Designing airplane interiors to feel bigger than they are

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yeah but, the toilet - either it’s big enough or it’s not, and it’s just not - a couple more inches would do it - come on, Boeing / Airbus, give us a little relief

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A commercial airline is no Tardis (“bigger on the inside”) but designers and engineers do use several techniques to reduce your claustrophobia in the sky.

Only in Business Class, by the look of it. Six seats abreast probably helps immeasurably.


Two seconds of a five and a half minute long video show coach class. And it’s still a sardine can.


I always fly in the cheapo seats and I have never understood why the windows don’t line up with the seats. If there are 30-ish rows of seats, there are 40-ish windows, so you are always forced to look forward or backward, never seems to be at the ideal angle for viewing. Maybe the window spacing was decided before they chose to cram in more rows of seats.


The airliner seating is more flexible than the windows. The windows are fixed at the design stage, while the seating layout is decided by the airline and fitted at the factory, or modified at a later date.


Right? And not one second of footage with the plane, you know, actually full of passengers.


You want bigger windows? That’s a terrible thing to do to an airframe. You have a nice, stiff tube and you want to drill holes at regular intervals all the way down the length so the people with the end seat can see out? On flights betwen the UK and the US, the windows are kept closed for most of the flight.

This will get worse if we go to blended wing bodies where the passenger section is also generating some of the lift…

The blended wing body is a nice idea because it makes the aircraft bigger on the inside but it is still as efficient. You can’t pack more people in because that would make the aircraft heavier, but you could have more room to move about. However, if you have a middle seat, you will be further from a window. Okay, instead of trying to see out of the window, why not supplant the in-flight map with high-resolution views from cameras on the outside? I could look at that without disturbing the neighbours.

Oh, and while we are on the subject, why do you have to take a set of wheels all the way with you? That’s another big hole in the fuselage. Can’t they have something that catches the aircraft when it lands?


Have you got a first class ticket?


You think turbulence is bad right now? Imagine sitting right out on the edge of a blended wing? No ta. I’ll take centre seats if they ever build them.


I would actually hope they were kept closed on all of the flight (the last aircraft I travelled in which had opening windows was an ex-USSR military helicopter - see picture).

(I know what you mean…)

Flying boats. At one time the trip from India to the UK was by flying boat - took about a week. Unfortunately the fuel consumption of flying boats is pretty awful. But, my contact tells me who did the India trip, it was the most enormous fun. (Also, technically, and not to detract from Chesley Sullenberger, the guy who landed on the Hudson - these were the first commercial flights to make successful landings on water.)
During takeoff they used to fly a little Union flag over the cockpit. The co-pilot had the job of opening a little hatch and taking it in for the flight.

[edit - @simonize links to a page with a correct account of the matter. It goes a little way to showing how the British Empire collapsed of its own bureaucracy.]


A Union Jack on an airplane? Heresy! Should have been the Civil Air Ensign


Ladies and Gentlemen, is there a vexillologist in the house?


The page you cite is utterly brilliant and worth the detour. The account of the turf wars between the RN and the Air Ministry is wonderful and reminds us of just how little civil servants had to occupy their minds with in the pre-WW2 era. Thank you for the link.

Vexillology, like television, has a Greek root and a Latin suffix is a Graeco-Latin compound and, as we know, no good can come of such a hybrid. (Originally “vexilla” was restricted to royal or noble military standards too, so civil flags should be excluded. But this is just me trolling again.)


Isn’t a big problem with large BWB passenger aircraft the fact that some seats would be too far from an exit in an emergency?

Although I’m now imagining a layout with passengers on two levels around the edges of the fuselage extending from top to bottom and cargo in the centre, rather than the normal layout with people on top and cargo underneath.

Try flying on Russian planes. They have weirdly high ceilings, as if the fuselage is actually a circle rather than a flattened oval. They seem really spacious (although all that overhead space is ‘wasted’ since it can’t be directly used by anyone), but it’s also kind of unsettling.

You beat me to it.



If you were here or I were there, I would give you such a giant hug.


My friend who IS a bit of a vexillogist pointed out the the person who coined the term recently died…


You’ve got the right idea. The window location is fixed is any model of airplane. The distance between seats can be varied according to the individual airline’s desires. On many aircraft if you look at the floor under the seats you can see that they are fastened to tracks allowing them to be positioned anywhere forward and aft.

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