For better or worse, airline travel is on its way back. With Delta Airlines announcing that it will return to 100% capacity on individual flights beginning May 1, and the Transportation Security Administration reporting the busiest air travel day in March since before the pandemic, travelers may soon be back to full, cramped flights.
But the aviation industry is still innovating.
Winners of the recently announced Crystal Cabin Awards (meant to be announced in January 2020 but delayed because of the pandemic) created new concepts for airplane cabins with an eye to useful, problem-solving and modern solutions.
Here's a look at some of the most interesting designs.
A cabin that's like a co-working space
Designed by students at the University of Cincinnati, this "coffee house cabin" features a long row of tables facing one another in the center aisle of the plane, called "a productivity-focused zone."
The idea is that each passenger can have more space to work on their device alongside others, like at a coffee shop, co-working space or library. Business travelers could use the table to take meetings with other colleagues on the flight.
The workspace seats would be priced above basic economy but below first class.
Exercise space and swivel chairs
This mock-up from Airbus illustrates individual seats that can swivel to change the direction they face, so families or groups traveling together can form smaller pods onboard. Before passengers board, they have the option to pre-program their seat preferences, like the degree of recline, so their pod is customized to their liking when they arrive.
The "Airspace Cabin Vision 2030," also includes different "zones" for passengers to sit and lounge away from their seats. For example, they propose a dedicated area of the aircraft where people can exercise and stretch, as well as a walk-up bar for people to order refreshments.
Economy seats with 'a la carte' comfort and convenience add-ons
The "Modulair S" seat is a standard economy class seat that comes with various accessories and add-ons that passengers can select to customize their seats. Things like an eight-way headrest, double-decker tables, tablet holders and even shelves can be added to the basic seat.
Electric 'commuter' jet where everyone faces the windows
"Alice" is a completely electric commuter jet that was created by the Israeli aeronautics company Eviation in 2019. The plane is designed to only travel up to 650 miles, and it seats nine passengers.
A design firm out of Portugal re-imagined the plane's interior, so that the seats are in a "fishbone," aka "reverse herringbone," configuration facing the windows of the aircraft.