Just as the IFE&C sector is getting ultra-exciting, so too has the world of aircraft interiors hotted up (hmmm...this is convenient since I'm now covering interiors). At present, I'm in the process of pulling together a feature for Flight's "festive" issue about innovative interiors that could be coming to a cabin near you. I promise to drop little nuggets of news from my fact-finding on RWG.
Lufthansa Technik is working on what it claims is a "revolutionary" new economy-class seat design that it hopes to be able to showcase in the near-term. Specific details of the new seat are not being disclosed (double darn). But Lufthansa Technik is being very honest about the driver behind the new design.
"The colleagues who thought this thing up too many times got downgraded to economy class and spent the entire time trying to find out how to make it more comfortable," reveals Lufthansa Technik director innovation engineering Andrew Muirhead in an interview.
Essentially, rather than sob about their own uncomfortable position in the back of the bus (with the rest of us), they decided to observe everyone else and come up with a new design.
"The idea I think is brilliant and we're definitely going to build a prototype of it," says Muirhead, adding that "probably we will have something to show at some point during 2009. We are filing some patents".
Aerokid, you say, what's that? It is a seating system that can be quickly configured for babies and infants of up to two years in age or as a child seat. Flight Show Daily wrote about it in May.
A prototype for economy has already been made, and Lufthansa Technik is now working on an adapter system for business class seats. "We have a design for that but haven't built the prototype yet," says Muirhead.
It makes no sense to start the certification process for Aerokid until one of two things happen - either current regulations change in the near future or an airline says it is prepared to get the Aerokid even if rulemaking has not yet changed, according to the Lufthansa Technik executive.
Neither has happened yet, but there is enough debate going on in Europe over the use of loop belts to restrain babies and toddlers during flight to suggest that regulations are poised to change soon.
Lufthansa Technik isn't the only firm working feverishly on new economy seats. One company, UK-based Thompson Solutions, has a particularly cool staggered seat design that has already won at least one customer.
A spokesman for Thompson Solutions says the firm hasn't been given the green light to talk about any deal, but that would not explain why Delta Air Lines in April of this year was revealed as the launch customer for Thompson Solutions' "Cozy Suite", and why one week later CEO James Thompson talked extensively to IAG about the product, which will be offered on Delta's Boeing 767s and 777s in 2010.
The newly-mum attitude might indicate, however, that Delta wants the story to go away for a while in order to ensure some sort of competitive edge. If that is the case, and I'm not saying that it is, then I wish them the best of luck with that.
During his highly-revealing April interview with IAG, Thompson also said the Cozy Suite would be standard on all of Delta's long-haul aircraft, including 787s in the event that such an acquisition was made.
Delta recently merged with 787 customer Northwest Airlines so I gather we can expect to see the Cozy Suite on those 18 aircraft when they finally arrive (and other widebodies formerly operated by the carrier known as Northwest).
According to reports, however, that order figure might be reduced as Delta considers upping its order for 777s.
(Photo of Cozy Suite from Thompson Solutions' web site at www.thompsonsolutions.co.uk/ts_economy.html)