Boeing brings blue-sky interior to 737

 - July 16, 2010, 2:12 AM

After launching its new Sky Interior for the 737 airliner last year, Boeing has sold more than 37 customers on the new interior for more than 1,100 firm orders in the 737 backlog. The first customer to fly with the new interior will be low-cost airline flydubai, which is to take delivery of its first Sky Interior 737 in this year’s fourth quarter. There were seven customers at the Sky Interior launch last year, and the orders for the 737 with the new interior are about half of the entire 737 backlog, according to Kent Craver, regional director of passenger satisfaction and revenue marketing.

The 737 Sky Interior shares the same philosophy as the interior on the 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 Intercontinental, according to Craver. “First is to create a welcoming environment through the architecture,” he said.

The idea is to separate psychologically the worst part of the travel experience– driving to the airport, going through security, endless waiting in line and so on–from the flight. “Through a lot of research we’ve found people really like to fly,” he said. But Boeing has no influence on those parts of the trip. “Our area of influence is the airplane. We use the architecture of the airplane to create this welcoming environment because,” he said, “when we’re welcomed we help create a psychological separation between events.”

The other goal with the Sky Interior is to remind people just how wonderful flying can be. “In our research, people are totally enamored with physical flight. It’s awesome; it’s cool,” said Craver. “Our goal was to bring that magic back and we’re trying to use the airplane to do it.”

The Sky Interior features LED lighting, pivot baggage bins and oval window reveals, all of which combine to make the cabin much brighter and wider in appearance. The LED lights have a mean time to failure of 40,000 hours, 10 times that of the 737’s halogen lights. Boeing selected eight of the most popular LED lighting predefined scenes from the 787 palette for the Sky Interior.

Compared to the standard 737’s fluorescent ceiling lights, the LEDs are much brighter while using less power. This is not just because of the amount of light emitted by the LEDs but also because Boeing engineers were able to create more reflective light in the Sky Interior cabin.

The pivot bins rotate down and add more baggage space so that four additional IATA standard 9- by 14- by 22-inch bags can be carried. While the heights of the pivot bins and passenger service units remain the same as the older shelf bins, the pivot bins don’t encroach into the center of the cabin as much. This opens more space for people sitting in the aisle seats and makes the cabin appear wider, without any structural changes to the airframe.

Boeing added mechanical assist levers on the Sky Interior pivot bins, which cuts the force needed to close the bins by half, reducing the workload for flight attendants who work on 737s with frequent turns. The bins can be closed with or without using the assist.

The oval inner window reveals make the windows look larger, but the windows are not altered. “It helps draw the connection to the outside and this magic of flight,” Craver said.

Boeing is considering offering the Sky Interior as an upgrade, but currently it isn’t worth the expense of tearing out an existing good interior, he said.

There is a price premium for the Sky Interior, but new 737 customers cannot select the old interior.