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COVID-19: Marc Newson – ‘air travel is fundamentally inhumane’

COVID-19: Marc Newson – ‘air travel is fundamentally inhumane’

In an article appearing online, authored by Stephen Todd, Design Editor for the AFR, Marc Newson is asked if he could design the interior of a plane along social distancing lines. His response is revealing:

What’s been laid bare is the fact that airline travel is fundamentally inhumane. In the current crisis, the inside of a plane would be the last place on earth you’d want to be. I think there’s an opportunity for airline companies to propose a more humane, optimistic way of getting from Point A to Point B – and that can only be done with the help of designers with a clear mandate to effect industry-wide change.

Marc Newson, AFR Magazine, 27 May 2020
Qantas Sydney First Class lounge

He thinks that plane manufacturers need to get on board, and redesign planes from the ground up, ‘going back to basics and rethink what air travel could be.’ He doesn’t see that happening without a disruptor similar to what Elon Musk has done to the luxury electronic car sector.

The article is predominantly the transcript of an interview, and as published online, doesn’t elaborate on air travel. It does however tempt with the news that Newson is collaborating with former Chief Design Officer for Apple, Jony Ive who is now serving as Chancellor of the Royal College of Art in London. No details on the collaboration, but a promise that they are working slowly on some ‘profound collaborations’.

Qantas, Sydney First Class Spa

2PAXfly Takeout

The aviation industry has a difficult road ahead when it comes to sustainability. It’s going to require a relative revolution in technology, with ‘electric planes’ or hydrogen planes, or some form of jet engine that doesn’t require a carbon based fuel. And that is going to require the development of an alternative to jet engines probably.

It’s a big ask. It will take time to develop.

This move to home grown and manufactured SAF is a first step – maybe even a baby step in a very long road of innovation. In the long run, US$200 million won’t even touch the sides.

Both these designers have been incredibly influential on design over the last 30 odd years. However, now in their 50’s, for me they no longer provide designs that are revelatory. Maybe it’s time to look for the new set of innovative designers to apply their skills to aviation.

If you are interested in design, customer experience, and the airline industry, head over to TheDesignAir website for some interesting observations on the potential innovative design reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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