In an airplane, space is scarce and constrained. Especially when trying to make travel affordable, airliners tend to maximize the number of seats available on board. To remedy the discomfort that this implies for passengers, airlines and aircraft manufacturers are multiplying initiatives. In addition to ergonomic seats, the initial focus was on in-flight entertainment.
No more screens common to all, now the individual screen prevails with an ever more extensive choice of content. Another factor, less visible and yet essential, has recently been the object of all the attention of airlines: that of light on board.
No more neon that you turn on or off with no other choice than “on” or “off.” Now, thanks to the LEDs, the crew can choose among a wide range of atmospheres and thus modulate the lighting according to the phases of dinner, sleep, and awakening. To understand how these variations of light are elaborated, we went to Hamburg to the center of “Cab Definition.”
Give the impression of space.
In this 4,500 m² space set up by Airbus in a former aircraft factory, customers, in this case, airlines, select what they need for their onboard facilities. There is furniture specially adapted for kitchens, or new luggage boxes with a capacity increased by 40%. And of course the lighting equipment. In a “mock-up”, hear a life-size cabin model, tests are performed with a choice of millions of colors.
Companies quickly understood that lighting environments would be a distinctive asset that would enable them to strengthen their brand image. Because as soon as they enter the cabin, passengers are marked by the atmosphere produced by the light composition. “Light is a big part of the feeling,” explains Paul Edwards, our guide during this visit. The goal is, therefore, to give the impression of space while differentiating itself from other companies. Finnair will choose a sober atmosphere when Qatar Airways is more luxurious and colorful.
However, this choice is not without constraints, as it is essential to take into account the materials used for the walls and seats of the aircraft if bad associations are to be avoided. Depending on the tones chosen, a metal piece, for example, will look very chic or completely fake. There is a golden rule of mood lighting on which all companies align themselves: no direct light.
Because beyond aesthetics, luminance – that is, the perceived light intensity of a material – also helps passengers to respect the rhythms of sleep. A light that dims gently at bedtime and imitates sunrise a few hours later will help fight jet lag. We even study the variations of the lights depending on where we are on the plane. Nothing is left to chance.