An Airbus A350XWB test aircraft at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Frederic Stevens | Getty Images
LOS ANGELES – Airbus SE wants to know what the passengers on board consume – from coffee to films to toilet paper.
Boeing's European manufacturer and main competitor began flying one of its A350-900 airplanes last month to test what their executives think of the cabin of the future: full of sensors collecting data on their passengers' boarding habits ,
"It's not a concept, it's not a dream," said Airbus Ingo Wuggetzer, vice president of cabin marketing, at an industry conference in Los Angeles this week.
The aim is to collect data on the behavior and consumption of passengers on board, such as the crazy scramble for storage areas and toilet queues.
So, how does it work?
Airbus has added sensors throughout the aircraft that use it as a flight laboratory to collect data on the use of certain parts of the aircraft and the items on board by the passengers. The information collected by the so-called Flight Lab is passed on to the cabin crew to address the on-board supplies and airlines commissioned to order them.
Airbus, for example, plans to keep track of how often the toilet is locked open and closed so that the cabin crew know how often the bathrooms are used and have a better idea of when to fill up items such as toilet paper or soap have to. This will also give airlines a better sense of how many toilets they need on board, Wuggetzer said. The manufacturer also wants to track how often seats are leaned back to give airlines a better sense of when to wait, so they do not suddenly have a job-free seat and lose revenue.
The data is collected by the sensors via an integrated Wi-Fi system and then passed on to the flight crew. The information is shared with the airlines as soon as the plane lands.
Airbus also plans to install small cameras on board to monitor how many people are waiting for the bathrooms, and then to inform travelers about the approximate waiting times or which ones they should use. To minimize concerns about privacy, passengers' faces are blurred.
This also applies to food purchases and orders on board, so that airlines do not over- or under-order items.
The International Air Transport Association, an industry group that represents most of the world's airlines, estimated that airlines would generate 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste in 201
Do not expect these features to be seen on your next flight in the near future. Wuggetzer said commercial airlines still have to test it, and it's not clear if these airlines are willing to do more for the features.
The tests on the A350 are to be continued until the end of the year.