An entire plane has taken the top prize in what are known as the airline interior Oscars.
The concept plane Alice, touted as the first purely electric commuter jet, from Israeli company Eviation Aircraft, won the cabin concepts category of the 2020 Crystal Cabin Awards.
Airlines, aerospace suppliers, universities, design houses and aircraft manufacturers from 21 countries submitted some 105 entries for consideration, with an initial evaluation process among the 27 members of the expert international judging panel reducing the list to 24 finalists.
There was no sign of Air New Zealand's Skynest — six full length, lie-flat sleep pods in the economy cabin — launched just as the pandemic was taking hold.
The airline picked up a gong for its Skycouch in 2019 in the awards that recognise the truly innovative, the extremely practical and sometimes the just plain whacky.
The awards are voted on in Hamburg, a European aviation industry hub and centre of aircraft interior research and development, and are supported by Aircraft Interiors International magazine.
The cabin concept award category recognises complete cabins, and the contenders are typically airlines, aircraft manufacturers and design companies. Airbus took the prize in 2019 for its lower deck economy modules, with Emirates' Boeing 777-300ER first class suites taking a runner-up award.
This year's top award, made amid signs of a choppy recovery among airlines, is described as a "little different".
Eviation's Alice has a range of 1050km at a 440km/h cruise speed for nine passengers and two crew and is super light with an all-composite fuselage.
The interior has an asymmetric reverse herringbone seating arrangement, with four seats port-side and five to starboard. During boarding, the seats are aligned with the direction of flight, but after takeoff they can be turned towards the window, enhancing passenger privacy, headspace and the view, Aircraft Interiors says.
The runner-up throws back to the days before flight attendants in full PPE, cabins full of passengers wearing masks and high levels of germ phobia.
Virgin Atlantic's "Upper Class Loft" was a runner-up with its on-board social space, launched in 2019 on the airline's first A350-1000.
It is positioned to give those travelling in Economy a taste of the high life.
"While the lounge is for the use of Upper Class passengers, the airline has long seen benefits from having all passengers enter a vibrant social space upon boarding at Door 2, as it creates a 'brand handshake' and creates a positive sentiment of the passenger experience, even for those heading toward the rear of the aircraft," Airline Interiors says.
While the airline needed to raise close to $3 billion last year and slash its workforce, it will benefit from a vaccine-driven recovery in transatlantic travel. The pandemic forced the grounding of the airline for three months and temporarily closed the lounge area.
Boeing's 777X Sky Architecture was also a runner-up.
The plane, which has folding wingtips, is set to enter service in 2023. So far there have been 320 orders from nine airlines.
The 777X will come in two variants — the 777-9 and the smaller 777-8, which is yet to start production.
Boeing says it will have capacity for up to 426 passengers and is set to be a long-term replacement for 747 jumbo jets, many of which have been retired during the past 12 months.
The cabin is also 10cm wider than earlier-model 777s, allowing more flexibility for cabin layout.
Boeing says that whatever class passengers are flying, they are in for a "grand entrance". When it unveiled the interiors, Boeing said research showed passengers wanted a distinct break from the stressful airport experience upon entering the passenger cabin, with welcoming architectural forms and lighting.
The windows are also higher than earlier models and new stowage bins are larger along the side of the cabin but will need 40 per cent less force to close them. The cabin is also able to be pressurised to replicate lower altitudes, meaning less harm from jetlag.
The wider cabin allows 10 abreast in Economy. It also has provision in Business for a seven-abreast staggered layout with direct aisle access.
Lufthansa is the launch customer for the plane.
The Crystal Cabin Awards also have a Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment category.
The winner is a greywater re-use unit by German company Diehl.
Water used in the lavatory sink for handwashing (grey water) is reused for flushing the toilet, which is more efficient than using valuable potable water.
According to Diehl, this process reduces the amount of potable water typically used on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight by 250kg, resulting in CO2 savings of around 550 tonnes a year per aircraft.
Despite this significant saving in the use of potable water, twice as much water will be available for flushing the toilet compared to some of today's systems.
The reuse system treats the handwash water to prevent any resulting undesired odours, microbial regrowth, unpleasant appearance and health risks. Optimised spray nozzles aid toilet cleaning, while the automated toilet lid minimises the need to touch high-contact areas, Aircraft Interiors says.
Runners-up are AudioBack, a device on a seat headrest which sends cabin and flight crew announcements to passengers' hearing aids, and the Zero economy meal tray, which aims to reduce the weight required for the meal service on passenger flights, and the amount of plastic waste generated .
The lightweight tray has each element made of edible, biodegradable and/or commercially compostable materials.
It is estimated that in 2017 airlines produced 5.7 million tonnes of waste.