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Finnair’s A350 features a host of innovative passenger experience elements

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By Raymond Kollau

Finnair has been the first European airline to take delivery of the A350-900 and the third carrier worldwide (after Qatar Airways and Vietnam Airlines). Finnair’s 297-seat aircraft is configured in three classes with 208 seats in Economy, 43 in Economy Comfort and 46 in Business.

There is a lot to like about Finnair’s (and its design agency dSign Vertti Kivi & Co) approach towards designing the A350 onboard experience, which features several innovative elements.

1. Welcome Onboard: Galley Screen
On most widebody aircraft passengers enter the cabin at the so-called door 2 and often their first impression is the sights of an industrial-looking galley area. Finnair has come up with a clever (and economic) solution by installing galley screens that are lowered when passengers are boarding and which feature a striking photo.

Marisa Garcia from FlightChic summarizes it nicely: “There is a very clever introduction of Finland’s lush green nature with a calm forest image in a galley screen, which I found was an attractive detail. It helps the cabin feel fresh, quieting the disturbing visual noise of galley equipment. It’s really a very simple thing, but Finnair took the time to consider it.”

2. Mood Lighting: Northern Lights
A remarkable feature of the cabin is the dynamic mood LED lighting. When passengers board the plane, they are greeted by the sight of clouds drifting across a blue sky throughout the cabin (video), while cool Nordic blue shades resembling the Northern lights will set the mood as the plane approaches Helsinki.

In all, there are 24 lighting schemes, and for example a warm orange glow can be created to suggest an Asian ambience on flights to the Far East. Says Juha Järvinen, Finnair’s Chief Commercial Officer, “Finnair’s new Airbus aircraft feature a cabin interior largely based on the Space Alive concept developed by dSign, where the main idea is to change the mood of the cabin space as the flight progresses.”

The mood lighting is also integrated with the in-seat IFE system. Jouni Oksanen, VP Digital at Finnair tells Hangar.no, “We’ve also added a timeline for dimming of the displays. This means that during the flight the screens will adapt to the time zones the aircraft passes. When it’s night outside, it will be night on the screens so it does not light up a whole bunch of bright displays that disturbs people who want to sleep.”

3. Business Class: Ladies’ Room
Female passengers in Business Class have access to a dedicated Ladies’ Room which is stocked with cosmetics and other supplies from Finnish brand Clean (images here and here). Australian Business Traveller reports that the ladies-only lavatory will be made available to “high-flying hommes” in the event that there’s a higher than usual proportion of men to women in business class, but as a rule it will be reserved for women. 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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Air New Zealand and TAM let staff fit their uniforms in a boutique environment

In what is another example that everything can and will be upgraded in the end, Air New Zealand (ANZ), which tops the airlinetrends.com ‘Innovative Airlines’ list, offers it staff a boutique-like environment to pick up their uniforms. The airline has commissioned interior designers Gascoigne Associates to create a space that embodied the design of its new uniforms by New Zealand fashion designer Trelise Cooper (which by the way received a mixed response from ANZ’s crew).

Called ‘Clothes Hangar’, ANZ staff are greeted by stylists on arrival, can watch a welcome video on the LCD screen and view mannequins dressed in the new uniform, giving them an opportunity to see how the different uniform pieces can work together as a total wardrobe solution, as well as touch and feel the final fabrications. The Clothes Hangar also has a ‘Styling Room’ with on-site beauty consultants that help staff to select new shoes or demonstrate preferred make-up applications and hair do’s to fully accent the new uniform.

The bright white space is filled with graffiti-like graphics and blue tube racking rails wind their way through the space and into the fitting rooms, while a blue dotted line snakes across the floor. The ‘check-out’ area is highlighted with a bright pink counter with ‘graffiti’ designs printed on textured wallpaper. Outside the ‘check-out’ space is a large ornate framed window covered in Polaroid images of staff in their new uniforms. On leaving staff are asked to write a comment about their experience on brightly coloured post-it notes, which are stuck to the entry lobby walls.
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Schiphol Airport teams up with Philips to develop ‘ambient gate’

Amsterdam Schiphol has opened a new gate at the airport’s G-Pier that is intended to make the time passengers spend just before departure as pleasant as possible. The so-called ‘Innovative Gate’ resulted from a collaborative venture between Schiphol and a large number of other parties. Philips played a key role by providing its expertise in creating ‘ambient experiences’, which basically make use of a play of different lighting fixtures, effects and colors to create different moods. The new 700m2 gate features 1,000 fluorescent LED lamps. 

Mood lighting, ‘living magazines’,  innovative seating
When passengers approach the gate, the gate is lighted using the airline’s colours and large billboards positioned at the gate entrance display photos or videos of the destination alongside flight information. A reception desk lets airlines welcome passengers, and the pre-waiting area offers different furniture elements, such as work desks for business travellers, group seats, and individual seats with enhanced privacy. The waiting area also features number of large video screens (called ‘living magazines’ by Schiphol) that show infotainment programmes. Cathay Pacific will be the first airline to use the new gate. Read full article »

Monocle creates the perfect airline: Nippon Nordic Air

One of airlinetrends’s favourite magazines, Monocle has created their blueprint dream airline: Nippon Nordic Air (NNA). The global affairs magazine is well-qualified to determine what the perfect airline should look like. Monocle’s editor-in-chief, globetrotting style-meister Tyler Brûlé, has worked with BA, SWISS, and Porter Airlines, and in his weekly Financial Times ‘Fast Lane’ column points out the good and bad in airline services. 

Here’s what, in Monocle’s words, the Nippon Nordic Air experience would be like: “Nippon Nordic Air is a new type of airline designed to fill a void left by legacy carriers that have run out of ideas and money and upstart mega-carriers that lack social currency and good taste. The inflight experience will be a dignified one. With three classes of services, the emphasis is on good quality throughout and a healthy flying experience. Nippon Nordic combines the flying skills of Canada’s best pilots, the design ingenuity of Sweden and Japan’s best designers and engineers and the gracious service of a Kyoto ryokan.” Read full article »

Air New Zealand goes lie-flat in Economy Class

Air New Zealand (ANZ) has unveiled a new economy class seat dubbed the ‘Skycouch’, to give economy passengers a lie-flat experience once reserved for premium cabins. The Skycouch is made up of three standard economy seats that can be changed into a single, horizontal space by removing arm rests.

The seats, designed by the airline in cooperation with IDEO and built by manufacturer Recaro, have large flip-up cushions that fill the space between the end of the seat and the next row of seats. When all three seats are reclined with the footrests up, they form a flat surface 156 cm long and 76 cm wide on which two adults can sleep (a standard single bed is 190 by 90 cm). Seat-belt extenders enable passengers to be buckled in when prone.

Individual travelers can buy the Skycouch seats, but ANZ has designed them chiefly for couples and families with young children. Passengers would need to buy the three seats together, and pay the full price for two economy seats and half price for the third.

Twenty-two sets of Skycouch seats (about a quarter of all economy seats) will be available, being the first 11 window rows on either side of the economy cabin. Every seat also comes with in-seat power and USB connections.
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