Swanky: Inside The Athletes Aircraft Cabin That Nike Helped Design


The lifestyle of the professional athlete often involves a lot of travel. All those hours spent in the air and not training, or disrupting food and sleep schedules, can sometimes take a toll. In a bid to drive down the disadvantage of playing away, world-leading sports brand Nike teamed up with cabin designers at Teague to develop a concept fit for the most elite of athletes. Let’s take a look inside.

Nike Athletes plane from Teague
Nike teamed up with Teague to bring together a concept for the perfect sports team aircraft. Photo: Teague

Catering to an underserved niche

Sports teams spend millions of dollars securing the best players for their squad, not to mention the substantial investments in training facilities, gym equipment, expert support and much more. But the time these athletes spend in the air is often overlooked.

Teague and Nike got together to change all this, working to design an interior for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that caters to professional athletes during their time away. Collaborating with coaches, team physicians, operations staff and sleep specialists, the partners worked to develop a solution that is not currently addressed by commercial charter aircraft cabins.

Manchester United on Emirates
While sports stars often travel in the premium cabin, the lack of facilities often puts away players at a disadvantage. Photo: Getty Images

Specifically, the team wanted to focus on several key areas. This included mitigating the effects of travel on the body and mind, promoting circulation and natural mobility, providing for an enhanced sleep experience and providing spaces for thinking and debriefing after the game. Physical post-game recovery was a key element too, giving athletes the space and facilities required to have injuries adequately treated.

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The solution

The Nike Athletes Plane works on the basis of zoned areas. But rather than having zones for business class and economy, the Teague concept zones the aircraft by needs. Various areas specific to players, coaches and other staff are built-in, with thought given to foot traffic and noise to provide the right environment.

Nike Athletes plane from Teague
Players are welcomed with food and beverages, and a means to assess their aches and pains. Photo: Teague

Players enter the plane into a dark, relaxing room, where they are invited to sit and assess their injuries on a touchscreen. From there, they make their way into a kitchenette area to enjoy some food and drink, before proceeding to the ‘recovery room’.

Nike Athletes plane from Teague
The recovery room has full-sized massage tables for post-game therapy. Photo: Teague

Here, there are full-sized therapy tables, ready for athletes to receive their sports massage or physio. The plane is equipped with everything required for hot and cold therapy, electro-stimulation and more.

Nike Athletes plane from Teague
Passenger seats have arched shields to give the maximum amount of peace and quiet. Photo: Teague

Revived and ready to rest, players can then head to the passenger cabin, which has been specifically designed to accommodate even the largest of people. The full recline is suitable for up to a seven-foot person, allowing passengers to relax and revive. To help promote restful sleep, each seat is cocooned in a half-shell transparent frame, cutting down noise and disturbance.

Nike Athletes plane from Teague
Seats are able to accommodate up to seven feet tall passengers. Photo: Teague

Those not quite ready to sleep will find a relaxing social space complete with café tables and benches. The benches can double up as beds, giving everyone options for how to spend their flight. In this room, as well as at passenger seats, OLED touchscreens provide the opportunity to review and debrief the game.

Nike Athletes plane from Teague
A welcoming social space finishes the cabin. Photo: Teague

Throughout the plane, cutting-edge biometrics are employed to assess the players’ physical state. There’s even a urinal that calculates the hydration level of individuals. Ice and compression sleeves are built into the sidewalls of the aircraft, which can be used to promote circulation and speed up the healing process.

Although no sports team or charter operator has yet taken the concept further, the idea has garnered extensive interest from all corners of the globe. It’s a conversation starter for sure, and perhaps a glimpse into the future of travel for elite sports teams and athletes.