Crystal Cabin Awards 2021 shortlist: Double-decker economy class seat design offers passengers more space

Take a look at some of this year's shortlisted designs in the gallery above.

A new design for economy class seating could mean more space for passengers and better social distancing on planes.

Alejandro Nuñez Vicente, a design engineer at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, has come up with a "Chaise Lounge Economy seat" concept, where seat rows are alternately raised and lowered, creating more space for passengers.

Vincente's design has been shortlisted for one of this year's Crystal Cabin Awards, which recognise excellence in aircraft interior innovation.

This year's awards have a focus on renewing confidence in air travel, given the downturn in global aviation caused by the pandemic, with just two special categories (compared to the usual eight): "Judge's Choice" and "Clean and Safe Air Travel".

Vincente's cabin concept has been selected in the "Judge's Choice" category, with the design receiving global attention since it was shortlisted.

"The uniqueness of this concept is that the vertical space in the cabin is used to create more space for the passengers," Vincente's description of his concept says. "Through the use of the vertical space, the seat design provides passengers with bigger recline angles, more leg room and more overall space within the 32-inch (81 cm) seat pitch, while supporting a wide range of different body postures."

Another entry, ADSE's "Economy Sky-Dream" cabin design, took another crack at the holy grail of cattle-class travel: beds in economy class. The design moves the overhead lockers to create space for bunk beds in the middle row of economy class.

"During taxi, take-off and landing, the passengers are seated in club seating configuration (with seats facing each other)", ADSE's entry reads. "The middle bed is lowered during the sleep phase of the flight, thereby converting the centre seat row into three equally spaced beds. The result: a comfortable bed for each Economy Sky-Dream traveller to make long haul flights feel shorter and to arrive feeling refreshed."

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Another design on the awards shortlist aims to improve social distancing on planes without reducing the overall number of seats. British designer PriestmanGoode's "Pure Skies" concept uses partitions in both business and economy class to create better separation between passengers.

Meanwhile, Toyota Boshoku reimagined the economy class cabin by mixing three classes together - economy window seats combined with premium economy and "premium plus" seats in the middle of the cabin. The design also featured a meal-serving robot, replacing cabin crew on meal and drinks services.

Other concepts making the shortlist this year focused on hygiene, with multiple entries applying cleaning tools using UV light to kill viruses, while others looked at improving cabin air quality. One design proposed a "clip on" tray table, which is handed to passengers prior to their meal and fully removed and disinfected between flights.

The Crystal Cabin Awards have long featured innovative, some might say outlandish, designs for aircraft cabins, few of which will ever get off ground.

Notable ideas to make the shortlist in the past include the Lower Deck Pax Experience Modules from Airbus, which would convert the cargo bay of planes into sleeping or exercise areas. The concept received interest from Qantas, with the airline considering the design as an option for its ultra-long-haul Project Sunrise flights from Australia's east coast to New York and London non-stop (that project is currently on hiatus due to the pandemic). Qantas later dropped the idea.

That's not to say some of the ideas won't eventually become a reality. Delta Air Lines' Delta One Suite for business class took out the award for best cabin concept in 2017. It was on board the airline's first Airbus A350s just a few months later.

This year's shortlist features the Horizon Premier first class suite, designed by Collins Aerospace and PriestmanGoode for Russian airline Aeroflot. The suites have already started rolling out on board the airline's Airbus A350s.

Take a look at some of this year's shortlisted designs in the gallery above.

See also: London to New York in 3.5 hours: United to buy 15 supersonic jets

See also: ​Business travel is not coming back, says Virgin boss

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