Airbus Takes Aircraft Accessibility To The Next Level
- Written by Roberto Castiglioni
Our recent visit at the Paris Air Show focused on spotting innovative solutions enhancing aircraft accessibility thus improving in-flight comfort for passengers with reduced mobility.
Producing almost half of the world’s commercial airliners, Airbus recently introduced a revolutionary concept that will significantly improve quality of air travel for passengers who need an on board wheelchair to move about the cabin and make use of the on board toilet.
Modern long haul aircraft are usually equipped with accessible toilets; however, single aisle short haul aircraft do not have such feature, making the use of toilets very difficult.
"I am unable to get to, let alone get in the toilets and so I limit liquid intake. I sometimes use my toilet bottle or leg bag, but neither is ideal," Martyn Sibley, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, recently told us.
Starting this fall Airbus will begin deliveries of aircraft of the A320 family equipped with the revolutionary Space-Flex lavatory, an innovative solution that will radically improve the in-flight experience for passengers like Martyn.
To fit the Space-Flex toilet the rear of the aircraft has been reconfigured, with existing lavatories moved to the rear end of the aircraft.
The two toilets, each of a size comparable with those existing in the A320 family of aircraft, become one through a simple process of conversion: two Space-Flex toilets can be converted into one space for persons of reduced mobility, in a similar way to those used in wide-body Airbus aircraft.
This solution foresees different options to fit the needs of all Airbus customers, even low cost airlines. By selecting additional galleys with different capacity on the right hand side before the aft door, an airline would gain three additional seats. However, without any galley before door four, the gain could be as high as six additional seats.
Delivering full accessibility whilst giving the option of adding up to six more paying seats could represent the perfect recipe to entice airlines to purchase new aircraft featuring the Space-Flex lavatory option.
Brazilian airline LATAM is the pilot customer for this truly innovative concept. The airline ordered 39 A320 aircraft fitted with Space-Flex lavatories. “Space-Flex maximises the cabin revenue space and therefore gives us more flexibility in our new Airbus A320 Family aircraft,” said José Maluf of LATAM Airlines. “In the future we could easily adapt to market demand and improve seat-mile costs by adding six seats without any compromise in comfort.”
About the author
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Reduced Mobility Rights, Roberto Castiglioni is an expert of airport accessibility, management and support procedures of passengers with special needs and air travel related regulations. He has been a frequent flyer for the past three decades and has several years of experience as travelling partner of a passenger who requires assistance.
Roberto provides accessibility and access consulting services to airports and airlines. He is a member of the UK Civil Aviation Authority Access To Air Travel Working Group. He is also a member of the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group. Esaag provides Easyjet with strategic guidance and practical advice on the evolving needs of passengers requiring special assistance.