The new Emirates first class suite on its 777 is a “game changer.” That’s the news you’re reading out of Dubai as the company prepares to put the product into service in the coming weeks. And the truth is that components of that suite probably are game changing. Just not in the way they’re being discussed today and not really for the passengers flying in those suites.
— Emirates Airline (@emirates) November 12, 2017
Betting big on video
Being stuck in the middle sucks. Being stuck in the middle when the seats on either side of you boast floor-to-ceiling walls, blocking any chance of an outside view is far, far worse. The 1-1-1 layout of the new Emirates F suite on the 777s creates a challenge there, one that the carrier managed to solve with technology. The traveler in the “middle suite” will get outside views thanks to faux window displays wired to external cameras.
It was only a matter of time, and opens the door (window?) to BWB aircraft. Cruise ships have had virtual balconies for a while, too. https://t.co/2f3LaJurdr
— Howard Slutsken (@HowardSlutsken) November 12, 2017
This is not new technology. Cruise ships started on this path years ago. But it is still a very cool application of such systems to deliver a better passenger experience. And also impressive in the evolution of the technology that it can be delivered reliably and at a light enough weight to now appear on aircraft. It also has far broader long-term potential than just making the folks in suites happy.
Behold, the windowless plane
What if every window on board was a digital projection? What if there were no longer holes cut in the fuselage to provide those views? That’s ridiculous, right?? Except maybe not.
Removing the windows dramatically improves the structural integrity of the fuselage. Cheaper, lighter, longer lasting, more reliable. These are all good adjectives for a product and the windowless plane would deliver on them.
Today the idea is about as comfortable to passengers as a pilotless craft. Which is to say completely untenable. But bringing the technology in through the premium cabin will start to acclimate passengers to the idea. And eventually it will almost certainly happen.
Video calling on board
The other significant video effort on board the new Emirates 777 first class suite is for communication with the cabin crew. Rather that the “call button” summoning an attendant to the seat it now creates a video call to the galley. Here’s a demo:
— Zach Honig (@ZachHonig) November 12, 2017
To me this seems the antithesis of a premium service offering. Yes, it is still personal service. But with a small first class cabin having the crewmember visit in person shouldn’t take too long nor should it be a challenge to deliver. It is hard to tell what the value-add of this digital transition is, other than to sound cool to folks who think a Facetime conversation in the lounge is a good idea. Or to desensitize travelers to the idea of constant video “interaction” on planes.
More power, please
Separate from the various video bits on board Emirates and Panasonic Avionics announced that every seat on the plane will have high power USB-C ports for charging mobile devices. This is an industry first for the new power type. Industry executives have been talking about the potential for USB-C to emerge on planes for more than a year now and it is not yet displacing USB-A or 110V power but augmenting those options. Expect that to further shift as more devices adopt the USB-C charging protocol in the future.
Images courtesy of Emirates