June 12, 2018
Emirates Trying to Sell Passengers on Windowless Jets
Frequent fliers, if you like the window seat, Emirates has some news you may not want to hear, but the International Airline is going to try to sell you on their new pilot program anyway.
Recently, the Dubai-based airline revealed a new “first class” option on some of its jets: virtual windows. Instead of the “real thing” passengers are treated to videos of what’s outside the airplane, recorded by cameras outside the aircraft and projected inside the first-class suite. According to Emirates, the transition could eventually be applied on all the aircraft in its fleet, as long as they can sell passengers on the idea. The first salvo in that consumer PR campaign: without window, airplanes are lighter and fasters. That means flights will be faster, and less fuel will be used, which means flights “could” be cheaper.
Then Emirates president Tim Clark laid on the “but wait there’s more” aspect of the campaign: “The virtual windows are so good, (they’re) better than the view you can get with the natural eye…”
So far, only passengers in the first-class cabin of Emirates’ newest Boeing 777 will get a chance to test the accuracy of that assertion. In the meantime, Clark and his company’s PR team are trying to get customers to dream about what could be in a windowless air flight future: “Imagine now a fuselage as you’re boarding with no windows, but when you get inside, there are windows… Now you have one fuselage which has no structural weaknesses because of windows. The aircraft are lighter, the aircraft could fly faster, they’ll burn far less fuel and fly higher.”
These are not the only selling points for Emirates’ current media messaging blitz. One of the key points in their campaign is a discussion about how the windowless jets will be “safer” for both passengers and crew. According to the company’s marketing, the “safety” aspect will be increased because flight crew will be able to “see outside the aircraft” a lot better than they currently can, which, Emirates argues, will be a major benefit in an emergency.
Of course, there’s a flip side to that argument. Passengers will be able to see outside too… Unless there’s a way to turn the images off. That has caused critics to wonder whether, in an emergency, if it’s better that the passengers know what’s happening, or if ignorance really is bliss. So far, not too many official agencies have weighed in with an opinion on that issue. But the European Aviation Safety Agency recently offered an null opinion on the issue: “We do not see any specific challenge that could not be overcome to ensure a level of safety equivalent to the one of an aircraft fitted with cabin windows.”
In other words, it probably won’t hurt, but we’re not sure it will help anything either. In the end, though, the biggest hurdle will likely be passenger perception. Some people love the window seat, and, for them, an artificial environment could be more claustrophobia-inducing than it is a compelling reason to fly Emirates. If the airline can’t convince these people to at least give it a try, their idea may not really ever get off the ground.