Airline cabins of the future: A new golden age of travel?

(CNN)Air travel photos from the 1960s show smartly dressed, champagne-sipping passengers in spacious airliner cabins.

Contrast that with today’s cramped seats and overcrowded airports and it looks like our flying experiences are getting steadily worse.
    But is this based on reality?
    The aviation industry has been investing massively to prove nostalgic travelers wrong.
    Yes, aircraft may still look similar to those of the so-called golden years.
    But every single aspect of the air travel experience is currently being overhauled — all driven by technology.
    Right at the forefront are airplane cabins.
    And key to their transformation is wireless connectivity.
    With virtually every passenger toting a smartphone, tablet or laptop, inflight Wi-Fi is opening up new ways to engage with air travelers and redefine the flying experience.

    Personalized inflight entertainment


    White is also behind Air Lair, a concept of sleeping pods that immerse premium travelers in a futuristic cocoon with adjustable light, sound and temperature.
    Other designs envisage adding sleeping rooms in standard aircraft cabins.
    Carlioz and his Zodiac Aerospace team, for example, see potential in using an aircraft’s cargo space and area between the stowage bins and fuselage to accommodate bunks.
    “It’s simply a question of who has the ambition and willingness to invest into a project of this scale and truly break the mold,” says the company’s industrial designer, Matthew Cleary.
    Sounds radical, but perhaps not so much once the likely evolution of current technologies and concepts are taken into account.
    “Design houses really are competing fiercely for airline business and that means they are also pushing the limits of creativity,” says Runway Girl Network’s Simson.
    “Designs are becoming more intuitive, fabrics more breathable and inner-foam materials are being developed to stay cooler (which adds to comfort).
    “Increasingly, we see seat designers taking cues from the automotive industry too, with auto seat makers such as Recaro and Mirus having started successful aero divisions.”
    Airbus’s Wuggetzer says there’s potential to develop powerful strategies to produce standout cabin features, even in economy class.
    Transparency is key, he adds.
    “The same way that travelers are used to comparing hotels and check reviews on TripAdvisor, innovation in the cabin experience could lead to more differentiation between the experience provided not just on different aircraft types, but on different airlines.”
    The golden age of air travel may be just starting, after all…

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