Boeing Signature Interior a hit with flying public
BY ELIZABETH DAVIS
You head down the aisle and reach for the pivot bin's latch. Surprisingly, you can actually reach it—without having to climb on the seat. The bin opens downward; you hoist your heavy bag into the hold. Instead of struggling, your bag goes in easily. You close the bin, sit down, fasten your seatbelt and take a deep breath.
Now you have a moment to look around. You think to yourself, "Is this airplane new? Is it a new model?" Somehow it seems so much larger.
You don't immediately notice the continuous streams of light that run from the front to the back of the plane and then side-to-side. You don't realize that low-hanging storage bins—ubiquitous on other airplanes—are tucked up and away here. You can see throughout the cabin from your seat—no obstructed views. The plane seems less tube-like than before. You can see that the light is really bright across from you, but you don't perceive how your brain translates this information into a feeling of spaciousness. And then it hits you. Something about this airplane appears very different.
Expanding the new look
Passengers initially got a taste of the Boeing Signature Interior in June 1995, when United Airlines put the first 777 into revenue service. Now, even more of the flying public can experience the benefits and superior comfort of updated interiors in new and retrofit 767s and 747-400ERs. Just as the 777 with the Boeing Signature Interior set the standard for delivering value to airlines with its features, innovations and inventive approaches to airplane development, this passenger-preferred design is now available across multiple models.
"We are always looking for ways to increase the value of our products," said Gary Wicks, Commercial Airplanes Marketing manager for Product Positioning. "We have seen the value of the Signature Interior on the 777, and it just made sense to expand the offering to the 767 and the 747-400ER."
Research has shown that the Boeing Signature Interior is the industry's preferred airplane interior. In fact, it is the only airplane interior to have won an award from the Industrial Designers of America for demonstrating an enhanced understanding of the contribution of light and design to passenger comfort. Not surprisingly, many who have flown in the new 767 have commented that the airplane's fuselage appears wider.
While the size of the 767, 777 and 747-400ER's fuselage remains at previously published levels, these airplanes appear bigger and more spacious inside. For example, bins on the 747-400ER have 15 percent more carrying capacity. There is more space for carry-on items on the upper deck, and Boeing has redesigned bins to accommodate more roll-aboard bags.
Creating the user-friendly interior
By blending comfort and functionality, the Boeing Signature Interior benefits both passengers and airlines.
"Airline crew members love the functionality and versatility of the interior," Wicks said. "Passengers love the space, light, security and comfort."
Industrial designers and engineers took these perspectives into account when designing the interior's new look. They understood the power of perception. They saw research that indicated that passenger comfort was a major concern to the traveling public. Then they gathered data that acknowledged that enhanced personal comfort and increased space could be an antidote to general passenger dissatisfaction.
Based on careful scrutiny, designers and engineers turned anecdotal evidence into three dimensions—now the Signature Interior on the 767, 777 and 747-400ER. While seats are still buyer-furnished, engineers and designers worked to improve seat placement and pitch. In addition, they increased aisle width and transformed sidewalls into an upright position. In turn, these changes created a perception of room-like spaciousness, not to mention more shoulder room. Blending visually pleasing elements with functionality, they understood how the human eye interprets sizes and shapes for maximum effect.
Improving the total travel experience
Speaking at the recent Aircraft Interiors EXPO held in Hamburg, Germany, Klaus Brauer, Boeing Commercial Airplanes project director, Passenger Revenue Development, told attendees—who represented airlines, suppliers and the media—that the travel experience is not meeting the needs or expectations of the traveling public. Passengers complain about seat width, in-flight meals and airport traffic congestion.
While a bigger bin or ambient lighting cannot address every passenger complaint, Brauer noted that "we must look to the interior to help cure ills that have their roots in the highway, the parking lot, the check-in line, the security check and elsewhere."
Many passengers feel relief when they finally board the plane and see the airplane's interior as a "healing oasis of tranquility," Brauer said.
Considering the commitment of Boeing designers and engineers to improving customer comfort, it is not surprising that the Signature Interior is a hit with the traveling public. As an example, survey results indicate that more than three out of four passengers who have flown aboard both the 777 and the Airbus A330/340 preferred the 777 by an overwhelming margin—including those who flew in economy class.
What's the future of airplane interiors? Boeing interior experts are continuously at work to take comfort to the next level.
"With the 7E7, we are looking for ways to blend the best ideas from the Signature Interior elements," Brauer said. "We've conducted a number of passenger focus groups to ensure we know what people want while flying."
While the Boeing Signature Interior cannot single-handedly improve the ailing airline industry's economics, or ensure that a 6-foot-8-inch man sitting in coach has enough legroom, it has proven to be the right blend of functionality and features at the right time for the right airplane models. From improved lighting to integrated bins to a perception of increased space, the Signature Interior both meets airline customer needs and improves the air travel experience for the flying public.
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