With such a fast changing narrative around Coronavirus it’s difficult for airlines to plan for a post-Covid future. From social distancing to personal shields, designers have been supporting airlines across the globe, working quickly to help navigate the scale and impact of such a widespread pandemic. Most solutions created have answered a problem, whether it’s psychological or physical in nature.
Airlines have seemingly had a smorgasbord of options at their disposal to reassure and protect their most valuable of cargo, you. While the real winners will be those that have a post-Covid benefit, from BYO personal shields which could be purchased by nervous travellers through to physical dividers that could be seen as personal space enhancers with real ancillary revenue benefits.
Yet what is becoming increasingly clear is that any solution that doesn’t depart radically from what was perceived as a normal passenger experience will win in the long term. The sheer size of the industry and the amount of aircraft flying the skies means any drastic change would result in a catastrophic financial outlay for airlines. That’s why the unseen changes, whether those are changes to process, cleaning or innovations that don’t fundamentally change the physical product will make the most logical sense.
TEAGUE has recognised that making the invisible, visible, will build consumer reassurance and therefore, brand loyalty. That’s why this week saw the launch of a very simple, easy to implement solution for carriers. “AirShield is a highly visible solution, and is dedicated to addressing passenger anxiety. Hopefully, it will help encourage more passengers back to the skies,” says Anthony Harcup, Senior Director at the Seattle based design studio.
But what is AirShield? Simply put its a single 3D-printed component that fits directly onto the Passenger Service Unit (PSU) positioned above every passenger in the cabin. By utilizing the airflow from the existing overhead air-gaspers, AirShield transforms freshly purified air into engineered ‘air-blades’ capable of controlling the spread of droplets much more effectively – offering passengers and crew improved protection and peace of mind.
Recent communications from the CDC suggest that surface transmission is not the main way that the coronavirus spreads, it is mainly spread as an airborne particulate. As a result, when a passenger breathes, coughs, or sneezes in an AirShield equipped cabin, the water vapour droplets are contained within that passenger’s space and immediately re-directed downwards and out of the cabin to the HEPA filtration units, before they have the opportunity to enter the personal space of a neighbouring passenger.
To better understand how germs travel in the aircraft cabin, TEAGUE initiated a series of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to evaluate various aspects of particulate movement in the cabin environment. The initial results demonstrate the potential to re-direct the spread of exhaled respiratory particles from passengers.
It’s important to state that aircraft are still one of the safest modes of transport, with HEPA air filters ensuring the quality and sanitation levels of recycled air remain incredibly high, however these airblades actually help enhance the personal space. “Airflow has a profound effect on the potential range of an airborne particulate. Lateral airflow will extend the range, vertical airflow shortens the range. Not surprisingly, there is now agreement across the industry from airframers to regulatory bodies that putting the overhead air-gaspers on and pointing them down is beneficial in limiting the potential spread of airborne particulates,” states Harcup.
But it’s the addition of the curved shape of AirShield’s blades that maximise the efficiency of the existing system and create protection between neighbouring passengers as well as row-to-row. Additionally, the air blade is positioned around, versus on, the passenger so as not to cause discomfort or irritation.
As for the only potential challenge we can see being that gaspers usually only push out colder air, and as a result of them having on constantly cabins could become colder, careful temperature balancing in the cabin can adjust for that. Could this be an easy to implement solution that we’ll see on flights of the future, only time will tell!