The Aircraft Interiors Expo is always fascinating from a business class perspective. Today, before the show opened, Mary Kirby and I got a sneak peek inside Zodiac Aerospace’s booth at the future of the pointy end. With apologies that photos weren’t permitted in the airline demonstration upper floor, here’s what we saw — and how it will be the future of business class.
First up: an updated version of Zodiac’s staggered Sky Lounge product, as seen on Emirates’ A380s and ANA. Zodiac has simplified the S-shape that forms the structural shell around each seat, while making the styling and privacy options that attach to the shell entirely customisable.
Crucially, this simplification reduces significantly the number of part numbers, particularly at the front and the back of the cabin. This will, the company hopes, help it to beat back the reputation it has earned after causing numerous delays in aircraft delivery with its business class cabin.
Second on the list: a remarkably immersive concept that Zodiac is shopping to airlines, turning a veritable a shopping list of many of the last few years’ favourite blue-sky technologies into reality.
Around an updated version of Zodiac’s now-venerable and still-popular Cirrus seat is wrapped a futuristic spherical shell, surrounding the head area with a fabric-lined cocoon. For a start, the passive noise reduction of the cocoon makes a huge difference — the reduction in the hubbub of the pre-opening AIX show was remarkable.
Smart lighting bathes the seat in your choice of a rainbow of colours, from bright and vibrant to soft and quiet, covering a concave curved widescreen IFE monitor that was not, interestingly, on a swing-out mechanism (Cirrus’ gate-to-gate Achilles heel when compared with, say, B/E Aerospace’s Super Diamond product).
Most delightfully, the seat can release a number of scents on command — from stimulating coffee to energising lemon lime to relaxing lavender — all customised to the phase of flight.
And it’s all as integrated or bespoke as the airline passenger wants. A range of presets adjustable for flight length and time of day spans the relaxing and settling in process through the anticipatory takeoff and early cruise periods, all the way through the end of a flight — press one button and the seat turns into a Z-bed with a chillout multisensory ambience. Press another and it’s bedtime with calming lights and lavender.
The trick is that this immersive experience is essentially platform agnostic. Zodiac could implement this shell and individual control concept for Cirrus just as easily as it could for Aura, Sky Lounge or any of its other premium products. None of these innovations themselves are new technology, or even new aviation concepts, but the innovative levels of their application — and the coherent way in which they have been implemented — show a huge amount of promise.