As airlines begin to remove the inflight magazine from the aircraft cabin, many are turning to digital downloads to provide the information that was previously offered here. But not every passenger has a compatible device, and some are lamenting the loss of this resource. Airbus has patented an innovative idea that sees inflight magazines moving to flexible OLED screens – here’s what you need to know.
Paper magazines are falling out of favor
The age of the inflight magazine is rapidly coming to an end. While passengers appreciate the entertainment and information contained within the publications, there are many downsides for airlines in maintaining this type of resource.
Firstly, there’s the cost of printing and maintaining their stock of magazines. Those that get removed or damaged need to be checked and replaced at every turn. That’s more work for flight crew, and requires a surplus stock to be carried onboard.
The static nature of the magazines means they run the risk of being out of date, incorrect or otherwise unhelpful. That’s not good for the airline’s reputation, or the satisfaction of the customers.
With sustainability at the forefront right now, removing the weight of paper magazines from an aircraft is a quick win for airlines. For passengers concerned about viral transmission, handling a physical object that has been touched and potentially coughed or sneezed upon by other travelers is becoming less and less appealing.
We’re already seeing airlines starting to remove these publications from the cabin. For most, the solution is to provide the same content via an app or a digital download, to be viewed on the customer’s device. But Airbus has another idea, and has been shortlisted for a Crystal Cabin Award this year as a result.
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Flexible, lightweight digital magazines
Airbus has patented an idea for a replacement for the traditional paper magazines. Digital Magazine uses a super slim, super flexible OLED screen to display the magazine contents in a familiar, yet futuristic format. Passengers will still be able to view the magazine contents at their seats, with no need for their own devices to be used.
The screen would be married with the mandatory inflight safety card, but would display all the entertainment, information and shopping options on the screen. With rapid updates possible via digital upload, airlines could regularly change their magazine content or personalize it to the route or even the passenger.
Expand that thinking to additional real-time interactivity, and the possibilities are endless. Imagine a digital menu card that is linked with the galley, and updates in real-time with product availability. Imagine a buy-on-board process where you can order from your seat, and even make payment directly from the screen.
The lightweight screens will tick boxes for weight-saving goals, and will be easier to sanitize than a paper magazine would be. That’s a win for both passengers and airlines in the post-pandemic, environmentally conscious future.
Airbus signed a memorandum of understanding with Royole Technology in 2018 to explore these kinds of concepts. Royole is a market leader in flexible displays, folding smartphones and flexible sensors, and is an ideal partner to bring this kind of technology into the aircraft cabin.
While the Crystal Cabin Award nomination is for the digital magazine, the sky is really the limit for this type of technology. Current weighty and power-hungry IFE screens could, eventually, be replaced by lightweight alternatives, while branding and advertising could be applied directly to cabin walls or overhead lockers, displayed on flexible screens.
For the Digital Magazine concept, Airbus says it is not flying commercially just yet, but that it is planned for installation onto a test aircraft soon.