The high life

Sara Manuelli looks at how the latest airline seat designs are becoming major brand factors

Lufthansa Design: Priestman Goode

After three years in the making, design group Priestman Goode’s efforts were rewarded last month with the unveiling of the new Lufthansa Business Class.

Lufthansa’s briefing was one of a total overhaul of the A340-600 cabin. ‘The seat was seen as the “king bit” [of the project], the defining brand factor,’ says Priestman Goode director Nigel Goode. ‘But Lufthansa wanted us to create the complete experience, so that factor filters down to every element of the aircraft.’ This was not, says Goode, a ‘styling job’, but a request to interpret the values of the airline holistically.

‘Lufthansa’s values are efficiency, reliability,’ says Goode, but the carrier also wanted to convey a ‘softer’ image. As a result, the group created a Business Class seat, IFE and graphic user interface, an Economy Class seat, galleys and partitions, lavatories, stairhouse, lower lobe, textiles, foils, attachment parts, table service, the colour scheme and cabin lighting. At the moment, Lufthansa has placed priority on the implementation of the Business Class cabin scheme and the design for the entrance areas.

Lufthansa was adamant that Priestman Goode worked closely with the manufacturers in Germany. ‘That’s quite unusual,’ says Goode, ‘since conventionally there is a distinction between the two.’ However, this fitted with the group’s previous experience with Virgin Rail, where a close and early involvement with manufacturers allowed Priestman Goode to take on a mediating role between the client’s vision and the manufacturer’s restrictions, thus allowing a correct interpretation of the design concept. All throughout the Lufthansa Business Class project a daily liaison was established with Lufthansa Technik, seat supplier Recaro and Airbus Industries.

The new Private Bed Business Class seat is two metres long when in sleeping position, with a completely flat surface and an inclination to the ground of only nine degrees. The seat space has been extended to 150cm, 25 per cent more than the previous design. The seat’s features include: selectable pre-settings for resting and sleeping positions, as well as a memory function for individual passenger’s requirements.

A special built-in airbag system provides a massage function to ensure the ‘wellbeing’ of the passenger. A remote master control is a little techno gem in itself, allowing the user to control both the seat’s function and the IFE facilities. These are not only video and audio-on-demand, but now also feature the Internet, via the portal FlyNet. Privacy of passengers is ensured by a fold-away screen. ‘Each airline has its own views about privacy,’ says Ian Scoley, a director at Priestman Goode. ‘It’s about getting the balance right by providing privacy when the passenger is sleeping or reading, but also not obstructing that premium space that they are paying for.’

Lufthansa Business Class will initially go in service around the world in the Airbus A340-600 and A330-330. Lufthansa takes delivery of the aircraft from this month, with the entire long-haul fleet of around 80 aircraft gradually equipped with the new product. The investment is around £209m.

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