Tag: aircraft

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

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

Panasonic's Waterfront system  allows passengers to use their mobile devices to control an aircraft's built-in entertainment.

Mobile tech already plays an important role in enhancing travel, from electronic boarding passes to last-minute bids on biz class upgrades.
Some airlines, such as KLM, have even started sending boarding passes and flight alerts through a dedicated airline Facebook Messenger chat bot.
But the one area where mobile can become truly transformative is inflight entertainment, with personal devices becoming gateways to a whole range of up-in-the-air services.
While built-in in-flight entertainment systems are unlikely to vanish, particularly on long-haul flights, they can work in tandem with the passenger’s own devices.
Earlier in 2016, Panasonic unveiled Waterfront, a system that allows the passengers to use their mobile handsets to control an aircraft’s built-in entertainment.
Aerospace companies Thales and B/E are also using mobiles to personalize passenger experiences.
By syncing with handsets, their seats know a passenger’s preferences and can even restart a movie at the exact place where they left it in the previous flight.
Some airlines are doing away with embedded entertainment systems altogether.
They’re opting for passenger’s handsets to deliver inflight entertainment — a move that crucially reduces aircraft weight and frees up cabin space.
No Internet connection is required, passengers just connect their devices to an in-plane network.

Captive audience

Thales and B/E's Digital Sky seats make use of larger, higher-res screens.

Netherlands-based AirFi is primarily equipping low-cost airlines that often fly short-haul single-aisle aircraft and don’t have entertainment systems.
The company’s portable wireless system beams pre-loaded content onto passenger devices.
The AirFi terminal behaves like a normal Internet router. It’s lightweight and can easily be installed in a luggage compartment.
AirFi CEO Job Heimerikx says it’s a cost effective and flexible way to provide quality inflight content to the short haul market.
“There are a customer service and a commercial angle to our system,” he says.
“Passengers can access a broad range of movies and other sort of entertainment, but they can also use it to order food or shop duty free.
“It’s like an evolution of the traditional inflight magazine, but just as it happens at online stores, you can make it really personal.”
This concept thrives on having a captive audience.
But would it still work if users had a full inflight broadband Internet connection?
Passengers might be more interested in binge-watching their favorite TV series instead of booking airport transfers or ordering an extra cup of coffee.

Virtual reality

AirFi offers a cheap alternative to inflight entertainment systems, streaming direct to phones and tablets.

“If airlines can’t stop the passenger from going to Amazon or zoning out on Netflix for three hours… and they can’t offer something at least equally interesting in terms of intuitive retail and custom content, they are missing a number of tricks” says Maryann Simson of Runway Girl Network, a leading aviation news website focusing on passenger experience.
It’s a theory that’ll get put to the test soon.
Aeromexico recently announced it would use Gogo’s 2Ku satellite-based Internet connection to offer Netflix-enabled flights.
“More than 80% of passengers are walking on the plane with their own device,” Gogo exec Ash ElDifrawli points out.
“Airlines can save the weight and maintenance costs of legacy seat-back entertainment systems and still provide differentiated experiences.
“For example, they can now create custom portals that create a unique brand and advertising opportunity for the airlines.”
Internet connections are only the beginning.
Both Transavia, a low cost subsidiary of Air France/KLM, and Australian carrier Qantas have been testing virtual reality technology as an alternative to traditional in flight entertainment.
VR could offer not only entertainment but also help calm those afraid of flying.
Transavia also sees virtual reality sets as a potential source of extra cash, perhaps offered as a premium service.
Daan Noordeloos, VR manager for Transavia, says tests have so far proved positive.
“We are evaluating ways to continue it and make it part of our regular inflight offering,” he adds.

Perfect airline seat

Virtual reality is already a reality after trials by Qantas.

Qantas has already rolled out VR sets for first class passengers on some select flights between Australia and Los Angeles, with encouraging results.
New generation in-flight entertainment isn’t going to be enjoyable without a comfortable environment to experience it in.
Providing a nice, relaxing atmosphere in a cramped metal tube is always going to be a challenge, but moves are afoot to improve that.
LED lighting has already proven effective during night flights, even apparently reducing jet lag.
No wonder both Boeing’s next generation aircraft and the “Airspace by Airbus” cabin, rolled out on Airbus A330neo and A350 aircraft, make extensive use of LEDs.
Extra comfort is also coming from the constant accumulation of incremental ergonomic improvements.
These are the things that passengers barely notice on their own but put together make a difference between a good and a great travel experience.
Such as lavatories with anti-bacterial surfaces, or better designed overhead bins that reduce boarding time by making it easier to store hand luggage.
Many of the industry’s creative energies are being devoted to creating the perfect airline seat.
It may come as a surprise to those stuck at the back of the economy class cabin, but these are exciting times for the aircraft seating industry.
An increasing number of airlines are discontinuing first class, but those that keep it are making it way more opulent, such as Etihad with its Residence.
Discontinuing first has led many airlines to upgrade their business class, opening a gap for the introduction of premium economy services.

Cinema-style seating

Factory Design's twisting seat adapts to the body of its occupant.

Some carriers are pondering a more basic economy class, but does that mean radical proposals for standing-only planes will soon be realized?
Experts at passenger comfort innovators Zodiac Aerospace don’t think so.
They say certification costs and reputation risks may simply not be worth it, particularly when existing seats with pitches of 30 inches or less are already very efficient.
“I really can’t foresee this happening in the near future,” says Victor Carlioz, an advanced concept engineer at Zodiac Aerospace.
“Instead we’ll see a focus toward more innovative features in the economy class seat.
A compromise may be the flex-up seat proposed by Aviointeriors.
The Italian manufacturer is exploring a cinema-style seat for economy class that folds up vertically when unoccupied, allowing easier movement around the plane.
Ingo Wuggetzer, of Airbus, highlights how personalization is also becoming a thing in aircraft interiors.
The industry ideal is to create a seat that adapts perfectly to a passenger’s body.
In 2011 the European manufacturer unveiled its “Future by Airbus” concept that outlined, among other things, the company’s vision of the passenger cabin of 2050.
This included its own interpretation of the “smart seat” — one able to recognize and adapt to its occupant ergonomically and through entertainment preferences.
A first step in that direction may be the “twisting seat” concept proposed by London-basedFactory Design.
Creative director Adam White says the flexible structure is based upon a careful anatomical study of the multiple positions that the back adopts while seated.

Sleeping rooms

Factory Design's Air Lair concept offers passengers their own personalized cocoon.

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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Boeing readies high-flying celebration for 100th anniversary

WASHINGTON — When Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg heads to the Farnborough Airshow near London next month, he’ll tackle his usual tasks: trying to win new airplane orders and more aerospace work for the U.S. manufacturing giant.

He will have an additional mission at this year’s show, where he’ll help lead the centennial celebration for the iconic U.S. aerospace giant launched by William Boeing in 1916.

“Having this role as we approach our centennial, you have this sense of humbleness about the significance of the company,” Muilenburg said in an interview with USA TODAY. “You think about what happened over the last 100 years. We went literally from walking on Earth to walking on the moon … from riding horses to flying in airplanes and spaceships.”

That legacy will be something Boeing puts on display at Farnborough, where the company’s “birthday” fortuitously falls in the middle of the biennial airshow. The show, which alternates annually with its sister show in Paris, is one of the most important events in aviation.

Even before Farnborough, Boeing had kicked off a year-long promotional blitz for the anniversary of its founding date: July 15, 1916.

Farnborough organizers unveiled an aerial display that pays homage to Boeing’s roots, and flights by the B-17 bomber and P-51 Mustang are likely. Boeing might send its new 737 MAX for what would be its debut appearance at a major airshow.

That the Farnborough Airshow also will mark its 100-year anniversary in 2016 will add to the festive theme  this year.

Still business to do at Farnborough

Centennials aside, the show will feature many of its usual story lines.

There will be displays of military and civilian aircraft and technology, allowing manufacturers to show off their latest and greatest products to prospective big-ticket buyers.

On the commercial aviation front, rivals Boeing and Airbus will seek airline orders — and headlines — for their passenger planes as they battle for supremacy in that market.

Though the centennial events may help lighten the vibe at the airshow, it’s still all about competition, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at the Virginia-based Teal Group.

“Frankly, what matters more is booking business,” Aboulafia said. “It’s been a long time since airshows were over the top. There’s a lot more business being done than mere parties.”

In a year in which Boeing hopes to leverage its centennial, Aboulafia warned Boeing’s buzz could be dampened by what’s expected to be a weak year for overall orders at the airshow.

“This does not appear to be a great year to book business,” Aboulafia said. “We might get fewer orders than deliveries, which would be the first time in five or six years that’s happened. The positive historical news might be a little bit sidelined by concerns about the market itself.”

Boeing’s centennial in the spotlight

Regardless of how plane orders stack up, 2016 could be a difficult year for rivals to wrest the spotlight from Boeing as it celebrates its centennial.

Launched by William Boeing in 1916, the company has become the face of American aviation, growing into a global behemoth that’s  one of the USA’s largest exporters.

The Boeing name graces flying machines such as the new-age Dreamliner — the company’s latest commercial passenger aircraft that revolutionized the use of composites and has since opened  dozens of  airline routes around the world.

There’s the 747 — the world’s first jumbo jet — that may be the one single plane with which Boeing is most associated. And the 737, the best-selling commercial aircraft in history — and one that’s still going strong.

On the defense side, there are a range of military aircraft in Boeing’s portfolio, some of which will be on display at Farnborough.

“It’s a global company,” Aboulafia said. “Everyone thinks in terms of an American icon, but it’s a global company. Sending that message of being an international aircraft producer is very important at shows like this.”

Boeing’s century-long rise to become one of the world’s pre-eminent manufacturers is something that stokes pride in Muilenburg, who started at the company as an intern in 1985.

“You think about the transformation that happened along the way,” Muilenburg said, “the introduction of the commercial jet age, the introduction of all-new composite aircraft. These transformational things are extraordinary events and things that we’ve been involved in.”

Boeing faces its own transformational challenges as it enters its second century.

The company’s defense business remains important, even as commercial aircraft sales account for an increasingly larger chunk of Boeing’s business.

Elsewhere, Boeing is aggressively courting new business in outer space, which includes everything from rocket and satellite technology to deep space exploration and even space tourism.

“I’m not sure how many people in the country know it, but we are today building the rocket that’s going to take the first human to Mars,” Muilenburg said enthusiastically. “It’s about 50% bigger than the Saturn V that took humans to the moon.”

Muilenburg predicted “low-Earth-orbit space travels … will be a groundbreaker to a broader low-Earth-orbit market as more destinations evolve.”

“These could be tourism destinations (or) industrial destinations where you can take advantage of zero-gravity manufacturing,” he said. “Efficient low-Earth-orbit space travel will become a real bona fide marketplace. And we aim to lead in that marketplace.”

Most Americans probably associate Boeing with its commercial airplanes — the ones that fly them to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving or across the Atlantic for an exotic summer vacation. That remains the top overall anchor for the company.

“Our commercial airplane business today is 60% to 70% of our business base,” Muilenburg said. “It’s got a great historic past and huge growth opportunities ahead. That is at our very core, and we’ll continue to build and leverage that.”

The ‘boneyard’: Where airlines send old planes to be scrapped

ROSWELL, N.M. –American Airlines Flight 9780 arrives from Dallas/Fort Worth and taxis past a line of other MD-80 passenger jets as the morning sun rises over the New Mexico desert on a chilly morning this past winter.

But as the jet comes to a stop, there’s no boarding gate or jet bridge. In fact, there are no paying passengers aboard at all.

The pilots leave the cockpit and head toward the rear of the plane. They drop the rear stairs from the 140-seat MD-80’s rear emergency exit, and the flight’s four occupants – two pilots, an American employee and a journalist – calmly descend the steps into the New Mexico sun.

Lines of planes stretch for nearly as far as the eye can see. Many bear familiar logos. Most planes are intact – but not all of them. Reams of airplane parts lay strewn nearby across the desert floor.

Fastest seat in sports 360

“They affectionately call this the boneyard,” says Martin Testorff, one of American’s aircraft storage managers based here.

The “boneyard” is the colloquial term given to aircraft storage facilities where out-of-use planes are sent to be sold, stored or scrapped. Most are in arid locations such as California or Arizona. The one here in New Mexico – officially the Roswell International Air Center – is the preferred facility for American.

The Center’s sprawling grounds sit adjacent to Roswell’s tiny airport terminal, where American is the only carrier currently offering regular scheduled passenger flights – three per day to Dallas/Fort Worth and one to Phoenix.

But it’s the flow of older, retiring jets that are the real lifeblood of the Roswell International Air Center.

Planes can sit indefinitely in storage here, where the dry desert air helps keep the idle aircraft from corroding. Some find second lives, taken in by cargo carriers or by smaller airlines in the developing world. Others face a stark end – raided for parts or scrapped altogether.

Whatever fate awaits, Testorff says, “We take good care of our airplanes out here.”

American isn’t the only carrier to retire its planes to Roswell, one of about a half-dozen such facilities in the United States. Several Boeing 777s from Asian discount carrier Scoot are visible during one recent visit. As is an old Thai Airways Airbus A300 and a Boeing 727 with a long-faded paint job.

There are private aircraft, too, including a red 1962 Lockheed JetStar JT 12-5 that once flew Elvis, according to American’s staff at Roswell.

But most of the planes currently on the ground here have come from American. And for good reason: The airline is phasing out its once-vast fleet of MD-80 and Boeing 757 jets, retiring those older models as part of an aggressive fleet-renewal plan.

The retirement of the MD-80 – long the backbone of American’s domestic fleet – has been especially prolific. The carrier once had more than 370 “Super 80s,” as American refers to them, in its fleet. But they’re scheduled to be phased out by 2017, replaced by modern new Boeing and Airbus jets.

The airline has been sending its MD-80s to the Roswell boneyard since 2003, with the rate increasing in the past two years to about one retirement a week.

The stored planes have become especially important for American for as long as the last MD-80s and 757s remain in its active fleet. Both planes have long been out of production, meaning parts can be difficult to track down if maintenance is needed. This makes their idled brethren in Roswell a crucial link to keeping the others flying.

“We store them so we can use the material for the fleet, to keep the fleet flying,” says Paul Bahle, manager of aircraft disposition for American Airlines.

While the MD-80 is the current headliner for American at Roswell, the airline retires other aircraft types here too, including 757s and a few 767s.

Leased planes are returned “and we sell as many as the owned assets as we can. But as you can see, we keep quite a lot of them out here,” Bahle says.

Beyond the business side of the boneyard, there’s plenty of interest in the facility from aviation enthusiasts.

“We get more requests for tours than probably Disneyland,” Testorff says, even though the facility is not open to the public.

“They (people) always want to come see it and experience it for themselves,” adds Bahle. “To see an airline in kind of a different light. They just want to come out and see the planes in different states of disrepair.”

Pat Walsh – the captain on Flight 9780 that brought yet another American MD-80 to “the Boneyard” – has been here previously. Even he’s eager for another look.

“All the airlines that have come and gone over the years,” Walsh says, reminiscing about a previous visit. “Pan Am, TWA and Braniff brought back a lot of memories … those carriers I remember as a kid.”

“And now there are American Airlines airplanes as we’re getting new airplanes and retiring our older ones,” he adds, bringing his visit full circle.

Air Bags in the Air

The late, brilliant comic George Carlin frequently riffed on air travel, especially some of the processes and procedures that we have to endure after the cabin doors close. “I listen very carefully to the safety lecture, especially the part where they teach us how to use the seatbelts,” he joked in one of his flying-related skits. “Here we are, a plane full of grown human beings, and they’re actually taking time out to describe the intricate workings of a belt buckle!”

Silly or not, that belt buckle is the only personal safety device that passengers receive on most aircraft. An increasing number of carriers have transitioned (or are transitioning) to airbag-equipped seat-belts but full airbags in airline cabins have yet to be widely implemented. That doesn’t mean that designers haven’t considered it; German airline seat manufacturer Recaro has recently filed a patent for an airbag that would be installed in the first or business class cabins. Recaro’s patent illustrations show that, in the event of a crash, the airbag would deploy from a compartment beside the in-flight entertainment screen.

The airbag would inflate in two separate zones, with the first providing immediate impact protection for the passenger’s head, and the second inflating to cushion the passenger’s shoulders.

Recaro has not linked its patent to any particular carrier but, but the firm designs and constructs seats for dozens of different airline customers around the globe.

If those airbags are ever implemented in premium cabins, we look forward to hearing about them in the safety lecture. Just make sure you fasten your seat-belt too.

Jelisa Castrodale is contributor to USA TODAY’s Road Warrior Voices and her posts are occasionally used in Ben Mutzabaugh’s Today in the Sky blog.

JetSuiteX to try ‘private jet experience’ on scheduled flights

There will soon be a new option for some fliers looking to book flights in the West. JetSuite, a California-based private jet charter company, will try its hand at scheduled passenger service on select western routes.

JetSuite, which began flying in 2009, will debut a public charter service that sells seats on scheduled flights under the brand “JetSuiteX.”

The company promises passengers buying tickets on those flights will get a “private jet experience.” Flights begin April 19, with fares starting at $109 and maxing out at about $300 each way for departures from private-jet terminals.

Customers can even earn points thanks to a frequent-flier partnership with JetBlue. JetSuiteX passengers can earn 250 TrueBlue points per segment on regular fares and 150 points for sale fares.

JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox, who was on the executive team that helped successfully launch JetBlue in 2000, is bullish on the prospects for the new JetSuiteX service.

Wilcox says fares have been increasing on short-haul flights. Wilcox says that — coupled with increasing security headaches at major commercial airports — has created a sweet-spot in the market where JetSuiteX hopes to lure well-heeled, time-sensitive fliers looking for something between low-fare “cattle car” domestic flights and more expensive private jet options.

“That’s created a space for this kind of product where we can charge a little bit more, but provide a lot more – especially in terms of time savings,” Wilcox says to Today in the Sky, pointing to the advantage of flying from private jet terminals.

There are security procedures for passengers flying from private jet terminals, Wicox says. But he adds “there’s no TSA line. People can show up 15 or 20 minutes before their flight.”

JetSuiteX’s inaugural route will operate within California, connecting Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport to Concord’s Buchanan Field, located about 30 miles east of downtown San Francisco.

JetSuiteX says its initial schedule of up to two daily round-trip flights will give Concord its first scheduled passenger service since the early 1990s, when USAir discontinued the Concord service it inherited via its merger with Pacific Southwest Airlines.

The next JetSuiteX route will begin April 22, with weekend-only service between Concord and Las Vegas. On June 30 JetSuiteX begins flying its third announced route, offering up four flights a week between Mineta San Jose International Airport and Bozeman, Mont.

While JetSuite’s private-jet charters have so far been flown on smaller 4- and 6-seat aircraft, its JetSuiteX “public charter” service will be on newly acquired Embraer E135 regional jets. The company has 10 on order, all of which previously flew for American’sAmerican Eagle affiliate before being returned to Brazilian jetmaker Embraer.

But Wilcox says customers won’t mistake JetSuiteX’s E135s for a planes flying typical domestic airline feeder flights.

JetSuiteX has completely revamped the interior of the aircraft, configuring them with 30 seats. All have at least 36 inches of “seat pitch,” a standard industry measure of personal space. That, says JetSuiteX, is comparable to business class service on domestic carriers.

Overhead bins have been removed to create a more spacious feel to the cabin. The cabin interior is also wrapped in a leather finish.

“There’s no plastic in the cabin anymore,” Wilcox says. “It’s all leather sidewalls like a private jet would have.”

Also onboard will be free in-flight Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment that fliers can stream on their personal devices.

JetSuiteX says new destinations will come online as more of its specially configured E135s are delivered. San Diego, Phoenix and Santa Barbara, Calif., are among cities JetSuiteX has singled out as possible expansion destinations.

“There are a lot of markets that can support 30 seats that can’t support 160 (that are typical on bigger jets like a Boeing 737). We’re going to be creative in finding those,” Wilcox says.

“We’ve only got 30 seats to fill. And we only have to sell 20 of them to (break even),” he adds.

The company expects to have all 10 of its E135s flying by “mid 2017.” The aircraft also will be available for private charter services, selling for about $8,000 per hour for the 30-seat jet.

As for the new scheduled routes, tickets are now on sale via the JetSuiteX website and app

Boeing designs self-sterilizing jet bathrooms

Boeing’s self-cleaning lavatory kills germs with UV light after each use.Video provided by NewsyNewslook

NEW YORK (AP) — Boeing engineers think they have a solution for smelly, grimy airplane bathrooms: ultraviolet light.

The aircraft manufacturer has filed a patent for a self-cleaning lavatory that disinfects all surfaces in just three seconds.

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Many passengers would welcome more sanitary airplane bathrooms, but they may have to wait a while to benefit from Boeing’s technology.

The typical domestic plane has just three bathrooms — one in first class and two at the rear. That number hasn’t changed in decades even as airlines cram more rows onto planes and fill an ever-higher percentage of those seats. And with less time on the ground, those bathrooms aren’t always cleaned to the fullest, despite the increased use.

Boeing’s new bathroom design uses ultraviolet light to clean the bathroom between uses. The Chicago-based company says the system will take three seconds to clean the toilet seat, sink and countertop in an unoccupied lavatory. Boeing plans to use Far UV, which it says is different than the waves used in tanning beds and is not harmful to people.

The design also incorporates a hands-free faucet, soap dispenser, trash flap, toilet lid and seat and a hand dryer to decrease the number of surfaces passengers have to touch. Boeing says it is also working on a hands-free door latch.

Don’t expect to see any of this on planes soon. Boeing says it still needs to study the idea further, including designing a system to lift and close the toilet seat by itself so that all surfaces are exposed during the cleaning cycle. Once offered to airlines, it could take years for carriers to update their fleet with the new bathrooms.

6 Tips To Make Coach Feel Like First Class

6 Tips To Make Coach Feel Like First Class

Just because you’re flying in economy doesn’t mean you can’t have some of the little luxuries found in the first-class cabin. Here are six ways to make your cramped coach flight feel just a little more special.

You know what they say: Once you fly first class, there’s no going back. But unless your company is picking up the tab or you have plenty of disposable income, economy-seat flying is the cramped reality for most travelers. But there are adjustments you can make to feel like an first-class flier no matter your seat number.

1. PLAN YOUR MEALS

In the big seats up at the front of the plane, food is a plus in terms of convenience, but most of the time, it’s nothing to write home about. Bring your own food—and go heavy on the snacks—for a long flight. If you’re not inclined to pack yourself some treats at home, you can find exceptional options now in most hub airports. I always bring nuts, dried fruit, or some good jerky. A salad is a solid choice for your main course. If you must bring a sandwich—which some people prefer, as they’re easy to eat in cramped spaces—steer clear of burgers, burritos, and fried stuff. You’re not doing you or your fellow passengers any favors by eating messy and/or smelly meals.

2. TREAT YOURSELF (TO SOME BOOZE)

Most pro travelers—and their doctors—don’t recommend quaffing tons of alcohol when in the air (there’s the whole issue of dehydration), but a drink or two can definitely help you relax and unwind. Airlines frown upon passengers bringing their own libations on board (and it’s technically illegal, per the FAA), so suck it up and buy a drink or two from the flight attendant—it’s money well spent. Tip: Delta provides a free drink coupon to Sky Priority travelers who check in online and print their own boarding passes.

3. DRESS UP, NOT DOWN

Presumably you are not a child or in college anymore, so don’t board the plane looking like you’re on your way to a slumber party. Cashmere is a comfortable, elegant way to go; Uniqlo offers solid, affordable options. If a Kanye-inspired look is your thing, Club Monaco offers tapered sweatpants—opt for dark colors so you don’t look like you’re heading straight to the gym when you touch down. Always cover your feet with socks, and wear or bring a pair of light slip-ons (not flip-flops). Better yet, take a pair of free slippers from the hotel or spa and chuck them into your carry-on.

4. REDUCE NOISE

Nothing is better for drowning out the noise of jet engines, screaming children, chatty Cathys, or snoring businessmen than noise-reducing headphones (which are better than the headphones you get in first class).Bose is the category leader, but Sennheiser, Sony, and Beats also make great options.

5. BRING YOUR BEDDING

If you’re in coach, getting sleep can be a challenge. Neck pillows help; Muji sells a good inflatable one. Otherwise, a scarf will keep your neck toasty, and a large enough one can also double as a blanket. An eye mask to keep out light is a must; have your business-class flying buddy snag an extra one for you from his or her next flight, or pick one up at the airport or online (Amazon offers a wide variety). If your chosen airline offers its own pillow—which is becoming increasingly rare—bring your own pillowcase to cover that scratchy material that barely passes as fabric. Bed, Bath & Beyond has a great selection.

6. PACK YOUR OWN AMENITIES

Those cute little bags that are passed out in the upper classes are fun to get, but you’re better off building your own that’s equipped with all your favorite stuff. Include the following: toothpaste, a toothbrush, moisturizer, lip balm, hand wipes (great for hands; even better for wiping down stuff around your seat), medication (pain relievers, sleeping pills, vitamins), a razor and shaving cream, and a comb. Muji has everything you’ll need to build a great kit, from the bag itself to containers for storing your favorite products. And remember, the TSA restricts liquids and gels in carry-ons to 3.4 ounces per item.

Airbus wants to create detachable cabins to board planes faster

Photo credit, Airbus

Airbus might have uncovered the fastest way to board a plane, and definitely the most creative.

According to Wired, Airbus recently filed a patent for a detachable cabin module complete with floor, walls, seats, and even a cargo compartment that would be lowered to the gate so that passengers could board, stow their luggage, and take their seats. Then, the compartment would be lifted and secured back in the frame of the aircraft itself.

The idea is that when the plane arrives at its destination, ground handlers would remove the compartments so that passengers can deplane and immediately reload new compartments that would already be pre-loaded with passengers and cargo.

This “aircraft pod” concept would save time on the ground and boost the amount of hours that planes could be in the sky. Since planes make no money when they are not in the air, boarding and deplaning are key elements in the effort to reduce the precious turnaround time.

Safety concerns of the individual pods are likely to pose hurdles to the idea’s implementation, as is the necessity to rebuild airports to be able to handle such a module. Of course, entirely new planes would have to be designed to handle these detachable cabins, so we doubt this will ever get off the ground. But the concept is pretty awesome.

Yan Baczkowski

Could this be the airline of the future?

Teague, the Seattle-based company that helped design Microsoft’s first Xbox and Boeing’s787 Dreamliner, spent some quality time re-imagining the flying experience of the future and came up with Poppi, a new airline that is disruptive, inventive and very appealing.

If only it were real.

“We wanted to create a means for the airline industry to preview innovations that passengers will love and that will help airlines become more profitable,” said Devin Liddell, Teague’s principal brand strategist, “in hopes that they’ll adopt some of the ideas now instead of when it’s too late.”

So what does Poppi have that United, Delta, American and other real-world airlines don’t?

For starters, overhead bins just large enough to hold computer bags, jackets and hats.

“On Poppi there would be no big carry-on bags,” said Liddell. Instead, everyone’s luggage would be tagged with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag “that lets them know exactly where their bag is. That would sidestep the nightmare that takes place on the cabin when people try to cram their bags into the overhead bins and would make exiting the plane go much faster.”

For frequent business travelers and other passengers who really need to keep a carry-on bag nearby, Poppi would offer customized luggage that becomes part of the seat.

Passengers assigned to the dreaded middle seat would be in a rebranded “Promotional Class” and rewarded with perks, gifts or bonuses designed to make up for the discomfort, while other passengers might pay extra to be seated in an experience-rich section, such as “Cinema Class,” that offers special, sponsored content.

“The tech industry never stops thinking about what’s next,” said Liddell, “but for a variety of reasons there isn’t as much of an appetite for innovation in the aviation industry as there should be.”

That’s one reason Teague created the imaginary Poppi airline and is sharing these and other innovative ideas with the public.

“We wanted to put this out there to spark conversation and change,” said Liddell. “And we believe just about all the ideas we’ve come up with are do-able within the next five to ten years.”

First look: Boeing’s new ‘Space Bins’ expand carry-on capacity

SEATTLE – Tired of battling your fellow travelers for overhead bin space for your carry-on bags? Help is on the way.

It will come in the form of new “Space Bins,” an option Boeing is adding to its best-selling 737 airplanes that will soon be flying on at least three U.S. airlines. The bins will increase carry-on capacity by up to 50%.

Alaska Airlines will be the world’s first airline to fly with the new bins, taking delivery of the inaugural Space Bin 737 on Friday at Boeing Field in Seattle. Delta will be next, taking its first Space Bin 737s in early 2016. United also is among the seven global airlines that already have committed to the bins.

Boeing’s new bin design comes as more travelers try to bring their bags onboard instead of paying checked-bag fees now in place at nearly every big airline in North America. That has led to a carry-on crunch inside the cabin, with overhead bins often filling to capacity even as passengers are still boarding the plane.

Boeing pledges its 737 Space Bins will help alleviate that crunch.

The roomier Space Bins – which the company is selling as an option for airlines buying its 737s – will accommodate six standard-size carry-on bags. That’s up from four on the standard bins currently offered on the jetmaker’s latest 737 models.

“We’ve had strong customer demand for a larger bin solution,” says Brent Walton, Boeing’s new features manager for 737 interiors.

He acknowledges the development of new bins was spurred largely by the uptick in fliers with carry-ons, something that has created headaches both for fliers and airlines. He says Boeing, and the carriers that have ordered the Space Bins, are confident they’ll be a problem-solver.

“It’s two-fold,” Walton says. “Passengers will have room to stow their carry-on when they get onboard. It’s less stressful.

“It also eliminates the need for the airlines to have to gate-check bags when the plane is too full. The airlines think it may help them reduce their workload and also lead to faster turn times.”

Alaska Airlines believes shifting to the Space Bins will have a dramatic impact on its flights.

On the carrier’s Boeing 737-900s – the largest model of the plane in the Alaska Airlines’ fleet – the Space Bins will allow the 181-seat jet to hold 174 bags. By comparison, the current bins on Alaska Airlines’ 737-900s have a capacity of just 117 bags.

“It’s a pretty impressive increase,” says Sangita Woerner, Vice President, Marketing at Alaska Airlines. “Virtually everyone can carry on a bag, which is fantastic.”

The 737 delivered to Alaska Airlines on Friday will begin flying paying passengers next month. With a combination of new aircraft deliveries and the retrofitting of 34 newer 737s already in its fleet, Alaska Airlines expects about half of its 150-plane fleet to have Space Bins by the end of 2017.

To come up with a workable design for its larger bins, Boeing says it had to trim about 2 inches between the bottom of the bins and passengers’ seats but found a group of test subjects didn’t mind losing headroom.

“The response has been positive,” Walton says. “If anything, for those passengers who aren’t quite as tall, it’s been a little bit of an improvement to reach the attendant call light, the reading light and the (nozzles) for air.”

Why bin space matters

Knowing there’s adequate room for carry-ons “reduces the stress and uncertainty associated with the flight,” says Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and founder of the Atmosphere Research Group. “It could make a customer feel more confident and comfortable booking a particular airline.”

And, he says, airlines flying with the Space Bins will be able to meet one of the top preferences of many fliers.

“People don’t want to check their bags,” Harteveldt says. “Especially the business traveler, because it saves valuable time when they get off the plane.”

Alaska Airlines’ Woerner says customer surveys and tests show “there’s a ton of anxiety about getting on that plane.”

“It’s less about priority boarding and getting on first. It’s more about, ‘Am I going to have space in that bin for my bag?’ ”

Only 737s for now

While passengers may be excited at the prospect of having more room for their bags, Boeing will only be offering the Space Bins on its new 737s with the “Boeing Sky Interior,” the company’s branding for the updated airy interiors it installs on its current-generation passenger planes. Airlines already flying 737s with that interior will have the option to retrofit those planes to include the Space Bins – something Alaska Airlines has said it would do.

For new 737s, Boeing is offering the extra-spacious bins as an option for airlines willing to pay more – though Boeing would not divulge how much more.

Southwest, the world’s largest operator of the 737, told USA TODAY it currently has no plans to add Space Bins to its existing 737 orders. It’s perhaps no coincidence, however, that the airline is the last major holdout to allow customers to check bags for free.

But Harteveldt predicts that if Boeing’s Space Bin concept proves popular, “we may see Boeing adapt it to its widebody aircraft.”

Harteveldt points out that Boeing has a long history of tailoring popular innovations from its newer planes for use on other aircraft in its manufacturing lineup.

“For example, the Boeing Sky Interior concept evolved from the cabin design of the 787 Dreamliner. The Space Bin is evolving out of that. So just because something starts in one type of airplane doesn’t mean it will never appear on another,” Harteveldt says.