Airbus and Boeing remain under pressure from airlines to define their narrowbody replacement plans. But with strong backlogs for the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, neither airframer appears too terribly worried about would-be successors. Instead they have been developing their current programmes to improve efficiency. Airbus may even opt to re-engine the A320.
That is all fine and dandy but what about the cabin? With narrowbody replacement appearing to be pushed out beyond the next decade, doesn’t the six-abreast cabin deserve a revamp too? (Sorry Boeing, the new ‘Sky Interior’ for the 737 is sweet but it is far from game-changing).
Might there be a way for current A320/737 operators to improve ground rotation capability (a major concern), satisfy passengers (by providing more comfort) and make in-flight service easier?
One chap with a possible answer is Morten Müller, an aircraft engineer who says he is a former member of the Airbus sales squad.
Müller has developed a cabin concept that would turn your average A320 or 737 into something decidedly more appealing than the traditional single-aisle (3+3) layout and yes, as the headline suggests, it involves a twin-aisle configuration.
In a paper prepared for the Crystal Cabin Awards Competition held at the Hamburg Aircraft Interiors Expo in April, Müller made the following argument for his design:
“Iconoclastic perhaps, but not exaggerated, A320/737 six-abreast single-aisle (3+3) cabins are user-unfriendly; unattractive to passengers; dreaded by cabin attendants; [and] a pain-in-the-neck to cabin cleaners!
“Quoting [former SAS Group chief executive] Jan Carlzon (“Moments of Truth”, 1985) : ‘How would I explain to our passengers that SAS shall invest hundreds of millions in the purchase of new 737 or A320 aircraft, if the only new feature is a line down the full length of the cabin only with middle seats in a triple, where nobody wants to sit?’
“Use the A320 trim-to-trim 146.4″ cabin width to install something closer to Jan Carlzon’s (2+2+2) “Passenger Pleasing Plane”, e.g. five-abreast twin aisle HP3 (1+2+2) or HQR (1+3+1) seating? Amazingly, it works! (“QuickRotation” HQR (1+3+1) cabins may also be fitted in the 737).”
The picture directly above and below shows the A320 in (1+2+2) configuration, while the cross-section (far bottom of blog) shows the 737 (1+3+1) concept.
Quite obviously, in order to accomplish either new arrangement, a carrier would have to sacrifice some capacity (something the likes of Spring Airlines and Ryanair, which claim to be seriously studying stand-up seats, probably wouldn’t get excited about).
But it would allow carriers that care todifferentiate their product (yes, there are still some out there!) todo so in an innovative, crowd-pleasing way while waiting until 2020or beyond for next-gen narrowbodies.
“Ticket yield leveraging is powerful: customers are informed, educated, selective; they will check, compare and vote, with assurance and autonomy, for the best product [and] making profit will be easier with [these designs],” says Müller.
That’s a BIG claim. But I wonder if Müller isn’t onto something here.
As a matter of interest, ILFC in 2008 notably advocated the development of twin-aisle narrowbody aircraft with seven-abreast seating (let’s not talk about what ILFC might be advocating right now, ahem).
But has the time come to really do something about the interior of current-generation narrowbodies?