is made from carbon fibre and titanium with minimal plastic.

To be fair, few airlines will order the base model at 6.8kg. There are plenty of additional options – wider armrests, adjustable headrests etc – which airlines want but which add weight. That said, I sat on the 6.8kg version and it wasn’t bad at all. It does NOT have super-thin seat padding, or at least it feels as if it doesn’t.

Expliseat was also using AIX to unveil its new seat for Air France’s Embraer 190 aircraft – this is the type that BA flies from London City Airport. Here’s a shot:

Expliseat Embraer E190

Note the combined tablet and cup holder, which has a ribbed surface to keep your device in place. There are USB A and USB C sockets, hidden by the iPad in the photo.

Note also the cardboard box which is what Air France now calls a meal in domestic business class. You get two finger sandwiches (not even the three that BA used to offer) plus a chocolate. Super.

There is an adjustable headrest which isn’t pictured.

The base weight of the Embraer seat is 8kg but Air France has specified extras which pushed this up a bit. The Expliseat products are proving hugely popular and a second factory has just opened in France taking total capacity to 37,000 seats per year. Whilst this sounds like a lot, it isn’t that many aircraft.

The stats on the Embraer seat are shocking. Compared to legacy seating, the company claims that each single seat will save $3m in fuel over its lifetime (although what the lifetime is assumed to be is not stated) and return on investment is under 12 months. Expliseat also claims that it has NEVER had a broken tray table in service in the nine years it has been selling seats!

By the way, if BA is listening ….. Air France, from January 2025, will stop selling the neighbour seat in Business Class on its Embraer E190 which has a 2×2 layout. You won’t have a seat mate. Of course, you will also get your meal in a cardboard box ….

We’ll have more from Airbus very soon when Rhys makes it back from Toulouse, where he is watching the first Malaysia Airlines A330neo being assembled.

Comments (74)

  • ADS says:

    “Virgin Atlantic is a major user of the neo and may well be in the market to order more if it chooses not to extend the lease on the Boeing 787 fleet”

    Virgin has just four A330 neos – so even in the relatively small worldwide fleet of A330neos, that isn’t a major number!

  • Ann says:

    When will wheelchair users be able to stay in their wheelchair to fly

    • Rob says:

      If you google, there is a lot of stuff out there about recent developments in this field, eg what Delta is doing. It looks very promising but clearly there are a lot of safety hurdles to overcome.

  • Jayne says:

    Is it only me who chooses the airline, craft and class according to the seat configuration? On long haul flights I book the 2 seats, usually premium, for me and my husband because I don’t want to sit by a third person, stranger. I have anxiety but my husband does not and we have to upgrade to get just 2 seats in the row.

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