What makes a passenger comfortable in flight? There are plenty of answers to that question and last week’s APEX EXPO education day included a panel discussion with key players from Airbus and Boeing to debate that topic (and several others).
Stefan List, Airbus’ Head of Product Marketing Cabin Program, cited his company’s research that a wider seat contributes significantly to passenger comfort. Airbus believes that one extra inch of seat width can counter 1.6 inches of reduced pitch for passengers. Boeing’s Rachelle Ornan, Regional Director for Experience & Design Research Strategy, countered that width is “towards the bottom” of factors passengers care about, citing “spaciousness” as the primary concern, also based on internal research.
Which, of course, leads to the question of “What is spaciousness, if not a combination of seat width and pitch?” Fortunately a Q&A period was part of the discussion and I was able to pose that very question. Not surprisingly, the two offered up very, very different takes on what it means to deliver a spacious experience on board.
Ornan took the mic first to respond, suggesting that perception is equal or even potentially more important than physical space in this context:
We, as a philosophy, tend to focus attention to the overhead, up and out. We give the impression of having sky overhead. We design for visual perception of every human. Spaciousness is very much a visual perception thing, including with the bins. The advent of pivot bins is huge. It is a physical manifestation of spaciousness. Being able to move about the cabin how you want to, being able to let someone pass by, all those things create the passenger experience of spaciousness.
The Boeing Sky Interior on the latest generation of planes definitely delivers on the more open overhead areas in the aircraft. But does that really make passengers happier after a few hours on board? And compared to what?
For Airbus the reply was cordial but direct: dimensions really do matter:
We believe seat width and pitch are a baseline, but all the perception elements come on top of that. …
If you wear VR glass in a HD configuration very close to your neighbor, from a perception view you believe you’re in business class. But as soon as you start moving it comes back from the perception to the physical dimension of the seat.
Boeing’s position is no surprise given its product line. Ditto for Airbus. Each has research that supports its view, which is to be expected.
Ornan also offered up the example of fans at a sporting event, able to be comfortable and happy even when in tight quarters. It was not clear from her example what the common cause or distraction on a plane is supposed to be to create that sense of team (or even if people at matches really are less annoyed at the lack of spaciousness they are faced with). But apparently that’s supposed to work.
As for me, I do notice when my shoulders rub against the passenger next to me while seated. I do notice when the aisle is narrowed so that both people and bags are squeezed moving through. I do notice when a seat reclines so close that the IFE screen is no longer at a viable viewing angle. And I notice all of those things WAY more than the lights in the cabin emulating a sky scene or how close the bins are to my head.
More from APEX Expo 2017
- Faster wifi flying on Singapore 777s
- Adventures in PreCheck: Fixing a broken PNR
- Gogo Vision Touch IFE to launch on Delta’s CSeries in 2018
- Mobile messaging to be free on Delta flights
- Philippine Airlines goes GX; faster wifi coming soon
- AirAsia firms high-speed connectivity plans
- Inflight connectivity coming to Interjet
- Netflix wants your inflight wifi to be free, but…
- Global Eagle’s Ka connectivity takes flight
- Airbus’ Airspace A320s to Launch with JetBlue
- Boeing v Airbus on spaciousness and in-flight comfort
- Air Europa’s streaming upgrade: Next-gen from BoardConnect
- XTS is dead. Long live XTS. Panasonic sees "radical change" coming
- Delivering big PaxEx improvements over a low bandwidth connection
- When the IFE system can watch you back
- Can a new recline reshape long-haul economy travel?
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