Virgin Atlantic has opened a daring Clubhouse lounge at Heathrow Airport, complete with jacuzzi and bar. Following a raft of pioneering design projects, how far can design take the airline sector from here?

The future should be bright, as aircraft manufacturers and airport authorities finally realise the significance of design. However, with fuel prices soaring, airlines will be assessing how cost-effective their products are. This should spark a whole new era of innovation, with both product and service design reaching new heights.

Joe Ferry, Head of Design, Virgin Atlantic Airways

Investment in design is one way to outrun competition in the airline industry. The next step must be to focus on a totally branded passenger experience, ensuring that irritating things about air travel – from passport control to baggage reclaim – are ironed out.

Nigel Goode, Director, Priestman Goode

Competition has been based on cutting prices for some time. This is not sustainable, so the only alternative is to improve the quality of the service. As industrial designers, we see huge gaps in terms of product innovation and quality of service still to be developed.

Luke Pearson, co-founder, Pearson Lloyd Design

The challenge for design will be tougher as airlines seek to differentiate against a backdrop of rising costs and declining yields. Balancing the consumer desire for more space against the revenue generated per aircraft will drive the need for more product design innovations, while design-led technological solutions will make the airport experience smoother and seamless.

Mike Crump, Head of Design Management, British Airways

Lounges are a really tangible part of a traveller’s experience and they can make a very positive contribution to a journey, particularly dining before a short overnight flight! But lounges are also there to solve several key problems. First of all, passengers have a lot of time to kill and, secondly, those who are paying a premium want to be treated in a special way. Re-design of transport to the airport, luggage transit, the check-in process, immigration and security are the areas where design has the potential to make the experience especially meaningful.

Martin Darbyshire, Managing director, Tangerine Direction & Design

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