In the five years since Airbus started talking about an A320 version of its Airspace cabin styling, the visuals have been of futuristic, open cabins that certainly had wow factor but lacked a certain practicality. No galley or even a monument behind doors 1, glowing turquoise-violet light, futuristic translucent dividers… This sort of glow-up matches the experience on the leisurely westbound and dim red-eye eastbound on JetBlue’s A321LRs to London with their highly design-focussed cabins, but what about Airspace for the more everyday, utilitarian aircraft?
Enter die Lufthansa and the first of its 80-plus A320neo family aircraft with Airspace, an A321neo with 215 of the Geven Essenza ultra-slimline seats on board in economy and Eurobusiness.
From the MSN number in the photo filenames, this seems to be D-AIEK, MSN10563, which has been doing everything from the long flights between Frankfurt and Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Cairo and Beirut to the Hamburg milk run since it started service at the beginning of September.
On board, most passengers will find it difficult to differentiate the Airspace cabin from the non-Airspace cabin, except perhaps when they successfully pop a larger bag into the FACC-produced overhead compartments.
There’s none of the glossy silver window surrounds here: white surround matches white sidewalls, although it’s impressive how the extra thick surround and the sculpted indent really does make the A320’s industry-trailing small portholes look bigger, even in a white-on-white-on-white application.
Lufthansa trumpets Airspaces’s “Human Centric Lighting, a specially programmed, flexible lighting system, illuminates the cabin with warm red light, graduated intermediate tones and then a colder blue light” where, “depending on the time of day, the light in the aircraft cabin is geared to the passengers’ biorhythms”.
In the images the airline sent to Runway Girl Network the light pink and burnt orange wash the white surfaces above and at the sidewall interface of the big Airspace bins, which will help with some of the stark relief of the almost monochrome cabin.
Other than that, it’s all very standard grey-and-blue, which isn’t exactly unexpected from the post-gold Lufthansa, but one wonders why the airline opted for a 1980s-esque flameproof airline-blue curtain divider system or why extra lighting options have not been embedded into the thermoplastics.
At the forward and rear galleys, a very muted version of Diehl’s hero light is in view: just the simple U of the light, with the inside of both Us being given over to a series of cabin control switches rather than to lighting and ambience.
“Lufthansa has opted for a more discreet version of the ceiling”, airline spokesperson Jörg Waber confirms to Runway Girl Network.
Unlike its A320neo, Lufthansa has also opted not to go for the Airbus Space-Flex combination lavatories on the rear bulkhead wall.
While controversial, and by no means a perfect solution, these offer a full conversion to a lavatory accessible for wheelchair users.
Lufthansa has instead added three lavatories within the seat track area: two at the rear of the cabin and one just in front of door 3R, right behind the wing.
“The modern washrooms are more user-friendly for people with limited mobility,” says the airline in its press release, but none are marked with with a wheelchair or other accessibility symbol, and Waber admits that: “The washrooms are not fully accessible to wheelchair users.”
Your author should note that a somewhat similar architecture to Space-Flex found on the smaller Airbus A220 has proven to be a tight squeeze in the real-world for passengers of size.
“Our customer surveys,” Waber writes, “indicated a strong preference for the traditional version (and not for the Space-Flex lavatory). This was also our preference as a premium carrier.”
Industry has an opportunity to change the ableist mindset that sees it denying accessibility to passengers. But at the same time, “accessible” needs to actually mean accessible.
- Interiors suppliers trumpet work on new A320 Airspace brand cabins
- Beyond seats: getting the new longhaul narrowbody cabins right
- New LAV4ALL design seeks to deliver accessibility and dignity
- Geven’s Essenza slimline selected by Wizz Air, Lufthansa for A320neos
- Passengers bemoan Space-Flex crunch on Lufthansa’s new A320neo
Featured image credited to Lufthansa