All eyes might well be set on Milan at present, but for most attending the event there is the small matter of 1000's of kilometres in air travel to contend with before any of the fun can begin. Coincidentally then, it is fitting that in Hamburg on April 6th all advances in cabin comfort and interior design innovation were recognised at the Crystal Cabin Awards as part of the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2011. The pre-eminent event for all things "Planey" -  this expo attracts tens of thousands of the most influential transportation designers, interior specialists, industrial designers, the leading airlines of the world and experts in engineering. What results as part of this meeting of minds directly effects anyone that has flown or is likely to: in-flight comfort and the future of air transit experiences are moulded by the design directions that are showcased in Hamburg annually. What is perhaps most exciting is the flow-on effect these technological and innovative progressions have on interior and product design in wider circles.  Designing within restrictions of weight, material, cost-cutting and the need for dual or multi-functionality have see many previous inventions winging their way into fixtures, products and fittings that are found in everyday use - not just 30,000 feet overhead. As part of the event the Crystal Cabin Awards recognise innovation in cabin comfort, efficiency and design best practice.  Winners ranged from transport industry heavyweights: RECARO, to three students from Munich's University of Applied Sciences. RECARO collected the "interior concept" gong for the much hyped, recently launched SkyCouch for Air New Zealand:
The SkyCouch is a trio of economy seats that create a flexible space for up to three passengers. The leg rests can be raised to 60 or even 90 degrees, giving passengers the choice: three seats, or one couch. Relax, stretch out, or sleep.
Munich's student team were recognised for their 'Airgonomic' interior design concept study, which addresses the basic needs of passengers on short-haul flights.
The materials used for the seat, with an integrated high- tech gel, ensure an optimal, ergonomic posture for every passenger – even in Economy.
While many of these designs may never see light of day in commercial aviation as they currently stand, they very much inform the next era of aviation and passenger comfort.  With air travel the fastest growing form of transportation the role that the interior design industry plays in improving efficiency, performance, health and from a consumers perspective: enjoyment, is immeasurable.