United caters to today’s connected traveller with new domestic Business Class

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Competition in domestic travel in the US is further heating up, with a new wave of interiors just launched by United. Starting with the A319 this week, the new interior will be rolled out on A319s, A320s, 737s and 757s throughout 2016.

The new interiors are custom created for the airline as it pushes hard to compete with more design-led airlines such as Delta, Virgin America and JetBlue. It is no surprise that United have decided to keep up with their competitors and in certain areas possibly even push ahead of the competition.

Tablet holders and storage
Developed with input from customers whom the airline invited to test seat prototypes, the brand new United seats by design firm PriestmanGoode have created features several elements to improve the customer experience, including all-leather seat covers, a patented-design tray table with tablet holder, articulating seat bottoms for greater comfort when reclining and an adjustable headrest; in-seat universal A/C power outlets for customers to charge their devices; increased in-seat storage, including two seatback pockets and side stowage for laptops and tablets; dedicated beverage holders; and real granite cocktail tables (no weight spared there).

At 21.1 inches wide, the new United First seat is wider than the current seat and will have numerous custom-design elements and premium finishes including the signature United-branded tag. Each aircraft will continue to have the same number of premium-cabin seats. Read full article »

Utilitarian aircraft galleys increasingly get a makeover

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By Marisa Garcia, FlightChic

Zodiac Aerospace is celebrating the delivery of its 50,000th aircraft galley, a unit shipped to Etihad Airways for its new ‘Reimagined’ A380 cabin, that embodies everything going right with cabin design in recent years.

Far from the utilitarian storage and food preparation area we see on most aircraft, this fine crafted unit for Etihad Airways would fit in the modern living room of a high-concept design home.

This gorgeous cabin monument reveals just how thorough the Etihad Design Consortium was when tailoring the Reimagined flying experience; eliminating all possible eye-sores and creating a sense of place that communicates more hospitality than aviation.

“We are very proud of being part of such a visionary concept like the one that has been realized for the Etihad A380 cabin”, said Olivier Zarrouati, CEO of Zodiac Aerospace. This particular galley program started in 2011 and the first aircraft was delivered in December 2014.

Of course, airlines still buy the generic and utilitarian galleys, but the trend is towards cabin monuments serving a second life as welcome zones or customer social areas, at least for wide-body and long-haul aircraft. Beyond looking pretty, putting this functional space to work as an element of the passenger experience is smart design thinking.

With the limited space available on aircraft, each component should complement the airline’s brand aesthetic.

SAS’ new A330 Business Class features Hästens bedding and a snack bar


By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

As cabin interior upgrade cycles are becoming shorter, airlines around the world are working hard to keep up with this ‘arms race’ by introducing bigger and better premium seats, as well as smarter and lighter designs in Economy.

At the same time airlines are coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ service elements of the inflight experience. For example, as full-flat beds have now become the industry standard in Business Class, airlines are looking for ways to differentiate the premium passenger experience by ‘dreaming up’ service touches that improve the chance passengers can enjoy a good night of sleep onboard.

Examples include Virgin Atlantic’s Snooze Zone and Delta’s partnership with Westin Hotels. Qantas, meanwhile, has introduced what it calls ‘Business Suites’ on its A330s that let passengers recline from the moment they board until touchdown at their destination.

SAS A330 Business Class
Following years of restructuring in order to create a competitive cost platform, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has recently introduced its first refurbished A330 aircraft. Similar to Aer Lingus’ new A330 Business Class – which offers passengers a well thought-out combination of product and service innovations – SAS’ new premium cabin shows how carriers with a relatively limited long-haul network can respond to the passenger experience standards set by airlines from the Gulf and Asia.

SAS’ new business class cabin features Thomson’s Vantage XL seats – which have currently only been installed by one other airline, Qantas. Designed by UK-based FactoryDesign, the seats are a modern interpretation of Scandinavian design, including metallic edging, gold accents and electric blue in-seat lighting.

As Jonny Clark from TheDesignair puts it nicely: “With touch points of wooden veneer, dark charcoal fabrics with topstitching and electric blue details, the designers have gone for a mix of business elegance with contemporary cool.” Read full article »

New Korean Air ‘Prestige Suite’ indicates a new seating trend in Business Class

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Korean Air is the latest carrier to embrace the new B/E Aerospace Apex Business Class suite. Following both JAL and Oman Air, Korean Air has opted for these increasingly popular forward facing private suites, which all offer aisle access and increased privacy.

Just like Japan Airlines’ ‘Sleeper Suites’, Korean Air’s ‘Prestige Suites’ turn into 74 inch long beds. When not fully reclined, the seats are still a comfortable 21.6 inches wide and feature a 23 inch widescreen touchscreen TV with handheld controller too, so there is no need to reach to the screen.

In a bid to improve and align their business class cabin with international standards, the biggest improvement comes from the introduction of a fully flat bed, replacing the older lie-flat seats.

The new Suites will make their debut on a Korean Air A330-300 on the Guangzhou, Singapore and Hanoi routes. Korean Air has a further 38 aircraft on order – six A330-300s, twelve B777-300ERs, ten B747-8is and ten B787-9s – and all will be delivered equipped with these new seats.

The airline also announced they will be looking at introducing a brand new First Class product to compliment the new suites.

The advantage of these seats is that passengers can either fly together or in complete privacy, in a similar set-up to British Airways’ long-standing Club World product. The centre seats align perfectly, whilst the window twin seats are staggered slightly, to ensure each passenger has access to the aisle. Read full article »

Best airline product and service innovations of 2014

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At airlinetrends.com we continuously monitor the global aviation industry for product and service innovations launched by airlines in response to cultural, technological, and economic changes that influence airline customers’ needs and expectations.

The top 10 product and service innovations we have selected this year reflect how airlines are becoming bolder in the design of new products and services as more airlines are embrading hospitality, design and technology as ways to differentiate the passenger experience.


1. China Airlines to feature ‘Sky Lounge’ and ‘Family Couch’ on new B777-300ERs

Taiwan’s flag carrier China Airlines is transforming its products and services with the airline’s new Boeing 777-300ER becoming the airline’s flagship aircraft to showcase innovations such as a ‘Sky Lounge’ in Business and ‘Family Couches’ in Economy. Read article »

2. Aer Lingus’ new Business Class ticks many passenger experience ‘boxes’

Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus’ new Business Class cabin in our opinion ticks many boxes of what the Business Class experience should look like in the coming years, as the airline has come up with a very well thought-out combination of product and service design. Read article »

3. Beyond First Class: Etihad’s new A380 features 3-room ‘The Residence’ suite

Etihad has unveiled the world’s first private multi-room cabin on a commercial passenger aircraft. Called ‘The Residence’, the ‘über premium’ space will feature a living room, double bedroom, and a separate ensuite shower room, while passengers will be served by a dedicated butler. Read article »

4. Smart design: Fixed headrest support on Etihad’s new Economy seats

Hidden inside the press storm caused by Etihad’s luxurious new A380 comes a smart design innovation of the airline’s new Economy seats. Etihad’s so-called ‘Economy Smart Seats’ feature a ‘fixed wing’ headrest, designed to provide a firm surface for passengers to lean on while sleeping. Read article »

5. Qantas new A330 Business Suite to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ recline

With the aim to provide frequent flyers in Business Class with the maximum amount of sleep, Qantas is introducing Business Class seats on its A330s that let passengers recline from the moment they board until touchdown at their destination. Read article » Read full article »

Qantas new A330 Business Suite to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ recline

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

In the past years airlines around the world have been busy installing seats in Business Class that can be turned into fully flat beds, making ‘full flat’ the industry standard. In an effort to further differentiate their premium product, airlines are increasingly coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ service elements of the inflight experience. Examples include Virgin Atlantic’s Snooze Zone, Delta’s partnership with Westin and Aer Lingus’ new Business Class which offers passengers a well thought-out combination of product and service innovations.

Gate-to-gate recline
In an effort to provide frequent flyers in Business Class with the maximum amount of sleep, Qantas is introducing Business Class seats on its A330s that let passengers recline from the moment they board until touchdown at their destination. The innovation, for which Qantas is awaiting regulatory approval, could let passengers get more than seven hours of shuteye on an Australia to Southeast Asia trip.

As aircraft seats are traditionally locked upright during take-off and landing, when most accidents happen, the innovation would allow Qantas to offer the world’s first seats that let passengers recline in their seat from take-off through to landing.

Key to the break-through product’s safety is an over-the-shoulder belt — much like a car seatbelt — that connects with the usual around-the-waist belt to provide extra restraint during takeoff and landing.

The seats won’t be able to recline less than 25 degrees from the horizontal on international flights and 21 degrees domestically. That’s sufficient to allow the shoulder belt to work, withstanding the 16G forces that can be exerted in a survivable accident. The berths can be switched to fully-flat mode once the plane is in level flight. Read full article »

Aer Lingus’ new Business Class ticks many product and service innovation boxes

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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, as well as smarter and lighter designs in Economy. At the same time airlines are coming up with creative ways to improve the ‘softer’ service elements of the inflight experience, ideally taking a holistic approach to design a branded passenger experience.

Irish ‘value carrier’ Aer Lingus recently announced details of its new 32-seat Business Class cabin, which in our opinion ticks many boxes of what the Business Class experience should look like in the coming years, as the airline has come up with a very well thought-out combination of product and service innovations. Or as Irish newspaper The Independent put it: “Is Aer Lingus’s hot new cabin a business ‘class’, ‘service’ or ‘experience’?”

Examples include pre-flight dinner in the airline’s JFK and Boston lounges for passengers who want to maximize their sleep onboard, free wifi and ample stowage space for personal devices, the provision of dinner on demand onboard, tapping into Aer Lingus Irish heritage with items such as locally sourced food and the amenity kit cosmetics, and providing pre-flight clearance of US customs and immigration on flights leaving Dublin and Shannon.

Sleep, work, dine, relax
The seats, manufactured by fellow Irish company Thompson Aero, have been customized by Factorydesign who are also responsible for the new Thompson Vantage-based ‘Mint’ Business Class on JetBlue’s new subfleet of transcontinental A321s.

Aer Lingus new Business Class seat transforms into a fully-flat 6’6” (2 metres) bed, which is one of the longest in the industry, with a seat width of 22”. The staggered layout offers direct aisle access to 90 percent of Business Class passengers except those with a window seat in the first row. Irish supplier Botany Weaving has provided the fabrics for the Business Class cabin such as seat covers, carpets and curtains, with the fibres designed to reflect Ireland’s weaving heritage. A video of the new Aer Lingus Business Class cabin here.

Aer Lingus will introduce its new Business Class on its seven A330 aircraft from March 2015, and what makes the airline’s new premium passenger experience of interest is that Aer Lingus aimed to come up with product and services that design for multiple uses of one space based on a passenger’s needs, depending on whether they wish to sleep, work, dine or relax. Read full article »

Beyond First Class: Etihad’s new A380 to feature 3-room ‘The Residence’ suite

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This article originally appeared on TheDesignAir

By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Etihad Airways has unveiled the world’s first private multi-room cabin on a commercial passenger aircraft. Called ‘The Residence’, the ‘uber premium’ space will feature a living room, double bedroom, separate ensuite shower room, and for the first time in the airline industry, a dedicated, trained butler.

Measuring an unparalleled 125 square feet in total area, The Residence will be located on the forward upper deck of the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s new fleet of Airbus A380s and will be available for single or double occupancy. Yes. That’s 125 square feet of your own private space, and if that wasn’t enough, you still have access to the First Class offerings including the brand new onboard lounge.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer, said: “The Residence will set Etihad Airways apart from the rest of the industry and allow us to provide the complete range of world-class products and services to cater for the individual tastes of every VIP traveller.

“This is the culmination of five years of intensive effort and research into how Etihad Airways can provide an unparalleled VIP experience. Without doubt, we are ushering in a new era of luxury travel in commercial aviation.”

Living room, master bedroom, shower
The living room in The Residence is furnished with a two-seat reclining sofa upholstered in Poltrona Frau leather, dual marquetry dining tables and a chilled mini-bar. A touchscreen control unit operates the retractable ottoman, the ambient and mood lighting, window shading, adjusts seat position and firmness, and activates the in-seat massage functions.

A door and passageway separate the living room from the master bedroom and the ensuite shower room. The bedroom features a Poltrona Frau upholstered 82 inch long double bed with custom-made mattress, bedside unit, wardrobe, and under-bed stowage for hand luggage (video here). Read full article »

Four Seasons’ uber-premium Boeing 757 takes passengers on round-the-world cruise

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By Raymond Kollau, airlinetrends.com

One of our favourite topics (and recommendation to our airline clients) is that the airline industry should be looking much closer to the hospitality industry for best practices on how to improve the passenger experience.

Airlines that have applied some ‘tricks’ from the hotel sector include Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines who welcome passengers in their premium classes with hand-written “Welcome Onboard” cards, while Etihad, Virgin Australia and Virgin America are among the few airlines that refer to their passengers as guests. American Airlines now refers to its premium cabin as a ‘hotel in the sky’, while Delta has partnered with Westin Hotels to let passengers sleep comfortable on Westin’s ‘Heavenly’ range of bedding.

On the ground, a handful hotels have opened their own lounges at airports, be it that for the moment these initiatives can be found at small airports only. For example, Four Seasons Resorts recently opened an airport lounge at Honolulu International Airport to welcome Four Seasons guests enroute to the island of Lanai.

Four Seasons ‘air cruise’
Now Four Seasons is looking to elevate its hospitality brand up in the air. The premium hotel group has unveiled its Four Seasons-branded Boeing 757 which will carry guests on its around-the-world ‘air cruises’.

Four Seasons, which operates 92 hotels and private residences around the world, first began offering its around-the-world trip in 2012 using a non-branded jet that carried 78 travelers. According to Susan Helstab, Four Seasons’ EVP Marketing, “The branded jet was developed to fulfill the wealthy’s wish to explore the world in utmost comfort. Taking our legendary service to the skies is a natural extension of what we’ve been doing in our hotels for more than 50 years.”

Or as Bloomberg summarizes it nicely: “First came the Orient Express train. Then the Queen Mary ocean liner. Now the Four Seasons jet?”
Read full article »

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.
Read full article »

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.

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.
Read full article »

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.


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 »


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 »

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


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.
Read full article »

Russia’s Transaero goes ‘uber-premium’ with new medium-haul Boeing 737s


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.
Read full article »

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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