Regional jet manufacturers that are trying to break into the crossover single-aisle category between regional jets and narrowbody jetliners are focusing on making their aircraft cabins more efficient for crew and more appealing to passengers.

Bombardier “spent a lot of time looking into what passengers and airlines were seeking” when it was planning the C Series family, says Christine De Gagne, cabin marketing manager for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. “We wanted to offer more living space and put that space where passengers actually need it,” she adds. 

Passengers look for increased seat pitch as well as wider seats, De Gagne reports, but there is a trade-off for airlines between seat width and aisle width. “The wider the aisle, the faster you can do a turnaround,” she notes. 

“We were also looking for increased natural lighting in the cabin, because it has a positive effect on passengers’ moods and emotions,” De Gagne adds. The overall design gave “a true widebody feeling in a single-aisle.” 

Embraer had a different challenge in desigining the E-Jets E2 cabin. “The E1 is recognized as a benchmark, and we had to improve on that,” explains Andre Stein, director of industry analysis and product strategy at Embraer Commercial Aviation. “We needed to change the DNA of the cabin, for which we took cues from automotive design to places like modern hotel lobbies. One major driver was that this cabin had to be easy to reconfigure. That will make it easier for leasing companies when they move the aeroplane from one customer to the next.” 

While the capacities of the C Series and E-Jets E2 families rival those of the Airbus A320neo, at the lower end of the commercial single-aisle segment are the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) and Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100), both with plans for stretched versions. 

The SSJ100’s designers wanted to move away from the “tunnel effect” of RJs and, like Bombardier, went for a wide aisle to enable speedier boarding and disembarking. Cabin crew can move more easily through the cabin, with space for passengers to pass by, due to the wider aisle, according to Superjet International. 

Whereas the C Series taps greater natural light, the SSJ100’s Pininfarina-designed cabin has an LED lighting system that can vary in color and intensity to relax passengers. 

Hideyuki Kamiya, director of strategic marketing at Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., tells a familiar tale regarding cabin design goals. “Passenger preference is a primary driver of airline revenue, so we designed the MRJ accordingly,” he remarks. “Passenger comfort had to be at the same level as mainline jets.” 

A wide cabin with 2 X 2 seating and large overhead bins was the goal, according to Kamiya. “We think we have achieved most of our original concepts,” he says. 

In developing the C Series, Bombardier “created multidisciplinary teams [of individuals] with different expertise—engineers, customer support and suppliers,” De Gagne notes. “We also organized airline seminars to have the voice of the customer all the way through.” 

On innovations, she asserts that in the aircraft industry “there are no rules” for a concept for people with reduced mobility. “But for us it was very important, because there are more and more such travelers with the aging population, and it was important to us to offer an option like the lavatory, for instance, so someone in a wheelchair can go in with the chair and have full privacy.” 

Embraer showed off its first E2 cabin mockup in 2014 and has been honest about subsequent alterations. “The overhead bin wasn’t quite as good as we wanted,” Stein recalls. “We went back to the drawing board, kept the internal space of the bin, but rearranged some systems. That created more passenger space, getting back about an inch above [the passenger’s] head.” 

The OEM will also offer its premium cabin in both 2 X 1 and staggered 2 X 2 configurations to provide “as much flexibility to our customers as possible,” he says. “Some have the current E-Jets in their fleet in a 2 X 1 configuration, so if they want commonality for the cabin with the E2, that’s great, that will work. But if they want the staggered seating, that will work, too.” 

The C Series, E2 and MRJ all have Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines, which help reduce noise. Within the cabin, Mitsubishi has used this to lessen the amount of soundproofing material and improve aircraft weight and economics. Embraer and Bombardier, meanwhile, have focused on the air conditioning systems to reduce noise further. 

De Gagne says the C Series meets the need for a level of sound “where you can talk to the person next to you and hear them, but not hear people five rows behind you if it’s too quiet.”