Airplanes

How about a workout – in the gym – on your next flight?

Courtesy Transpose

Sitting for hours on long-haul flights is bad for both butts and brains, but the standard layout of narrow, forward-facing seats in ever more tightly packed airplane cabins doesn’t offer much option for passenger movement.

But what if you could get out of your seat mid-flight and head to the in-flight gym for a workout – maybe a spinning or yoga class– in a section of the cabin the airline could easily swap out, in plug-and-play fashion, for a kids’ play area or a meeting-friendly café on the next flight?

That’s the idea behind Transpose, a project of Airbus’s Silicon Valley outpost known as which has partnered with Reebok and Peloton to display (through May 19) a prototype ‘flying gym’ module complete with stationary bikes, yoga mats, resistance stations and other workout equipment at Mineta San Jose International Airport.


Courtesy Transpose

“For most people, the future of flight will still be on large commercial aircraft,” said Transpose project executive Jason Chua, “We’re trying to allow for new types of in-flight experiences with a modular cabin architecture that allows for customized spaces that can be loaded and unloaded onto aircraft very rapidly.”

Beyond gyms, Transpose cabin modules could be plug-in spas, napping pods, gaming centers, dining areas, yoga studios or, as one traveler suggested, a karaoke lounge. And, Chua suggests, each creative design would offer new ways for both airlines to generate revenue and for brands to engage with flyers beyond putting advertisements on napkins, on tray table stickers, before in-flight movies and in the pages of in-flight magazines.

More ways to carve out the cabin

While quick-change cabin modules may be a new idea, Transpose isn’t the first to suggest using cabin space for activities that promote wellness.

Back in 2002, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) actively promoted the basic stretching and exercise opportunities offered by a metal bar attached high on a wall in unused space near the galley on some of its long-haul aircraft.

More recently, designers at Seattle-based Teague joined with Nike to envision a Boeing 787 Dreamliner with an interior luxuriously fitted out with amenities for professional and elite college athletes, such as extra-long lie-flat seats, a nutrition zone, biometric monitoring and analyzing systems, a recovery room with massage table, and more.

Courtesy Teague

And last summer, Russian plane maker Sukhoi showed off a concept mock up for a its SportJet, a private jet outfitted for sports teams outfitted with special equipment and lighting, including a variety of in-seat diagnostic devices that will test athletes before, during and after the flight, “to diagnose the physiological and psychological parameters of the athlete’s functionality.”

But while in-flight gyms, yoga studios and other high-flying cabin concepts for commercial airplanes seem intriguing, “A lot of these concepts don’t really account for the business model of air travel,” said Devin Lidell, Principal Brand Strategist at Teague, “They don’t answer the question of how can the airline make money with that, and will someone actually pay for it?”

An entire cabin on a commercial plane outfitted with elliptical machines probably isn’t reasonable – or realistic, said Lidell, “But maybe you could have some seats that are mainly for take-off and landing and then allow passengers to move about the airplane in a different way. Or explore having whole cabins built around passengers with like-minded interests. People may pay more for that.”

When it comes to in-flight wellbeing, for now passengers are limited to walking up and down the aisle (when the drink or meal carts aren’t in the way) or doing stretching exercises – sometimes to the odd glances from other passengers, at their seats.

To help, many airlines offer instructions and encouragement for in-seat exercises on the in-flight entertainment system, in the in-flight magazines or on seat-back cards. Some, like Lufthansa, have recruited sports stars to demonstrate the moves in short videos.

Another, extremely low-tech approach comes from Shanghai-based budget carrier, Spring Airlines, which has instructed its flight attendants to actively encourage passengers to perform in-flight exercises, said Raymond Kollau of AirlineTrends.com.

“Flight attendants announce over the PA that they will be demonstrating in-flight exercises – such as waving hands in the air, massaging temples, or stretching arms – and they recommend everyone do those actions as well,” said Kollau, “And many passengers actually join in.”

(A slightly different version of my story about gyms on airplanes appeared on CNBC)

Alaska Airlines announces plans for Virgin America

Photo by Harriet Baskas

It comes as no surprise, but Alaska Airlines announced its plans for the Virgin America name and brand and has decided that it’s going to keep the Alaska’s name and logo and retire the Virgin America name “likely sometime in 2019,” according to a company statement.

That’s bad news for those who love the Virgin America overall brand, vibe and amenities. But the good news is that Alaska Airlines is keeping its word and bringing some of the best Virgin America amenities forward.

Alaska says it will adopt “enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music and the relentless desire to make flying a different experience for guests” as part of an overall goal to create “a warm and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe.”

Alaska says it will adopt some other Virgin America touches including introducing music by new artists  on planes, in airport lobbies and at gates (2017); redesigning the cabin with new seats and amenities (2018) and introducing new uniforms by fashion designer Luly Yang (mid-2019) for flight attendants, customer service agents, pilots, mechanics and ground crew.

Alaska also promises to upgrade the Wi-Fi connectivity fleet-wide, add more premium seats, expand the lounge network and offer other new amenities you can read about here.

What do you think?

Special livery and new tailfin design for JetBlue

Check out the special livery JetBlue just rolled out on an Embraer 190, one the 100-seat airplanes the carrier uses to serve key cities such as Boston, Washington, D.C. and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The “Blueprint” paint scheme is designed to showcase the “bones” of the 100-seat aircraft and according to JetBlue draws on the styles of various aviation, nautical and space exploration vehicle cut-away diagrams.

“Mechanical features like the nose gear, jet engine and yoke were among the more obvious design elements to include,” JetBlue said in a statement, “But for the onboard features, JetBlue designers drew upon their own travel experiences, crewmember tales, and the airline’s loyal customers for inspiration, even creating fictional characters to compile a list of the items they might be traveling with. Plane spotters are encouraged to give the overhead bins, under-seat storage areas, and the luggage holds a closer look to see if they can spot the nearly 50 items these “Blueprint” customers are traveling with.”

 

The special – and first – JetBlue E190 special livery debuted at Boston’s Logan International Airport and will operate on routes served by the E190 throughout the JetBlue network.

But wait, there’s more!

As part of its 17th anniversary celebrations, JetBlue also introduced a new tailfin design that will appear on multiple aircraft this year. The design is the airline’s take on the iconic NY skyline.

“The design, which depicts the image of bright lights through window panes of city high-rises, is meant to reflect JetBlue’s growth and New York’s perpetual desire to reach for the sky. Four of JetBlue’s signature colors are reflected in “Highrise” and the illuminated windows can be rearranged creating a slightly different pattern on different aircraft tailfins,” JetBlue said in a statement.

The “Highrise” pattern debuted at JFK airport and will be added to additional aircraft this year.

Airbus delivers 10,000th aircraft. Singapore Airlines got it.

10000th-airbus-plane

Courtesy Airbus

I was in Toulouse, France last week for my first visit the Airbus factory and the celebrations surrounding the delivery of the company’s 10,000 aircraft, which just happened to be Singapore Airline’s sixth Airbus A350-900 – and the plane the carrier will use to launch non-stop flights between Singapore and San Francisco next week.

Here are some snaps from the adventure. More details later as I put together a fact-filled slide-show on this event for CNBC.

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Cake celebrating the delivery of the 10,000th plane by Airbus. Photo: Harriet Baskas

Cake celebrating the delivery of the 10,000th plane by Airbus. Photo: Harriet Baskas

Sadly, I couldn’t fly on the delivery flight to Singapore from Toulouse, but I did show up to wave goodbye…

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Airbus getting ready to deliver its 10,000th aircraft

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On Friday, Oct 14, Airbus will deliver its 10,000th aircraft – the A350 XWB pictured above – to Singapore Airlines at the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France. On Saturday, this A350 delivery flight – SQ8895 – will take off for Singapore.

Airbus bills the A350 XWB mid-size, long range aircraft family as “the world’s most modern and efficient aircraft family” with an “all-new efficient design” that includes “the latest and unique technologies improving performance in operation,” and making it competitive with the 787 and the 777 (made by, you know, Boeing).

Stay tuned for more details as I’m in Toulouse for a tour of the factory and for the delivery ceremony of the plane. Lots to learn!

Pretty darn exciting..