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It’s a pleasant surprise that this interiors arms race is not just about first or business class.
Singapore Airlines has announced that it will outfit 19 of its existing B777-300ERs, with the same NextGen luxury cabin products it recently introduced on its new Boeing B777-300ERs.
As Mr. Mak Swee Wah, Executive Vice President Commercial explained: “Feedback about our next generation cabin products has been extremely positive and our customers have been asking for them to be fitted on more aircraft. We have listened.”
The beauty of this NextGen program is that it provides upgrades across all classes of service, characterized by an understated elegance, reflecting the values of the Singapore Airlines brand.
When we spoke to Chew Tai Lu, Vice President of Product Innovation, about the development of this program earlier this year, he explained that the airline’s objective was to provide their passengers with “innovative products and premium service with Asian hospitality.”
To Singapore Airlines, the hospitality aspect is essential, and, as Chew Tai Lu told us, it drives the airline’s design strategies. “Detailing makes the difference,” he told us. Singapore went through a “long and iterative process” to review every detail of the cabin components down to the smallest button, to ensure that form and function were aesthetically pleasing, while directly contributing to an improvement of the passenger experience. Cabin lighting, for example, required careful consideration to avoid “light pollution” from passengers choosing to read or work while fellow passengers tried to sleep.
The cabins feature new seats in all classes of service and “the world’s most advanced in-flight entertainment system.” The KrisWorld in-flight entertainment system is upgraded with the latest hardware and an intuitive graphical user interface.
In First Class, customers can enjoy the wide range of entertainment offerings on a 24-inch LCD screen, with video touch-screen handset. In Business Class, the IFE features an 18-inch LCD screen and touch-screen handset, and Economy Class passengers will find an 11.1-inch touch-screen monitor and touch-screen handset on their seats.
“IFE,” Chew Tai Lu said, “forms an integral part of our cabin product.” He adds, “it is vital that the cabin/seat design complements the new IFE technology, e.g., a larger IFE screen size would require further viewing distance to provide a comfortable viewing experience.”
In order to ensure that service remains a key element of design, Singapore Airlines also gives their cabin crew a say in the design process. For example, the Singapore Airlines cabin crew pointed out that they might be able to provide more comfort to passengers if a “screen-off” button were added to the armrest on the first class seat, so that flight attendants would not have to reach over passengers who had fallen asleep, perhaps disturbing their rest.
“Space and comfort have always been key to customer satisfaction,” Chew Tai Lu told us. “That’s the reason why for the Next Generation products that were launched recently, special attention was given to ergonomics, comfort, convenience and style, as well as to our customers’ interests and lifestyles in all classes.”
And all classes of service benefit in this particular cabin program.
The First Class seat features a fixed-back shell design with curved side panels for added privacy. It also features an ergonomically sculpted cushion and adjustable headrest, with customized in-seat lighting. In all, it is 35 inches in width and the bed length is 82 inches; plenty of room for most to stretch out.
The Business Class seat offers a 132 degree recline, with an ergonomic seat cushion. The airline has introduced two new seating positions – ‘Lazy Z’ and ‘Sundeck’ – which allow “customers to choose their preferred ways to work or relax.” This seat can stretch out to become a 78 inch full-flat bed, with a padded headboard cushion.
The new Economy Class seat also provides additional comfort, with increased personal space and legroom. Seats feature new backrest cushions with side bolsters for better support. An ergonomically sculpted headrest cushion provides an increased range of height adjustments and improved neck support.
The installation of the new cabin design onto the existing aircraft will begin early in 2015, with all aircraft completed by 2016. These NextGen cabins can already be enjoyed by passengers on selected daily services to London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita.