Modern commercial airlines are overhauling their aircraft fleets with light-emitting diode (LED) technology, and this upgrade has as much to do with technology and cost savings as it has to do with controlling the emotions of passengers.
With LED lighting systems, airlines are likely to save money on a long-term basis since they tend to last longer and can be programmed to consume less energy, thereby reducing overall fuel costs. At Virgin Atlantic Airways, however, the decision to install LED lights goes beyond the idea of making flights more cost-efficient. Aircraft designers at Virgin Atlantic are very interested in the ability to control the brightness, hue and intensity of LED lighting systems because it can help air crews influence the emotional state of passengers.
The LED Possibilities
One of the first commercial airliners being manufactured with LED lights as a standard feature is the Airbus A350, which is a direct competitor to the Boeing 700 series. The initial thought behind the decision of making LED the new standard for Airbus is that these lighting systems can be combined with smart air conditioning to reduce jet lag, which is something that passengers can certainly appreciate.
Research into circadian rhythms, those biological cycles that are regulated by means of internal clocks, suggests that passengers who are traveling on an easterly direction should ideally try to expose themselves to brighter light during the early stages of their flights, particularly if their departure time is in the morning. Passengers traveling in a westerly direction should do the opposite and try to catch softer light by trying to schedule their departures at dusk.
Streaming soft and tenuous light in in the best interest of air crews; after all, research shows that soft lighting can play a calming effect in the emotional state of passengers, and this is an ideal situation when operating commercial flights at a time when “air rage” incidents are multiplying.
Fighting Jet Lag and Improving Branding
When the Airbus A350 was taken its maiden test flights, one of the first routes was from Toulouse in France to Singapore, a trip that lasts 12 hours. A travel journalist who was invited on this test flight noted that she did not feel jet lag when she landed on the Asian continent.
For Virgin America Airlines, the LED lighting scheme is also an integral part of its branding effort, which features a color palette that ranges between the pink and purple, which are often associated with a nurturing and feminine touch.