An Airbus A350XWB test aircraft at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
Frederic Stevens | Getty Images
LOS ANGELES – Airbus SE wants to know everything passengers consume on board – from coffee to film, to even toilet paper.
Last month, the European manufacturer and Boe's chief rival began flying one of the A350-900 wide-body aircraft to test what its executives believe is the cabin of the future: full of sensors that collect passenger data on board for passengers.
"It's not a concept. It's not a dream," said Airbus "cabin marketing vice president Ingo Wuggetzer at a trade conference in Los Angeles this week.
The goal is to collect data on passenger behavior and consumption on board, information that can save airlines money and relieve on-board pain points for passengers such as the crazy mix of air drum and toilet queues.
So, how does it work
Airbus has added sensors throughout the plane, which it uses as a flying laboratory which will collect data on passengers' use of certain parts of the aircraft and objects on board. The information collected from the so-called Flight Lab is shared with both cabin crew to address supplies on board and with the airlines tasked with booking them.
For example, Airbus plans to track how many times the toilet is opened and closed, so that the airline and cabin crew know how often the bathrooms are used, and have a better idea when re-arranging items, such as toilet paper or soap. It will also give airlines a better sense of how many toilets they need on board, Wuggetzer said. The manufacturer also wants to track things like how many times the seats are reclined, he said, to give airlines a better sense of when they need maintenance, so the airlines don't suddenly sit back with a seat that doesn't work and force them to lose revenues.
The data is collected from the sensors through an on-board Wi-Fi system and then shared with flight crews. The information will be shared with the airlines when the plane lands.
Airbus also plans to add small cameras on board to monitor how many people are waiting in the bathroom, and then tell travelers about approximate waiting times or which ones to use. To minimize privacy concerns, Wuggetzer said passengers' faces will be blurred.
This also applies to food purchases and orders on board so that airlines do not over-order or under-order goods.
The International Air Transport Association, an industry trading group representing most of the world's airlines, estimated that carriers generated 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste in 201
The tests on the A350 are scheduled to continue through the end of the year.