Plane cabins resembling a cross between a restaurant, sports bar, living room and a shop could be coming to a flight path near you in the near future.
That’s if a certain British aircraft interior designer and his team get their way.
Ross Burns is the lead designer of cabin interiors at Bournemouth-based Aim Altitude, the company behind the bar areas on Emirates and Virgin Atlantic. Now they’ve created a social space concept called ‘Ultraflex’, reminiscent of Virgin’s sofa-clad ‘loft’ area for the A350 – but even more radical.
Aim Altitude, the company behind the bar areas on Emirates and Virgin Atlantic, has created a social space concept called ‘Ultraflex’ (pictured). It’s reminiscent of Virgin’s sofa-clad ‘loft’ area for the A350 – but is even more radical
Ace: This rendering shows the Ultraflex pop-up ‘perch bar’ area, which features a big screen. An ideal space for the communal watching of sports events
The deli galley, where passengers can grab a healthy snack or two from a floor-to-ceiling fridge
A cutaway graphic showing the overall size of the Ultraflex zone. Mr Burns said that some carriers have expressed keen interest in the design
The aim is to create the ultimate communal space at 38,000ft, where passengers can stretch their legs, move around and socialise.
With health and wellness at the forefront of many passengers’ minds, especially on flights over 12 hours, Mr Burns says spaces such as these could become more and more important on aircraft.
He told MailOnline Travel: ‘We have been working on the Ultraflex concept for about 10 months now after looking at the emerging trend of ultra-long-haul travel of between 12 and 20 hours.
‘We have spent the past year looking at the one or two airlines that have really taken ultra-long-haul travel on board and finding out exactly its effect and what it does to your body.
‘When travelling ultra long haul, we know that at some point, passengers are going to want to get up, have a change of scenery and stretch their legs as we know that sitting down for too long is not healthy.
‘So we wanted to create a place where people can stand, stretch their legs and socialise that would be in the business class area of the plane.
‘We’ve concentrated on wellness and health and increasing social interaction and it could be an area for small groups to have a meeting or for friends to have a drink.’
The Ultraflex cabin can be broken down into five areas.
The exercise station, a row of single-seat window-facing booths where passengers can sit and work and do low-resistance exercises at the same time, using step plates on the floor
The flex booth is, like its name suggests, multi-purpose. In standard set-up mode it has two seats facing each other with a table in between, perfect for meetings or a cosy meal for two
The flex booth table and seats can be folded away, transforming it into a quiet space for yoga or prayer
The main area is the ‘community space/perch monument area’, where passengers can congregate and chat.
It contains rounded waist-height furniture – ideal for leaning on – and sofas.
Then there’s the deli galley, where passengers can grab a healthy snack or two from a floor-to-ceiling fridge.
Mr Burns explained: ‘We have tried to design it to be an approachable area with fridges people would be used to seeing in a cafe or a shop.
‘Quite often the galleys on planes are quite harsh and stark and a place where cabin crews are working so often people don’t want to approach them.’
A third area is the flex booth and, like its name suggests, it’s multi-purpose.
In standard set-up mode it has two seats facing each other with a table in between, perfect for meetings or a cosy meal for two.
Cunningly, though, the table and seats can be folded away, transforming the booth into a quiet space for yoga or prayer.
The booths could be bookable on board from the IFE (in-flight entertainment) or in advance online, suggests Aim Altitude.
Next there’s the exercise station, a row of single-seat window-facing booths where passengers can sit and work and do low-resistance exercises using step plates on the floor, ‘a fun way to keep blood circulating and reduce discomfort’, says Aim Altitude.
Mr Burns admits that the Ultraflex concept won’t be for every airline, as some would rather maximise revenue by packing in as many seats as possible on to an aircraft. Pictured is the flex booth in prayer mode
Mr Ross Burns, the lead designer of cabin interiors at Bournemouth-based Aim Altitude
Finally, there’s a pop-up ‘perch bar’ with a big screen – ideal for the communal watching of sports events.
Here bottles would be stored in the bar’s central trough.
How access would be granted to this area would be up to the individual airline, said Mr Burns.
He suggested that it could be built into the price of the ticket for premium customers or only available to those those who pay extra.
Access could also be given to passengers at an allotted time.
Mr Burns admits that the Ultraflex concept won’t be for every airline, as some would rather maximise revenue by packing in as many seats as possible on to an aircraft.
But there’s definitely interest from some carriers keen on making ultra-long-haul bearable.
Mr Burns said: ‘Some of the airlines we have spoken to have really embraced this idea and want to offer something different.
‘With ultra-long-haul travel, it can be a massive ordeal on the body and if the experience of this is not good, a passenger might not do it again.
‘This concept tries to help make things a bit more bearable on planes and possibly give airlines repeat custom.’