Airbus has released its new, exciting cabin space plans, known as “Airspace”. Nothing unusual about that you might think, except for the fact that cabin customisation is so often the concern of the airlines themselves, who look to significantly incorporate in-house branding. What is even more interesting about the latest plans from Airbus, which are due to make their debut on the manufacturer's line of A330neo aircraft in 2017, is that much of the design was formulated and fed through to Airbus engineers through listening to passenger’s feedback on social media, earning the new design the epithet, “the plane designed by social media”.
Funnily enough, it is not passengers or the public at large who are Airbus customers; it is of course the airlines themselves. Hence, the story of how the “Airspace” cabins were brought to life is very much a case of a company trying to understand and address the concerns of its customers.
The new cabins will feature an 18-inch seat as standard, redesigned monuments and galleys allowing more room for passengers, a warm and spacious welcome on board area, increased luggage storage with larger overhead bins, improved environmental controls and the latest LED technology for ambient lighting, spacious and refreshed lavatories with antibacterial surfaces and options for touchless operation and unobstructed under-seat foot space.
Airspace cabins will also feature quiet technology to reduce aircraft noise, 4th generation in-house entertainment systems and improved broadband and mobile connectivity.
In many ways however, Airspace is less about engineering and more about outlining a new design philosophy based on the four pillars of Comfort, Ambiance, Services and Design. It offers a more attractive, relaxing, inspiring and functional environment for travellers while optimising the use of cabin space for operators.
Speaking to Mashable on the important role social media played in coming up with the concept and design for Airspace, Dr. Kiran Rao, executive vice president of strategy and marketing at Airbus explained, “they (passengers), through social media, are comparing one airline versus another, they're comparing one seat versus another…. they're comparing the experience they have from one airline to another. That is what has driven the change from what we've done in the past.”
Rao continues, “In the past, we just created a great product and we allowed the airlines to customise it and to do what they want to do on the airplane….today we're reaching out to the passengers who fly on the aircraft. Today they are making big decisions based on product, and the experience that they have. So we listen to our customers and our customers' customers."
His views are echoed by François Caudron, Senior VP Marketing at Airbus, “You go on the TripAdvisor site and you see all airlines labelled and they are being rated. It is a big change and, yes, I think the passenger is becoming a consumer.” Caudron continued, “Basically, like any other product, it's not just buying the product but the experience that goes with it. He wants to share his own experience but also benefit from others' experience. ‘OK, you flew on that airline. You flew on this airline. What did you think of it?’
Caudron further added, “Previously, the customer would go on the web and book his flight and mainly check the prices…..today there are tools available with Seat Guru and things like that — which have been around for quite some time — but now there are much more collaborative platforms coming up with Routehappy and TripAdvisor.”
The point that the executives from Airbus are keen to convey is that the web has given passengers a certain level of education and information about their in-flight options that they would not previously have been aware of.
Airbus is keen for passengers to make use of this enhanced awareness when it comes to booking tickets. Rao affirms, “I am keen for people to start realising that it is an ‘Airspace’ cabin rather than it being an A350 or an A330 one.”
Though the airlines themselves will have the final say on how they customise their cabins, Airbus intend to continue to use the feedback they have gleaned from social media to remind airlines about the aspects of the flying experience that their customers feel are most important.