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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
‘Wide body’ holds the promise of more room. Let’s hope the airlines don’t screw it up.
We joined key members of the world’s press on a tour of Airbus’ brand new A350XWB aircraft, during which were treated to tantalizing hints of what we can expect onboard when the aircraft graces the skies.
Here’s the countdown of our top five favorite A350WXB features, ranked by how likely they are to contribute to a pleasant flight soon.
5. Large windows with “auto-mechanical” shades
Larger windows are a nice feature of the new A350XWB, and Airbus is proud to say that they provide one window per seat. The difference between Airbus’ “auto-mechanical window shades” and the electronic shades on “the other” manufacturer’s modern aircraft is that Airbus’ are less advanced.
And that’s good.
Beautiful as the electronic dimming window concept is, there have been some unfortunate reliability issues. Airbus’ “auto mechanical” shades consist of two accordion blinds, one sheer and another dark, which descend and retract at the push of a button. Don’t knock it. It works. Well, so long as the electrified buttons don’t fail. And the blinds don’t get stuck.
Just in case, Airbus will supply conventional blinds as an option for airlines too.
4. Roomier Seats
If this were a guarantee, it would make number one on our list. The truth, however, is not as nice as the marketing pitch.
Airbus believes that an 18-inch standard should be, well, standard. They’ve planned the A350XWB interior to accommodate 9-abreast 18-inch seats in economy, by sets of three. But that’s just planning. Airlines will pick the configurations which best suit their business strategy. Airbus concedes that some airlines will prefer a 10-abreast 17-inch seat configuration.
3. Fourth-generation in-flight entertainment quipment
Panasonic screens are featured on all seats throughout the cabin. Airbus believes that this new fourth-generation IFE will revolutionize inflight-entertainment, and they are most likely right.
The system is highly responsive, with capacity to accommodate HD content, either from passengers’ own devices (connected via USB) or via the in-flight entertainment — or even through live-streamed TV service, using their Ku-band connection.
That should be number one, but it can’t be. The content and service are presently unavailable to fully capitalize on the potential of this equipment.
2. No IFE box under the seats
Airbus said good-riddance to IFE boxes on the A350XWB, and installed advanced fiber optic wiring for that state-of-the-art, fourth-gen IFE equipment. Forget finding those wires too. They’re practically invisible, cleverly hidden on this aircraft.
1. Room Room Room
Maybe it won’t be on your seat (blame the airline for that) but the aircraft was designed for ample space. The unique upright side panels maximize the space for those who chose window over aisle. The very high ceiling makes the cabin feel cavernous.
That space is enhanced by the best of all features, when it comes to passenger experience enhancement: enormous overhead bins. They are completely out of the way, but hold enough bags for each passenger to carry a full-sized bag onboard.
Though lost-luggage is on a downturn, most passengers still prefer to carry-on. This feature is ready to go, and standard. To us, that guaranteed availability makes it the best of all possible features.
Oh, and it comes in rainbow colors; with special LED mood-lighting throughout, and uses this light feature to help you regulate your body clock and avoid jet-lag, which is just “plane” groovy.