Expect A Big Passenger Privacy Push From Airlines This Decade
Privacy on board aircraft is both desirable and challenging to achieve. Some of the best premium cabins out…
Privacy on board aircraft is both desirable and challenging to achieve. Some of the best premium cabins out there now have doors and enclosed suites, but economy has mainly remained a very intimate experience. With COVID creating concerns over passenger separation, we could well see a massive push for more privacy in all cabins over the coming decade.
The rise of privacy
Fifty years ago, in what is often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of flying, premium passenger cabins were all about being social. Images of well-heeled businesspeople sharing champagne and conversation were the norm, but things have changed a lot since then. Now, the most desirable premium products are often those which isolate us the most, with doors, enclosed suites, and solitary experiences seemingly the epitome of luxury flying.
Simple Flying caught up with Dr Joe Leader, CEO of the Airline Passengers Experience Institute recently for our podcast. When discussing advancements at the ‘front of the plane,’ Joe agreed that we’d seen a huge push for more privacy in passenger experience over recent years. He said,
“So, on the front of the aircraft, I agree, that is where we have seen the most improvements and what I’d like to see for all passengers is those types of innovations to be bought to other types of seating configurations.
“Privacy has become the new lie-flat seat for the decade ahead of us.”
We’ve already seen evidence of the popularity of privacy in the business class cabin. Airlines such as Delta, with its Delta One Suite and British Airways with their Club Suite, both featuring doors for added privacy, have been applauded for this move. On the other hand, Virgin Atlantic, with its new Upper Class product, which neither has a door or no door, has received some criticism.
The beauty of advancements in the business class cabin is that they often filter through to the back of the plane too. While there may not be space for fully door-enclosed suits in economy, we may well see a renewed push towards a more private experience for fliers.
So, where is the industry going?
The lauded addition of privacy up the front of the plane will be further stimulated by the current pandemic. People taking to the skies again as post-COVID travel resumes want to know they are safe, secure and that as much space can be put between them and other, potentially infectious individuals.
Everyone in the industry agrees that social distancing on board aircraft is just not going to work. At least, not in the sense of leaving the middle seat free. However, we’ve already seen some solutions proposed that would provide a certain level of ‘shielding’ for passengers in a post-COVID aircraft cabin.
The Yin-Yang seating may not be to everyone’s taste, but elements of this could be used to provide more privacy in the cheap seats. Ideas of glass hygiene screens may have more legs, and even before COVID there was a strong push for more privacy. Joe told us,
“Even in the Crystal Cabin awards, there are first class seat configurations, what I would call European Union or US-style first class seats where they simply recline back, but they provide more privacy to each of the passengers. That is going to become more the norm as you see business class and even reclining first class focus on privacy.”
Reclining first class, often used on domestic US and intra-European routes, is also often the model for perhaps the most innovative cabin of the last decade – premium economy. Advancements in privacy for regional first will likely quickly make their way into the premium economy cabin, something which we will likely see relatively soon. And those modifications could rapidly filter down to the economy cabin too, although exactly how they look remains to be seen.