A futuristic airplane concept could herald a future where business and economy class give way to work and play areas on board the aircraft of the future. That’s the vision of Airbus, which this week unveiled its ideas of the plane of 2050, complete with a ‘bionic’ shell which turns partially transparent to provide a panoramic view for passengers. In the front, the company has integrated a relaxation (“vitalizing”) area, while the rear of the aircraft includes a “smart tech” space for working and virtual conferencing.
In the middle, an “interactive” zone allows passengers to move around a virtual reality cocoon, with the walls transforming to offer them lifelike experiences such as rounds of golf or video conferences. Passengers will be able to enjoy seats that mold to their body shape, and an automatic bag loading system which delivers hand luggage to the correct place above their seat. Some of this technology simply doesn’t exist yet, but in many cases the airline is building on ideas which have already been implemented, to some degree, by today’s airlines — if you can’t wait, here’s how to enjoy tomorrow’s technologies today:
Fully stocked bar
: Already a staple of Virgin Atlantic’s offering, a place where business class guests can mingle, sip cocktails and tuck into nuts.Electronic passenger identification using handprints
: not used on aircraft, but used to speed up security by some airports (often as part of a premium package).Mood lighting
: available on some carriers and is set to become even more so — it comes as standard on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, set to go into service with All Nippon later this year.
Angled seats: A variant is offered in the new business class cabin on board Cathay Pacific‘s long-haul routes, where the long seats have been angled to point towards the windows to give a better view.
Seat canopies: Emirate’s first-class suites feature electronic sliding doors, while some KLM business class services feature “privacy canopies.”
Virtual screens: Not quite in cabins yet, but the size and shape isn’t a million miles away from the wide screens offered to passengers bySingapore Airlines, Etihad and Emirates (among others), some of which offer a view from the front of the aircraft via cameras mounted on the fuselage.
Virtual golf: Space restrictions mean this isn’t a reality yet, but Air France already offers a virtual art gallery using touch screens on board its A380 aircraft.