Thesis Open Access

Gathering user insights to drive the design of an airplane cabin for Northeast Asia

Ilkka Kallonen; Kalevi Ekman; Samuli Mäkinen

Thesis supervisor(s)

Professor Kalevi Ekman

Airbus has predicted that by 2034, there will be a demand for 32,600 new airplanes. Asian markets will cover most of this demand - over one third of the total demand over the course of the next 20 years. This forecasted high demand naturally interests many actors in the industry, especially airplane manufacturers.  
 The number of Asian passengers is increasing all the time and their culture significantly deviates from Western culture. The cabin crew, more specifically, cabin crew who fly to Asia, was identified as an important reference group for this study. The cultural differences of Japanese and Chinese passengers and their habits were studied through interviews conducted with cabin crew. The interviewees were Finnish, Chinese and Japanese. The study consisted of eight one-on-one semi-structured interviews and one observation of a flight to Seoul, South-Korea. In addition, during the flight four shorter questionnaires were completed by the cabin crew. The interviews were based on various aspects of the FUCAM –project (Future Cabin for Asian Markets), such as groups of passengers, cultural differences, food and in-flight entertainment. 
 The aim of this study was to identify the special features among Asian passengers and how these features should be taken into consideration for the construction of future airplane cabins. The interviewees contributed their own observations of the Asian passengers and gave their insights into how the passengers’ needs could be accommodated in a future cabin. The themes that stood out strongest and occurred most often were, for example, the increasing amount of Asian female passengers and their special needs, the etiquette of reclining the seat and the absence of a common language which caused communication problems. It was also surveyed whether the cabin crew had encountered any so-called lead users, i.e. those who have a special need for something and solve it by themselves before there is any commercial solution for it. These kinds of lead users were not identified which could have been because the cabin crew did not pay special attention to these people while they were working. 

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