From the moment passengers step onto an aircraft, the cabin interior plays a big role in setting the tone for the rest of their flight. Comfort, space, and amenities are some of the key ingredients that makes the flying experience enjoyable. In this series, we will examine some of the most common cabin interior features in today’s short haul and long haul flights across top international airlines and highlight some of the future designs in the pipeline.
North America Short Haul
In this part, we will focus on the short haul (under 1000 miles) product for the top 5 North American airlines. These airlines are some of the biggest in the world and include American Airlines (AA), United Airlines (UA), Delta Air Lines (DL), Southwest Airlines (WN) and Air Canada (AC). Except for Southwest, all the others are full service airlines with a vast international route network using different plane types.
Low Cost Carrier – Southwest Airlines
To bring the Cost Available Seat Miles (CASM)(measure of cost per mile flown in cents), lower cost carrier Southwest Airlines uses only variants of the Boeing 737 to serve its passengers for both short and long haul routes. These aircrafts feature an all economy configuration, have between 143-175 seats with 31-33″ pitch, 17″ width and 2-3″ degree recline. There is no in flight entertainment included but WiFi is available across the fleet at an additional charge.
Full Service Airlines
While low cost carriers have one product to serve their passengers, full service airlines, in contrast, have a significantly more array of products catered for passengers’ different needs. These needs can range from individuals looking for the lowest fare to the executives wanting the peace of mind in private spaces.
Cabin interior innovation plays a big role in creating the right atmosphere in exceeding passenger needs which allows the airlines to build on their Revenue Available Seat Miles (RASM) (measure of revenue against available seat miles in cents).
Under 1,000 Miles
Two regional aircraft manufacturers Embraer and Bombardier combined own the market for under 1,000 miles flights. The Embraer E145/175/190 and Bombardier C100/200/705/900/Q400 are the top choices used for such flights. These aircrafts typically have between 44 seats (all economy configuration) to around 100 seats (with a business class /domestic first and economy configuration). As well, they can be used for smaller airports that have shorter runways.
The following infographic summarizes the typical configuration of cabin interior features on flights under 1,000 miles (based on review across the 4 full service airlines mentioned above).
Just because the flights are shorter in distance does not mean passengers do not want any amenities on board. Typically, there is now a domestic first (in the US) and business class (in Canada) to cater to higher yield passengers. This class would have a more comfortable seat with a better pitch and width.
All airlines also offer an economy plus product where additional pitch (on average 35″) is offered to passengers. The seat itself would be the same as a regular economy class. In economy class, pitch can range from 31″ to 34″ depending on the aircraft (on average 32″).
Most of the US airlines have not included any in flight or streaming entertainment systems on short haul flights but more are implementing WiFi to manage passengers’ connectivity needs (for a fee).
The leader in this group is Air Canada (exception their Q400 aircrafts and Rouge branded flights). Back in early 2010s, this Canadian airline decided it will install audio video on demand (AVOD) IFE systems with at least a 9 inch screen in their regional aircrafts. Besides being the first North American airline to feature this system, each seat also include an USB (individual) and AV Power (individual in Bus and shared in Econ) ports combination. (Others – JetBlue – outside of the top 5 also has free Live TV implemented in their E190 aircrafts).
In general, some of the bigger regional aircrafts like the E175/190, C705/900 can accommodate small carryon luggage but many passengers might require to gate check as the overhead compartments are not width enough.
Some of the innovation being considered from Embraer and Bombardier for its next generation regional jets include:
- On board oven
- Bigger overhead compartments that could accommodate more carryon luggages
- Built in WiFi for connectivity and streaming entertainment
- IFE screens for entertainment with setup boxes installed into the seats
- Quieter cabins
In the next part, we will examine the cabin interiors for flights between 1,001 to 3,000 miles.