Sunrise lighting, luxurious suites and vibrating seats; it's all change in the world of aircraft interior design.
In the 1960s, when mass commercial travel first became a reality, most passengers didn't think twice about cabin aesthetics. But as aircraft technology developed, expectations were raised and jet interiors have become increasingly more important.
Airbus and Boeing, the two biggest aircraft manufacturers on the market are constantly developing new and innovative ideas to keep customers satisfied.
Kent Craver, Boeing's regional director of passenger satisfaction and revenue, believes it's important for people to feel ‘welcome' in the aircraft environment. According to the company's extensive design research, travellers do not enjoy the flying experience, which they associate with long waits, early starts and airport traffic.
After consulting psychologists, the airline's design team discovered passengers needed to feel a transition when boarding the aircraft. "By the time customers get to our product they're already in the middle of a bad day, which can overshadow the entire flying experience," explains Craver.
"We didn't want to rely on crew because they're so busy and there aren't enough of them to speak to everyone. We wanted the architecture of the environment itself to welcome passengers," he adds.
The new 787 Dreamliner, which should be in operation later this year, is designed to give the impression of space.
"People board planes through tiny jet bridges; when they get into the aircraft they walk into a wider, brighter, space. Optical illusions create greater depth and height. This change gives people the transition they need," says Craver. The new model can seat around 200-250 passengers, but its high ceilings and wide body give the impression of extra space.
Rival manufacturer, Airbus, has also discovered the merits of extra cabin space on its new 471-seat super jet, the A380. According to Stefanie von Linstow, Airbus' product marketing manager for the A380, the company based its cabin designs on market research.
"We talked to the airlines and the passengers. We had discussions and official meetings with the top airlines in the world and we've been working on different aspects of the A380 since 1996," she says.
With plenty of floor space, extra waste volume and a wider cabin body than any manufacturer has previously designed, the A380 has become one of the most popular new models on the market.
Despite the aircraft's superior decor, management insists the cabin controls of the new plane are similar to past products, making them easy for cabin crew to operate.
"When you design an aircraft you need a certain amount of commonality," says Christophe Cossart, Airbus' aircraft interiors marking manager.
"It's very important because your cabin crew may be trained to work on an aircraft type and then move onto another aircraft type. This aircraft has the same controls for lighting, airflow and temperature. It's very easy to control all Airbus aircraft in the same manner," he adds.
In terms of lighting the new A380 has a variety of pre-programmed scenarios, all of which are easy for cabin crew to operate. "We introduced ambient lighting for the interior to put some variations inside the cabin," says von Linstow.
"We first put in mood lighting on the A340-600 then we further enhanced the system for the A380 so we can offer four scenarios of lighting inside every cabin and they all have a different purpose," he adds.
The 'sunrise' setting, for example, is often used towards the end of a night flight in order to wake passengers before breakfast is served. The system is operated by light emitting diode (LED) technology; a long-life, energy efficient product that can be used to programme any set of colours.
Aside from complex new technology, Airbus was keen to introduce more natural light inside the A380 and the A350. "We wanted light from outside on board the aircraft and that's why we designed larger windows on both our new aircraft," says von Linstow.
Crew aboard Boeing's Dreamliner can choose from 11 pre-set lighting scenes, all controlled by LED technology. "Airline's can utilise the lighting system to brand their service or their airline," says Craver.
"We really want to connect people to the flying experience and we realise that lighting can play a huge part in that," he adds. In addition the airline's management has chosen to change the colour of the interior to create a more airy feel. "We've changed to a lighter, cooler colour. We hope that this will provide a more natural feeling to fly in."
In addition to complex lighting, manufacturers have introduced state-of-the-art kitchens onboard their modern aircraft.
Boeing's management claims it's trying to standardise equipment across all its aircraft to increase efficiency. "We still want airlines to have flexibility but we really want the kitchens to run as smoothly as possible," explains Craver.
The largest galley on the 787 is at the back of the aircraft in a large horseshoe shape. "There's also a forward galley and there are more options for others in different parts of the aircraft," adds Craver. This design gives crew easy access to food and beverages enabling fast, efficient service.
Meanwhile Airbus has introduced spacious galleys on board the A380. "We have 50% more floor space in that area so cabin crew can enjoy a working environment with more space to move around," says Cossart.
Complete with steam convection ovens, espresso makers and toasters, the new kitchens are well equipped to provide high quality food, even in economy class.
"With the additional space there's also the opportunity for airlines to design self-service areas for economy class passengers so they can help themselves without being in the way of other passengers and cabin crew," explains Cossart. "This makes things easier for everyone and enhances passenger experience," he adds.
In the premium class currently operated by Singapore Airlines, all customers have their own individual suites. "A passenger from first class can eat whenever they wish," says Cossart "They can get up and invite others into the cabin if they like- so there's no need for a self service area."
In terms of seat configuration inside the cabins, airlines have a great deal of influence. There are only 12 premium luxury suites onboard the Singapore Airlines' A380, each requiring a great deal of space.
In addition there are 60 business class seats, each measuring 34 inches, and 399 economy seats. "The airlines choose their seating pattern," explains von Linstow. "There's not one identical seating configuration for the cabins of our customers."
Boeing offers airlines a catalogue of economy class seats to choose from. "These are pre-qualified seats which come from six different manufacturers with multiple seat types," explains Craver.
Aside from the catalogue, Boeing also gives customers the chance to explore its new Dreamliner gallery, a configuration centre for airlines. "It's designed around the 787 and each area of the plane including seating, entertainment, galley, lavatories, crew rest sections and interior fabrics."
Boeing's management insists this gallery will save airlines time. "They can bring a team in and go through an entire configuration process in just a few short weeks- it used to take 6-8 months," points out Craver.
"They can literally come in and try things out, even bringing meals in to have a cook off with the different ovens if they wish," he adds.
The aircraft's seats are graded by certain characteristics, such as head rest thickness, arm rest and general comfort levels. These grades enable customers to pick and choose their seats more carefully and for seat manufacturers to improve future products.
"It's mainly used for economy though," Craver explains. "An airline's brand tends to be very wrapped up in its premium class service so they usually bring in their own product," he adds.