Individual Air Nozzles On Airplanes: Why Don’t All Airlines Have Them?


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When it comes to airline passenger experience, we all have different things we value. A lot of airlines are laser focused on passenger experience, and invest a lot in new seats, great food and drinks, and more, but then totally ignore one feature that can make a big difference to passengers. I’m talking about individual air nozzles in the passenger service unit, and I wanted to talk more about that in this post.

Why I value individual air nozzles immensely

I know I’m not alone among frequent flyers (especially those of us from the United States) in appreciating when airlines offer individual air nozzles in the overhead consoles. This allows you to control the airflow directly to your seat.

While the air is recirculated, airplanes do have good HEPA air filters, so the quality of the air is about as good as you’ll find in any indoor space. Furthermore, while I recognize this isn’t the equivalent of “air conditioning,” having some air blowing in your direction can impact your comfort, and your perception of feeling hot.

We all have different preferences when it comes to our preferred sleeping conditions and temperatures. Some prefer to sleep in warm environments, while others prefer to sleep in cold environments. In that regard, giving passengers individual air nozzles is about as much control as airlines can offer (well, other than in Emirates’ new 777 first class, where you sort of kinda of have temperature controls).

Emirates Boeing 777 first class temperature controls

As someone who prefers to sleep in cool(ish) conditions, I find that I sometimes wake up sweating when I’m on a plane without air nozzles, while air nozzles help me to stay somewhat cool.

Virtually all modern aircraft manufacturers give airlines the option of installing individual air nozzles in the passenger service units (where reading lights and the seatbelt signs are loaded), but not all airlines elect to install this.

For example, Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A350s do have individual air nozzles at all seats…

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 individual air nozzles

…while British Airways’ Airbus A350s don’t have individual air nozzles.

British Airways Airbus A350 lack of individual air nozzles

When I publish my reviews of flights, I always mention if there were individual air nozzles or not, for those who are like me and care. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the (many) features that make a business class product great.

Why some airlines choose not to install individual air nozzles

When the topic of individual air nozzles is raised the comments section of the blog, one question that frequently comes up is why airlines sometimes elect not to install individual air nozzles on planes. Those of us who like individual air nozzles really appreciate them. Meanwhile those who don’t care about them aren’t typically put off by their existence.

Why do some airlines choose not to install them? Well, it’s probably the explanation you’d expect — they do come at a cost. This is an option that airlines have when they order planes, and based on my understanding:

  • Installing individual air nozzles costs extra, given the additional parts and wiring required
  • The existence of air nozzles adds a (marginal) amount of weight to the aircraft, given the additional wiring
  • Air nozzles potentially add maintenance costs, since this is a complex system that has to be maintained

It’s my understanding that the cost is negligible in the scheme of the sticker price of aircraft. I mean, that must be the case, because Spirit Airlines has individual air nozzles on its Airbus A321s…

Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 individual air nozzles

…while Singapore Airlines doesn’t have individual air nozzles on its Boeing 787s.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 787 lack of individual air nozzles

In reality, I think the other biggest factor is just confirmation bias among airline executives in some regions. For example, in Asia and Europe, people tend to prefer (or at least tolerate) sleeping at warmer temperatures than those of us in the United States.

As a result, I think when it comes time to order aircraft and decide on options, some executives just say “oh, people don’t actually care about that, we don’t need to include that option.” And that’s likely because they don’t mind sleeping at warmer temperatures. At least that’s my assumption. I’ve never been responsible for ordering billions of dollars of aircraft, though, so if someone with more first hand experience has insights, I’d love to hear them. 😉

Bottom line

We all have different temperature preferences, and individual air nozzles offer about as much customization in that regard as you’ll find on planes. I really appreciate when airlines do install individual air nozzles on planes, and I’m puzzled when premium airlines don’t.

There is some cost to selecting this option, but it must not be very big in the scheme of things, since even many ultra low cost carriers offer it.

What’s your take on individual air nozzles? Do you value them? Why do you think some airlines don’t install them?

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