In a new filing, Airbus obtained a new patent that will change the way airport gate areas are designed and how passengers board airplanes of the future.
The patent filed in February 2013 and approved by the the United States Patent and Trademark Office just on November 24, 2015. Airbus shifts its focus from seats to the cabin itself.
The plane manufacturer plans to introduce ‘a removable cabin module, comprising a floor, an upper aircraft fuselage portion connected to the floor, and a first and a second end wall. The first and second end walls, the floor and the upper aircraft fuselage portion form a cabin for transport of passengers, luggage, freight or combinations thereof.’
In this scenario, passengers would be seated in detachable cabins while the aircraft attaches to the gate within a modified terminal.
Once attached, passengers would be free to leave the plane like today and while airline crews would be able to service the cabin.
Like manufacturers in many industries, patents are granted for designs that may not be made in reality in the near future. Here are some of the benefits and disadvantages of this Airbus design:
- Streamlined process in boarding and deboarding passengers to aircrafts
- In combination with redesigning how carry ons are loaded (perhaps automatically at check in and stored underneath the cabin in a separate/above compartment), can speed up boarding process
- Passengers can spend more time experience the different services provided by the airport
- Require significant airport redesigns to accommodate the cabin structure
- Given the concept has not been proven, regulatory approvals would be very lengthy
- Technically challenging as the cabins must be sealed properly once attached to the aircraft to engage that air pressure/integrity is maintained.
By 2050, Airbus also envisioned that aircrafts’ cabins can be transformed in a more fluid state (i.e. dimensions may change within a given parameter).
Aircraft manufacturers continually explore new concepts to bring better passenger comfort and lower costs. While cabin interiors (including seats, on board amenities and technology) have been through upgrades over the decades, general cabins design have not transformed significantly. Airbus and Boeing will likely change that in the next generations of aircrafts to be introduced by 2030.