An innovative new airline seat just won an industry award – take a look at the design that could be the future of air travel

Safran Interspace seat
Interspace seat Safran
  • Airline cabin manufacturer Safran won two Crystal Cabin Awards at the Aircraft Interior Expo 2021.
  • The company’s Interspace seat, which promotes privacy and comfort, was the Special Jury’s Choice.
  • Its hands-free, hygiene-focused Beacon Clean Lavatory won the Clean & Safe Air Travel category.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An annual contest highlighting innovative aircraft cabin technologies has named a comfort-focused airline seat and a hands-free lavatory as this year’s winning designs.

At a virtual ceremony for the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2021, airline cabin manufacturer Safran was presented with two Crystal Cabin Awards, which are decided on by 28 expert judges, according to CCA. Safran’s unique airline seat Interspace took home the Judges Choice Award and its touchless Beacon Clean Lavatory won the Clean & Safe Air Travel category. In pre-pandemic times, the expo would judge designs in eight categories but reduced them to two in 2021 to reflect where the industry is in the wake of the pandemic.

Interspace was this year’s “Special Jury’s Choice” for impressing the international panel of judges with its padded wing. The wing is situated on the right side of the seat and can easily deploy as a body rest to improve lateral comfort and provide additional privacy, according to Safran. Interspace is adaptable and can be installed into economy and premium class cabins without carriers having to replace any seats.

The seat was designed in conjunction with Universal Movement, a studio aimed at enhancing the travel experience through innovative technology. CNN Travel tested out the prototype in 2019 and reporter Francesca Street said the wing was surprisingly comfortable when leaned against and that she barely noticed her seat neighbor.

Safran Interspace seats
Interspace seats Safran

Safran’s other expo product, the Beacon Clean Lavatory, is a hands-free bathroom that won the Clean & Safe Travel category, which is awarded to innovations that promote health and safety, according to CCA.

Beacon focuses on features that minimize contact and promote cleanliness, according to Safran. It includes a toilet made of anti-microbial materials, a 265nm UV light that quickly disinfects key surfaces of the toilet, a large sink to reduce splashing, and an exterior sink for washing hands.

Safran Beacon Clean Lavatory
Beacon Clean Lavatory Safran

“Safran wins the two new Crystal Cabin Awards, a mark of recognition highlighting all the creativity and agility our teams have shown in recent months. We have in fact been able to innovate and anticipate the needs of our airline customers, and the expectations of passenger comfort and safety,” said Safran Cabin Charman Norman Jordan and Safran Seats Chairman Vincent Mascré.

The wings of the Interspace seat are designed for privacy and comfort, but it is hard not to see the similarities to some designs that came out of the COVID era. Some seat manufacturers have already jumped on the opportunity to design pandemic-era seats that would provide barriers between passengers or promote social distancing.

Aviointerior’s “Glassafe” seat was revealed last spring and features a head-level barrier aimed at reducing the spread of germs between passengers. It comes as a kit that can be placed over existing seats.

Aviointeriors Glassafe seat
Glassafe seat Aviointeriors

Meanwhile, French engineer Floridan Barjot created the PlanBay cabin seat concept, which is intended to promote social distancing through dividers. It comes with three barriers that fit over the middle seat, creating two cacoons in the window and aisle seats.

PlanBay social distance seat
PlanBay social distance seat Florian Barjot/Earth-Bay