Mar 24, 2016

Can Airspace by Airbus pass the toilet test?

There is something essential missing from yesterday's launch by Airbus of its new cabin brand, Airspace; accurate scale comparative floor plans of the lavatories. Norm

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

The description of the new Airbus lav is of concern on close reading
The description of the new Airbus lav is of concern on close reading

There is something essential missing from yesterday’s launch by Airbus of its new cabin brand, Airspace; accurate scale comparative floor plans of the lavatories.

Normal sized people, or if one wishes, obese but normal sized people, are an issue which airlines and aircraft makers generally try to avoid talking about, because they are a serious obstacle to cramming more of us into the space available in current and future airliners.

To be blunt, which is something Plane Talking is, airlines are deliberately hurting and humiliating their passengers in some cases by taking amenity away from all classes of travel (witness the British Airways and Lufthansa business class equivalents in their single aisle jets) but mostly of course in economy.

This demand, to pack them in tighter just as the average human becomes even larger, poses a huge problem for the nice people at Airbus and Boeing, because they are proud of their airliners and never envisaged anything like 436 people inside an A330-300 for example, or 198 within a 737-800 or its MAX 200 successor.

So, let’s contemplate Airspace by Airbus, which has its own website here.

This is a very attractive and sensible looking reworking of all of the monumental features related to cabins, seating and amenities.  Airlines use the word ‘monument’ in this way. Galleys, lavatories, and coat lockers and so forth are all monuments, that can to a degree, be moved around to meet the customer specification, if not dispensed with for more seats in some operations.

Airbus has even used a lighter shade of purple. The use of a more intense purple hue inside cabins has become so out of control in recent years that some frequent flyers are likely to suffer from deep purple allergic reactions, breaking out in rashes and suffering shortness of breath.

But some metrics are missing from the Airspace descriptions. There are no seat pitch or even seat width metrics quoted, the latter in general being a strong point for Airbus designs, with small but nevertheless quite noticeable width improvements compared to its competitor in most types of jet, at least until the bean counters turn eight across to nine across, nine across to 10 across, or 10 across to 11 , in the A330s, A350s and A380s (main deck) respectively.

The flexible hygiene lavatory is said to ‘look more spacious’ because of LED lighting, and so forth. It doesn’t actually say it is bigger, indeed it says it can be used to provide room for 10 more seats in economy class, or alternatively, more legroom, which translates as meaning it occupies less space than is even the case today, when again to be blunt, most inflight lavatories in Airbus and Boeing jets are being rendered inconsistent with the completion of important hygienic functions.

Better LED lighting isn’t going to create more room for using a hand for purposes related to preparing to complete your visit to the lavatory.

There is much to like in Airspace by Airbus, yet there is reason to fret over this particularly personal issue.

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7 thoughts on “Can Airspace by Airbus pass the toilet test?

  1. Bob Jansen

    Not to be horribly blunt, but doesn’t the Airbus solution include a toilet with extra space for those that are physically impaired?

    Those wishing extra comfort apparently need to pay extra. As a tall Dutchman I miss the days that I was automatically assigned an exit seat. Keeping my knees from turning blue and annoying the person in front of me, requires $$..

  2. Crocodile Chuck

    Nil by mouth for 12 hours before flying.

  3. Rolex

    Perhaps the need for elbow room when manoeuvring to complete hygiene functions will be eliminated by the introduction of Japanese style washing and blow drying facilities. On that point, does anyone know if any Japanese airlines have tried to introduce this technology to their aircraft?

  4. Dan Dair

    Probably more hygienic,
    but much less water-efficient,
    which might be an issue in the closed-environment of an aircraft.?

  5. Ben Sandilands


    You’re very right about that. To my knowledge Korean, All Nippon and Japan Airlines install the finest of such technology in their jets.

    The slightly wild eyed expression on the face of some western travellers emerging from such toilets is telling. In my opinion, once you ‘adjust’ to the experience, it makes much sense.

    Crocodile Chuck,

    A bit like the boarding house sign in that outrageous UK comedy series ‘League of Gentlemen’ which was on the toilet door saying PASS NO SOLIDS.

  6. Dan Dair

    I never figured you for a ‘League of Gentlemen’ fan, Ben.?
    You live & learn….!!!

    [A shocked onlooker would be more like it, ditto Silent Witness, and Ultraviolet, all very very different scripts, but astonishing none the less. League was never in the league of the others of course]

  7. Rolex

    Dan, Ben,
    Although I agree that the Japanese/Korean method is probably more hygienic and I am told that once one has made the adjustment it is not unpleasant I have always harboured some concern about whether the technology is as clean as claimed (thinking water splash and airborne mist risks). Water being much heavier than paper JAL, KAL and ANA must carry additional water/suffer a weight penalty, especially on long haul routes, in order to satisfy their customers cleansing requirements.

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