Inflight ‘Mood Lighting’


Have you ever noticed that on some (mostly long-haul) flights there’s been a growing tendency on some airlines – including Iberia – toward variations in illumination of passenger cabins, with changing colours over the course of each flight?

The art of “mood lighting” is of course designed to create a more pleasant experience for passengers – not just for the sake of splashing a rainbow of hues willy nilly across cabins, but rather carefully coordinating their “temperatures” and intensity in a mix that evolves throughout a flight to contribute to passengers’ sense of well being and especially to adapt their circadian rhythms to rapid time-zone changes; for example, lighting manipulation has been shown to be effective in countering jet lag. And here are five basic scenarios lighting designers take into account:

    • During boarding and disembarking, the illumination is the most clear and intense, to allow passengers to locate their seats and store/retrieve hand luggage from the overhead bins (these “colder”, bolder colours tend to stimulate action, whilst warmer hues are used during periods of downtime/rest, as described below).
    • During runway taxiing as well as descent toward landing, for safety reasons the interior lighting needs to mimic outside conditions, synching passengers’ eyesight to the outside so as to – in case of emergency – promote evacuations that are as quick and efficient as possible.
    • During meal service, a medium intensity lighting which best allows passengers to both see and enjoy what they’re eating.
    • “Nighttime”, with minimal lighting meant to promote rest while still allowing passengers to see well enough to get to and from the lavatories.
    • Finally, “dawn”, where the transition toward a fully lit cabin again allows the crew to begin breakfast service.

In addition, in order that day-night biorrhythms not change too abruptly, for the comfort of passengers lighting designers aim to make the transitions between them slow, gentle, and as imperceptible as possible.

Yet another aspect of all this is the adaptation of the colours used and their intensities/interactions according to each airline’s corporate image and branding, influencing upholstery, other textiles, and still other decorative elements. All this attention to detaequiil could be ruined by poor lighting, even visually changing the colour of surfaces due to how they’re perceived in various kinds of light.

This affects food, too, by the way; under the wrong kind of ambient lighting, the most exquisite steak or the most colourful salad could end up looking unappetising – even the deep red of a good wine could come across as shades of brown or gray.

All the new Iberia A350s are equipped with the latest LED technologies and modd-lighting environments adapted to enhance passenger comfort. .

(You can get more info on the principles of aircraft-cabin design here.)


by guest blogger Jorge de Luis Sierra | aircraft interior design/aviation branding specialist