UPGRADIA

Qatar Airways to launch Business Class-only service to London Heathrow

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Qatar Airways has announced the launch of a new daily all-premium Business Class service from its hub in Doha to London Heathrow. Mirroring the Business-only product currently run by British Airways from London City Airport to New York JFK, the new service will be the first of its kind in the Middle East and will commence on 15 May 2014.

Qatar Airways will fit an A319 aircraft with an all Business Class, single aisle, 2–2 seating configuration offering 40 seats – slightly larger than the 32 seats on BA’s A318 that operates the LCY – JFK route.

Full-flat bed, big-screen IFE, connectivity
The full-flat seat – similar to the one found in Lufthansa’s new 747-800 cabin, or Delta’s new transcontinental Delta premium product – is configured as pairs of seats, slightly angled away from the aisle, meaning a modicum more privacy, but really only ideal for those travelling in pairs.

A nice touch on the narrowbody A319 is the provision of a big-screen entertainment system with more than 900 movies, TV shows, and video games to choose from, as well as the ability to SMS from the air to those on the ground, enabling people to keep in touch.

Passengers on the Business-only jet also have access to Qatar’s Premium lounge in London Heathrow’s T4 and the airline’s Premium Terminal in Doha.

Qatar Airways currently operates five daily flights to London Heathrow and the additional sixth all Business Class daily service means the airline will step up the frequency on the Doha – London Heathrow route from 35 to 42 weekly services.
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Four airlines to receive their first A380 superjumbo in 2014

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As more airlines are bidding farewell to the last 747 in their fleet and opt for the 777-300ER or the A380 as their flagship product instead, this year will see four more airlines welcoming their first superjumbo.

The A380 provides 50 percent more floor space compared with the Boeing 747, but airlines on average install only 35 percent more seats, using the extra space for roomier cabins and customized areas. Well-documented examples of ‘A380 extravaganza’ include the onboard First Class shower on Emirates’ A380 and the Absolut Vodka-branded lounge and inflight duty free store on Korean Air’s A380.

10 airlines currently operate an A380
As of end of January 2014, 16 airlines have ordered 304 aircraft of the passenger version of the superjumbo. Currently 123 A380s are in operation worldwide (graph here) and 10 airlines have taken delivery of an A380 so far: Singapore Airlines (2007), Qantas, Emirates (2008), Air France (2009), Lufthansa (2010), Korean Air, China Southern (2011), THAI Airways, Malaysia Airlines (2012), and British Airways (2013). With a total order of 140 A380s, of which 44 have been delivered, Emirates accounts for nearly half of the orders.

This year, four more airlines will receive their first A380, including three carriers who regularly show up in the various ‘best airlines in the world’ rankings: Qatar Airways, Etihad, Asiana, plus Japanese hybrid low-cost carrier Skymark. These airlines will be followed by the final round of first A380 deliveries to Transaero in 2015, while orders at Hong Kong Airlines (2015) and Virgin Atlantic (2018) seem questionable. At the same time, Turkish Airlines reportedly will add four A380s to its fleet this summer for operation on slot-constrained routes to China.

Asiana
Becoming the eleventh carrier to add the A380 to its fleet (just before Qatar Airways), Korea’s Asiana Airlines will introduce its first superjumbo in June this year on regional routes, before deploying the aircraft on the Seoul – LAX route in July or August. Asiana will take delivery of a total of six A380s — two in June of this year, two next year, and two in 2017.

Asiana’s A380 will be configured with 12 ‘OZ First Suites’ and 66 staggered ‘Smartium’ Business seats on the upper deck and 417 economy seats (106 on the upper deck and 311 on the lower deck), carrying a total of 495 passengers.
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The best cabin interior launches of premium airlines and hybrid LCCs in 2013

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Passenger expectations continue to be raised by the cabin interior upgrade programs launched by airlines around the world, which sees them introducing more innovative or luxurious products and services, be it private suites in First Class, full-flat beds in Business, or the latest in in-flight entertainment and connectivity. Initially the upgraded product (and/or service) differentiates the airline from its competitors (as airline upgrade programs are out of sync with eachother), who then over the course of several years start matching – and often leapfrogging – the new standard, thereby initiating another ‘creative destruction’ cycle.

Shorter product cycles
Meanwhile, just like in other industries, these product cycles have become shorter. Witness the ‘fast fashion’ revolution created by H&M and Zara in the clothing industry. As Air New Zealand’s general manager international Ed Sims observed when the airline introduced its redesigned cabins a few years ago: “There was a time when airlines in our position could imagine six to seven years between product refurbishments, these days customers are so impatient for new developments that we think, realistically, that product cycles should be closer to three to fours years.”

New materials
At the same time, airlines have more ways than ever to differentiate their cabins as the cabin interior industry has made huge advances in the development of materials that look stunning and pass all regulations, although there still is a more formidable task left though of convincing top management to bring more ‘wow’ into the cabin.

Cabin interior launches in 2013
Written by the experts at TheDesignair, we have selected three of the best examples of how premium airlines have continued to raise the bar this year, with the likes of Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates setting new standards in Business and First. At the same time, (hybrid) low-cost carriers are launching their own ‘smart’ Business Class cabins as part of their efforts to target the lucrative business traveller segment.

LUXURY AIRLINES RAISING THE BAR

1. Singapore Airlines further upgrades its cabins

Investing nearly USD150 million in a cross-cabin refresh, Singapore Airlines has unveiled its new First, Business and Economy class seats, as well as Panasonic latest eX3 IFE system. The new design in September made its debut on the airline’s new B777-300ERs flying the competitive Singapore-London route, and will also be rolled out on Singapore Airlines’ upcoming A350s. Read article »

2. Cathay Pacific revamps First Class with some nice touches

Cathay Pacific is ensuring its cabin products stay at the forefront of people’s minds. As the airline’s First Class suite wasn’t in need of a full redesign, the airline partnered with Foster + Partners, the same architectural company that designed Cathay’s ‘The Wing‘ lounge, to look at the suite and see how it could be refreshed. Read article »

3. Emirates new ‘Executive A319’ features private jet lounge and First Class suites

For travellers seeking a step up from First Class, Emirates’ new private jet service aims to raise the bar. Dubbed ‘Emirates Executive‘, the airline has transformed an Airbus A319 into a private jet that features a lounge with chairs, sofa and a table, 10 private First Class suites, and a shower – once only available on its A380s. Read article »

LOW-COST CARRIERS UPGRADING

4. JetBlue unveils new ‘transcontinental’ A321 interior featuring private suites

JetBlue in 2014 will launch a new transcontinental service between New York JFK, LA and San Francisco, featuring the airline’s new ‘Mint’ Business Class, which is described as “a stylish service minus all of the stuffiness often associated with the traditional front-of-the-cabin experience.” Read article »

5. Japan’s Skymark goes Premium Economy-only on new A330s

Hybrid low-cost carrier Skymark, Japan’s third largest airline, aims to differentiate itself in the high yield domestic market from full service airlines ANA and JAL and LCCs such as Jetstar Japan and Peach with a Premium Economy-only A330 featuring 271 seats with legrests and a 38 inch pitch. Read article »

6. Low-cost carrier FlyDubai goes chic with new Business Class cabin

Dubai-based ‘no-frills chic’ carrier FlyDubai has added a separate Business Class with wider seats and more legroom to its cabin. The airline’s fleet of 737-800s already features Boeing’s new Sky Interior and a high-definition inflight entertainment system. Read article »

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Japan’s Skymark goes Premium Economy-only on new A330s

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Hybrid low-cost carrier Skymark - Japan’s third largest airline – turned heads in early 2011 when it announced an order for six A380 superjumbo’s which will feature only 394 seats in a premium two-class configuration: 114 angled lie-flat Business seatss on the upper deck and 280 ‘shell-style’ Premium Economy seats on the lower deck. Skymark will take delivery of its first A380 in August 2014 and plans to fly between Tokyo and New York as the first destination, possibly followed by London and Frankfurt.

Premium Economy-only A330
As part of Skymark’s ambitious expansion plan, the Tokyo Haneda-based airline also executed leases for seven A330-300 aircraft in July 2012, with delivery scheduled from early 2014 through 2015.

Skymark’s new A330s are outfitted in a 271-seat single-class Premium Economyy configuration with a 38-inch seat pitch and 19.3-inch seat width, called ‘Green Seats’ (after the more spacious seats offered in the ‘Green Car’ on Japan’s high-speed rail), which are comparable to the domestic ‘Class J’ product of Japan Airlines.

Skymark will deploy its Premium Economy-only A330 widebodies on key domestic trunk routes from Tokyo to Fukuoka and Sapporo to win market share among business travellers. The first route is due to be Tokyo Haneda-Fukuoka at the end of March 2014, which is Skymark’s busiest route based on available seats, and Japan’s second and the world’s third busiest air route.

Cabin interior
In mid-December, Skymark reveiled its new A330-300 interior at Airbus in Toulouse and we caught up with Daniel Baron, founder of  Tokyo-based design agency LIFT Strategic Design who have been responsible for cabin styling and seat trim and finish, consulting on layout, seats and galleys. LIFT Design is also working with Skymark on the A380 cabin and seat design.

Skymark’s all-Premium Economy product features a 2 x 3 x 2 seating arrangement (compared with a regular 2 x 4 x 2 configuration for Economy on the A330). Each seat has 38 inches of legroom, which is long-haul standard for premium economy, and the 271 seats also feature leg rests – not just the front row like Cathay Pacific offers – meaning passenger’s legs are supported for the few hours they are onboard. There will be no inflight entertainment, but the airline says it is looking into inflight connectivity.

The cabin has been designed to represent a “casual urban cafe with the embracing freshness of a forest in Spring”. Whilst we can’t fully understand what that is supposed to impart, the finished product is airy, refreshing and light. A light fresh green is predominant here, matched with neutral putty finishes, providing a calm and serene environment. We like the trims of birch wooden veneer, found on the on the seat tables and golden walnut veneer in the lavatory flooring.
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Russia’s Transaero goes ‘uber-premium’ with new medium-haul Boeing 737s

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

We are slightly taken aback by Transaero’s latest announcement regarding the cabin offerings on their six new 737-800 aircraft. Transaero, a Russian carrier that was fairly unheard of until a few years ago, was recently awarded by SkyTrax as ‘Most Improved Airline In the World’ and by the looks of things, quite rightly so.

In what we believe is the only carrier in the world to offer a true three-class 737. Transaero has managed to fit in a First Class, Business Class and Economy Class cabin in an airframe that low-cost carriers can fit just 189 people. So Economy is going to be a tight fit, right? Not at all! The airline is boasting 34″ seat pitch on the aircraft, equivalent to that found on Oman Air’s long haul fleet, and one of the best pitches in the air. The 152-seat aircraft will be delivered in their 2013/2014 winter schedule and will be operated on flights between Moscow and London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Pathos (Cyprus), Astana and Almaty.

Imperial Class
Transaero’s ‘Imperial Class’ is a true First Class product and interesting to see on a 737 fleet, as the aircraft realistically can only fly a 6-hour flight at its upper limit as a financially viable proposition. So to see deeply-coloured fully-flat beds is a luxury for a short/mid-haul flight, but still welcome to see. Along with the flat-bed seats and in-flight wifi from Row44, passengers are served by personal VIP service managers and are provided with VIP or Business Lounges at airports and a round-the-clock communications line.

In an intimate cabin of just 4 seats (in a 2 x 2 arrangement), passengers can expect high-level gastronomic specialties by the famous Café Pushkin on routes from Moscow and on some international routes to Moscow, an extensive wine card and exclusive tableware by the Imperial Porcelain factory, making you feel like you’ve been transported into a Tsar’s palace. Competing with mainline international carriers for premium passengers there is a free personal chauffeur service available.
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Beyond full-flat beds and slim-line seats » How airlines can differentiate the passenger experience ‘up in the air’

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This article is based on presentations that airlinetrends.com gave earlier this year at the 2013 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg and the recent FTE 2013 ‘Up In The Air’ conference in Las Vegas. 

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Airlines around the world are working hard to keep up with the cabin interior upgrade arms race by introducing bigger and better premium seats in Business and First, and smarter and lighter designs in Economy. Furthermore, the latest cabins are roomier, have improved air quality and feature mood lighting.

At the same time airlines are coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ elements of the inflight experience, such as  delivering a more personal service, providing passengers with real-time information, creating ‘virtual classes’, etcetera. Here are five ways how airlines can improve the hospitality part of the inflight experience.

1. Personal service 

In the past year, airlines such as Emirates, British Airways, Iberia, KLM and EVA Air have equipped their pursers with tablets. This allows the cabin crew to see which previous trips a passenger has taken with the carrier before and based on this, know their food, wine and seating preferences, and any issues a customer had during their previous travels. This enables crew to offer a more personal and relevant service to frequent flyers.

Obviously, the next step is to connect the crew tablets to the Internet as the availability of aircraft with onboard wifi grows. This will close the customer service loop for airlines, as they will be able to connect with crew and passengers up in the air. For example, iPads used by pursers onboard British Airways’ Business Class-only service between London City Airport and New York’s JFK receive live updates throughout the flight, thanks to the aircraft’s inflight connectivity provided by OnAir. It should be a matter of time before airlines such as Emirates – which already offers connectivity on the majority of its fleet and has equipped its pursers with HP Elitepad devices – will follow.

2. Real-time information

Within the next five to six years it can be fully expected for real-time customer service to be an industry standard. With the rise of passenger smartphone use, in-flight connectivity and airlines’ commitment to mobile technologies and social media, soon customers will be able to evaluate every aspect of their experience in real-time, thus enabling issues to be corrected on the spot.

For example, Delta passengers on domestic flights can use Delta’s smartphone app to track their checked baggage with the bag tag number that they received at the time of baggage check-in. Since Delta has equipped all its domestic aircraft with GoGo’s in-flight Internet passengers can check whether their bag has made it on their flight while being up in the air.
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Low-cost carrier FlyDubai goes chic with new Business Class cabin

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

FlyDubai, the up and coming short and mid-haul carrier from Dubai, has recently given their competitors a run for their money. From early October on, the low-cost airline will be rolling out Business Class seating across their fleet with 3 rows of 2×2 seating to form the front of their planes.  The new ‘soft Italian leather’ seats, similar in offerings to most American First Class seats, will boast a 12.1 inch high-definition touch-screen TV, in seat power and a seat pitch of 42″, perfect for relaxing and browsing the 900 hours of entertainment options.

This isn’t just about the seat, as the pseudo-low-cost carrier will also offer all the traditional benefits, including priority check in, lounges and full 3-course meals on flights over 90 minutes. They also announced that later this year, passengers will be able to relax in FlyDubai’s Business Class lounge ahead of their flight and will have access to priority baggage collection upon arrival at their destination.

Commenting on the launch of the airline’s Business Class services, Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of FlyDubai, stated, “We are very pleased to announce the evolution of our passenger offering as we continue to meet the travel needs of our customers. The introduction of Business Class will provide greater choice for our passengers, who will have access to faster check-in services, comfortable and spacious seating and can enjoy a variety of internationally -inspired menus during their journey.”

The airline has just received its first Business Class equipped aircraft and the first route where FlyDubai will deploy its new Business Class will be between Dubai and Kiev on October 8, followed by Male, Istanbul, Mineralyne Vody and Bucharest later this year.
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Emirates new ‘Executive A319’ features private jet lounge and First Class suites

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Emirates has always been a luxurious airline, and their First Class is amongst one of the best in the skies, so no surprise that they have decided to include the award winning First Class suite in their new executive jet. Many airlines have taken to providing an executive jet service, from Qatar Airways to Lufthansa, but none have really considered offering something to this level of luxury. Your own private A319 jet will take you wherever you and 18 of your associates want to go.

Dubbed ‘Emirates Executive‘ the new service is the epitome of luxury, and no doubt will have a hefty price tag associated with it, but that price tag includes 10 private First Class suites, a lounge with chairs and a sofa, table and all the executive mod cons you would require, and to top it off, a shower, once only available on the super-giant A380s.

We have always looked at executive jets as a little less luxurious than first class suites, lacking in the privacy or exclusive touches such as personal TVs, AVOD, bedding etc, and finally it seems that the airline has learned that exclusive jets should mean the same, (or if not more) level of quality in the product as their first class suites and this aircraft layout seems to work perfectly. We love the fact the branding of the aircraft is subdued, with just the Emirates logo appearing by the door, and the rest of the airframe with a simple white exterior [video here].

The ten Private Suites are each equipped with sliding privacy doors, fully-flat bed seats, visitor’s seat, personal mini-bar and a 32” screen displaying our award-winning ICE entertainment system. Full Wi-Fi, mobile phone connectivity, and video conferencing are also available throughout your flight. One thing is for sure, we are going to start playing the lottery a lot more now….

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JetBlue unveils new ‘transcontinental’ A321 interior featuring private suites

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

JetBlue, New York’s ‘homegrown airline’ has released on their video channel a sneak peek of what we can expect on their new fleet of A321′s coming out in 2014, which will be flying the transcontinental East Coast – West Coast flights, competing with the likes of American, United, Delta and Virgin America who have all lifted the quality of product for the 5 to 6 hour trek.

The airline has invested in both business and economy, featuring slim-line seats, with larger touch-screen TVs, and still maintaining their extra legroom seating. Whilst this is just an artists impression (more images here), the detail seems fairly accurate, and we can see the headrests will be fairly slim too. Perhaps lowering the comfort of their seats, they can up-sell their amenity packages of pillows and blankets.

The big showpiece here though is the new Business Class product. A first for what is fundamentally a low-cost carrier. 16 private suites in 4 rows, rows 1 and 3 featuring a 2 x 2 seating and rows 2 and 4 having a more private 1 x 1 seating configuration. The Thomson Vantage full flat seats are a similar product to that seen on international carriers such as Delta and Brussels Airlines.

The private sliding door idea is a nice little touch, especially on the single solitary seats, however, on the dual seats, you lose out on this feature. Making the 2nd and 4th rows much more appealing and sort after as a solitary traveller. We feel the sliding doors are more a sales gimmick that practical elements a traveller really actually requires on a 5-6 hour flight. The inconsistency of the product in business class may also work against the carrier, as someone who flies in the private suite and then is only offered a regular business class seat may decide to decline the purchase and move to a differing carrier. Only time will tell…

Singapore Airlines further upgrades its cabins

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Singapore Airlines has been the epitome of luxury for many years now. Many airlines look to the airline, not only for the product they have onboard, but the way that Singapore Airlines effortlessly conveys luxury and sophistication. Singapore Airlines has not failed to deliver on their latest incarnation of products which will replace the current fleets slightly older, but by no means tired cabins. The first aircraft to adopt these new cabins will be the 777-300ER and when it comes into service, the A350. Passengers between Singapore and London will be the first to experience the new seats when they come on line in September.

“The significant investment in our next generation of cabin products reaffirms our commitment to product innovation and leadership, and demonstrates our confidence in the future for premium full-service air travel,” said SIA’s Executive Vice President Commercial, Mr Mak Swee Wah. The products seem to be more like luxury train or car, and this is no surprise, as the release is the result of more than two years of working with world-renowned design firms. BMW Group DesignworksUSA assisted with the development of the new First Class, James Park Associates assisted with Business Class and Massive Interactive with the in-flight entertainment system interface.

We take a look at the products a little closer.

First Class
Singapore Airlines’ new First Class seat, features a new fixed-back shell design with curved side panels to provide a clear demarcation of personal space, for added privacy. At 35 inches in width and with an increased bed length from 80 to 82 inches, it is one of the most spacious First Class products in the sky. (But not the most!) Extensive research was conducted to determine how best to increase the comfort of the new First Class seat. An ergonomically sculpted cushion and improved adjustable headrest have been introduced for greater seating comfort, while new features such as a padded headboard for extra support and an additional mattress layer ensure customers enjoy a good rest. The attention to detail here is superb, and shows great research into the seating habits of travellers in such products. We personally love the two types of backing to the seat, depending whether you are configured in bed or seat mode.
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Indonesion low-cost carrier Lion Air launches full-service airline

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

At a time that Asia’s full-service carriers are busy launching low-cost affiliates, the region’s second-largest budget carrier, Indonesia’s Lion Air, is moving in the opposite direction by launching full-service airline Batik Air. Now that Batik Air has been flying for a few weeks, we thought it best to take some time to take a look at this new carrier and what you can expect.

The inside
Firstly, let’s talk interiors. The whole premise of the airline is to fly passengers around the Asia region with a full service offering and even a Business Class cabin with reclining regional ‘First Class’ style seats.

First impressions of the 737-900 cabin are great, neutral colours with a few bright splashes in the form of curtains help provide a smart and contemporary look. The neutral grey patterned carpets are a great choice, hiding a multitude of sins as they get worn in. The leather seating looks great in these images, but time will tell if they start to stretch and buckle with their use. The patterns on the bulkheads and dividers are great too.

This is a big jump from a low-cost’s roots and what you expect to see from a full service carrier. Where bright bold and strong colours are used to stimulate their passengers, therefore keeping them more awake, and in need of beverages, food and entertainment. This helps generate sales. Whereas premium carriers naturally use softer more relaxing colours to try and calm and relax passengers, where they don’t require so much attention, therefore drinking and eating less, thus increasing profits.

The airline offers touchscreen IFE in every seat, Economy class features 32″ seat pitch and the Business class seats offer 45″. The Sky Interior option for Boeing as well will help the cabin seem more spacious and modern. Being a full service carrier all food and drink is included  in the price.
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TAM’s new First Class recreates a living room up in the air

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

TAM, the ambitious flag carrier of Brazil which earlier this year merged with LAN from Chile to create a Latin American airline giant, has just unveiled new cabin interiors – designed by Priestmangoode – to mark its arrival on the world stage.

Says Priestmangoode Director Luke Hawes: “Our work for TAM is crucial to their brand development, giving them the customer experience they need as they move up to become a major international carrier. The designs we will roll out across their entire fleet will present them as an important international player and give them the tools they need to compete with the world’s other major international carriers.”

Interior redesign
In 2009, TAM hired Priestmangoode to redesign the entire onboard experience – from cabin architecture, seats, galleys and lavatories to staff uniforms, in-flight amenities and the graphic user interface (GUI) of the IFE system. According to TAM Brand Manager Ricardo Cruz, the airline aims “to put TAM on the map” with the new cabin interior program, which is “inspired by everything Brazil has got to offer.” A nice illustration of this is the floor pattern of the bathrooms which is inspired by the famous Copacabana sidewalks in Rio de Janeiro.

Four classes
TAM’s new cabin interior has already made its debut on three new Boeing 777-300ERs delivered to the airline in the past few weeks. The new B777s can seat 368 passengers in 4 classes: First, Business, Space + and Economy.

TAM’s Economy cabin has received a colourful makeover and features rows of seats – manufactured by Weber – in various bright colours that reflect the carrier’s Brazilian origin: lime green, aqua blue and a brighter shade of TAM’s corporate red. TAM will also introduce a new ‘Space +’ product, which offers similar seats as in Economy, but with a larger seat pitch and recline, as well as a different seat colour. Read full article »

Japan Airlines goes private with ‘Sky Suites’ in Business Class

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

Declared bankrupt in 2010 after a decade of losses, Japan Airlines (JAL) last week returned to the Tokyo stock exchange in a USD 8.5 billion IPO that followed a government-backed restructuring under which the airline shed more than a third of its jobs, persuaded its unionised pilots and staff to take big pay cuts, slashed pension payouts and retired older fuel-inefficient aircraft.

In the next five years, JAL aims to boost international capacity with 25 percent, as it contends with a shrinking population and new competition from low-cost carriers at home. Similar to local rival All Nippon Airways (ANA), JAL is banking on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner (of which it has received 4 so far, with more than 40 on order) for its expension.

JAL is also seeking to close the service gap with ANA, and – following years of underinvestment – just announced a massive upgrade of its international fleet. Called ‘New Sky’, the upgrade program will revamp seats in all cabins for the first time in 10 years, as well as introduce new catering concepts. JAL’s Business Class, however, is receiving the most extreme makeover.

‘Sky Suites’
Dubbed ‘JAL SKY SUITE’, the new seats will be the first time that JAL is installing full-flat beds in Business Class (even JAL’s new B787s still feature angled lie-flat seats). Says JAL’s VP Marketing Jun Kato, “We felt we were lagging behind other carriers where full-flat seats are standard.”

According to JAL, it wants passengers to “experience comfort and privacy similar to First Class” with its new Business product and the airline is installing an adapted version of B/E Aerospace’s ‘Super First Class’ seat for its Sky Suite. A luxury version of this B/E Aerospace seat is used as First Class seat by several other airlines. Despite a 2-3-2 layout, a staggered configuration allows each passenger to have direct and unobstructed aisle access.
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American Airlines embarks on ambitious upgrade program

By Brian Pillsbury, airlinetrends.com

American Airlines (AA) has lost roughly USD 10 billion over the previous 10 years, with the red ink being compounded by very contentious relationships between management and labor. Whereas US legacy carriers Delta and United have emerged from bankcruptcy protection in recent years with a leaner cost structure, and have merged with respectively Northwest and Continental, AA’s parent company AMR has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – which allows it to cut costs at the airline and return it to profitability – since the end of 2011 only.

AA’s management has also been under heavy pressure from its own employee labor unions and other stakeholders to execute a merger – most notably with US Airways. AA CEO Tom Horton recently said that a decision on the future structure of the airline is expected to be made this fall.

Since AA’s customer satisfaction rates have been below average for years, to put it mildly (although the airline topped United and US Airways in the 2012 JD Power airline ranking), AA is using its current restructuring phase to embark on an ambitious upgrade program designed to give the nearly 80 year-old carrier a much needed facelift.

Fleet modernization
American Airlines made a splash with its announcement in mid-2011 that it would be acquiring up to 460 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft as part of a massive fleet modernization program. Out of this total, American intends to replace its fleet of domestic Boeing 757-200s and MD-80s with approximately 200 A319s, A321s and 737-800s – all with leather seats, Wi-Fi and in-seat inflight entertainment. The new aircraft will be delivered beginning with the A319s in July 2013, followed by the Boeing 737-800s in October 2013 and the A321s in the second quarter of 2014.

American is also retrofitting the cabin interiors, seating and IFE of its entire existing fleet. Designed in partnership with James Park Associates (JPA), the overall design, trim and finish of all aircraft will complement the interior design scheme of the airline’s new Boeing 777-300Ers, which was made public at the end of 2011. Last but not least, American is also reported to be considering a new aircraft livery.

Long-haul fleet upgrades
American Airlines will be the first US airline to operate the Boeing 777-300ER by the end of 2012. The -300ER will become AA’s flagship long-haul aircraft and will boast an impressive array of amenities, including a new First Class and full-flat seats in Business (similar to the seat designed by JPA for Cathay Pacific), as well as a new bar area, galleys and onboard connectivity. Taking design cues from the B787 Dreamliner, AA’s new 777-300ERs will also feature a mood-lit archway at the entrance of the aircraft that creates a feeling of spaciousness.
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Asiana’s new First Class Suite features largest personal IFE screen in the sky

By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

While Korean Air recently was named 2012′s most innovative airline by airlinetrends.com (full ranking here), South Korea’s other premium full-service carrier – Asiana Airlines – has raised the bar with the launch of its new First Class Suite. Asiana, which was recently named Best Airline in Asia in the 2012 Skytrax ‘Airline of the Year’ ranking, says its ‘OZ First Suite’ (named after the airline’s IATA code) is based on the concept of “hotel suites transplanted in an air carrier.”

Largest IFE screen in the sky
The most eye-catching feature of the new enclosed suites are 32-inch Panasonic high-definition screens – the world’s largest in-flight entertainment screens – which allow passengers to watch movies with a clear view even from a 2-meter distance as their seats are fully reclined. The suites also have touch-sensitive ‘seat function control units’ set up in the armrests for easy control of the seat and adjustment of the mood lighting at different points during the flight (including a ‘star light’ option). A ‘do not disturb’ sign is included in the control unit for more privacy.

Asiana’s new OZ First Suite is also equipped with an individual air ventilation system, a mini-bar and a cabinet for papers and laptops. The two seats located at the center of the cabin feature a seperator which can be lowered, while an ottoman across from the seat allows for a face-to-face meal for the convenience of passengers travelling together.
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