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Emirates Airlines unveils windowless first class suite

Emirates Airline has unveiled a new First Class Suite on board its latest aircraft that features virtual windows.

Instead of being able to see directly outside, passengers view images projected in from outside the aircraft using fibre-optic cameras.

The airline says it paves the way for removing all windows from future planes, making them lighter and faster.

Airline president Sir Tim Clark said: “The quality of the imagery is so good, it’s better than with the natural eye.”

The virtual windows can be seen in the first class cabin of Emirates’ newest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Sir Tim told the BBC that the ultimate aim was to have planes with no windows at all.

“Imagine now a fuselage as you’re boarding with no windows, but when you get inside, there are windows,” he said.

“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.”

Safety concerns

It may not be easy to get the technology signed off by regulators, aviation safety expert Professor Graham Braithwaite of Cranfield University told the BBC.

“Being able to see outside the aircraft in an emergency is important, especially if an emergency evacuation has to take place,” he said.

“Flight attendants would need to check outside the aircraft in an emergency, for example for fire, before opening a door and commencing an evacuation – and anything that needed power to do this may not be easy to get certified by an aviation safety regulator,” he added.

“I don’t know that windows are mandatory… but that is probably because no one has tried to build a ‘passenger’ aircraft like this before.”

However, he said the main obstacle to overcome in a windowless aircraft would be passenger perceptions.

“An aircraft could be very claustrophobic and for many, air travel is anxiety inducing already.

“The refresh rate of screen technology may also have some undesirable side effects – will they flicker? What is the lag? How will it affect someone on a long haul flight?” Professor Braithwaite added.

‘No substitute’

Aviation expert John Strickland said having no windows would certainly make the aircraft more structurally sound. It could also improve fuel efficiency if the fuselage were lighter than the windows it replaced.

“Everything that reduces weight on an aircraft is going to reduce fuel burn,” he said.

However, in terms of aesthetics, he said that personally he liked to be able to see directly out of a plane.

“I’m a bit of a window obsessive,” he said, adding that he always requested a window seat. “For me, artificial windows would be no substitute.”

He added that people “want to be able to look out and see skyscapes”.


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