The new Airspace by Airbus cabin offering was unveiled in London this morning, bringing details of the A330neo interior into view and demonstrating some of the new features which the airframer will make available to its airline customers and, of course, passengers. The new design builds on improvements the A350XWB brought to the cabin and focuses on improvements in four key areas: Comfort, Ambiance, Service and Design. These touch on both the passenger and crew comfort on board, ultimately allowing Airbus to provide a spacious and pleasant experience for passengers, even while adding 10 seats on the A330neo model compared to the A330ceo.
The most significant and truly new development the Airspace interior brings to the cabin is a new overhead bin design. The company claims a 66% increase in bag capacity (five bags can be stowed in a typical bin with the new design), which will increase passenger satisfaction and reduce boarding time. The bins also feature new doors which offer an integrated hand grip and LED lighting to improve the passenger experience. The bins sit higher when closed, adding a more spacious feel to the cabin. The lavatories will also see updates based on the Space-Flex hybrid galley/lav concept. Lavs will include options for ambient aroma and sound amenities while also offering antimicrobial surfaces and touchless fixtures as part of the standard offering.
The company believes that the overall offering will be significantly better than the #PaxEx offered on competing aircraft types, both because of the default 18″ seat width and the other factors. It believes passengers will seek out the A330neo as they plan their flights. Indeed, Airbus executives are keen that the Airspace cabin interior is something to be talked about and discussed on social media, just as much as the airline brand.
Building this brand – an Airbus brand – is a significant part of the new offerings, says EVP marketing & strategy Kiran Rao during the press conference. “It is not just about the seat. it is much more than that. There are many more aspects to the cabin that need to be looked at. The spaciousness, the whole environment of the airplane. When you start pulling all of that together it starts to represent a brand.”
This point – taking over the branding of the cabin interior from the airlines – presents obvious challenges and Airbus backed off a bit throughout the morning after starting with that strong statement. They do expect that the airlines will own the branding but they want to provide a “luxury apartment building to which the airline can bring its own furniture”. There will be plenty of options for airlines to choose from, whether it is the 16 million colors in the LED lighting system or the ability to custom design lighting schemes for monuments in the boarding entryway via 3D printing systems. But there will also be significant consistencies, the “infrastructure” Airbus will provide to ensure the comfortable passenger experience and over which the airlines will layer their custom design attributes.
Airbus expects that passengers will come to recognize that they are on an Airbus aircraft, that they are flying in an Airspace cabin (on the A330neo or the A350 with the significant similarities) and then that they are on a particular airline’s plane. Airbus is listening both to its customers (the airlines) and also to their customers (the passengers) to come up with solutions that can meet the needs of all parties. It is also working to make sure that its name and brand are part of that experience, hopefully in a positive way.
Just how airlines take to this approach will depend on many factors but the most significant is likely to be just how comfortable the offering is for their passengers. Airbus acknowledges that it is constantly watching online and social media channels to gauge passenger impressions of different aircraft configurations. Francois Caudron, Airbus’ SVP marketing, described the initial feedback from airline customers as overwhelmingly positive, saying, “The first message was ‘Thank you, Airbus, for investing in the place where we make our revenue. We’ve seen over the past years some of your suppliers being more proactive and innovative than you were. We’re really glad to see you back in cabin innovation.’ Clearly they really see great value in the alignment in the A350 and A330 and eventually the single aisle.”
The launch event was big on ideas and renderings; we must wait a couple short weeks until the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg to get “hands on” with a cabin mockup. Airbus has promised to have such at its booth at the show for visitors to explore.