ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
NPR's Wade Goodwyn recently got a preview of a new American Airlines interior, and Wade sent us this report.
WADE GOODWYN: Unidentified Woman #1: It's lifted with a crane into the position we can see here, where the wings are installed with what we call a laser alignment tool, and it takes pretty much all day to get the wings on exactly as they want it.
GOODWYN: Kent Craver is a psychologist and the regional director of Customer Satisfaction for Boeing. Craver says that until now, engineers and decorators approached airplane interiors like they were inside a room, a long, tubular, claustrophobic room.
KENT CRAVER: Make it comfy, cozy, cave-like.
GOODWYN: Craver says that was the wrong approach. Instead of trying to decorate a florescent tube like it was some perverse living room, with LED lighting and softer, rounder walls, they made the cabin a canvas like a planetarium. So on an overnight flight, to wake passengers in the morning, instead of flipping on the florescent lights, the cabin can begin a soft dark orange, slowly warm to yellow then a bright light blue. At night, the cabin can mimic the dark blues and purples of dusk. Instead of soul crushing, it could be nicer.
CRAVER: We're using the lighting as part of the architectural design. It's creating a scene.
GOODWYN: An important part of the new interior is the luggage bins. Instead of the traditional shelf bins with doors that close from above, these pivot bins partially retract into the ceiling. A passenger in the aisle seat is able to stand straight up, not lean sidewise into the aisle. These bins have hydraulic assist to help them close, and they're bigger, holding four suitcases instead of three, 48 more bags total than standard bins.
CRAVER: The bins and ceiling in those sections are the same height as they are on the airplane today. We've simply redesigned the way those pieces interact.
GOODWYN: Captain Jim Kaiser sticks his head in the door.
JIM KAISER: Unidentified Woman #2: I.
GOODWYN: A couple of speeches, some photographs...
KAISER: Unidentified Woman #4: Good morning.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE AND CHEERING)
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GOODWYN: Just how big a deal this new interior will be to jaded frequent flyers is unknown. Waiting for a taxi outside Terminal C at Dallas/Fort Worth International, Seth Jenson has heard all about the new interior but hasn't seen it yet. Jenson is a restaurant consultant who flies American all the time.
SETH JENSON: I like the idea that there's more overhead space. I'm 6'4", and so you're constantly ducking and weaving through as you're boarding.
GOODWYN: But Jenson also flies Southwest Airlines a lot, too, and he says they have a better level of customer service. He's all for American's new 737s, but...
JENSON: It just seems that American employees are, whether it's your gate personnel or your ticket takers, it just seems like they're stretching their employees a little bit thinner to make their bottom line. And I recognize we need to invest in new planes, but I also know that, you know, it's still a service-based industry.
GOODWYN: Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.