Azul Brazilian Airlines, arguably the most modern of the Brazilian carriers, launched their new A330 cabins this October, including Azul Xtra (a fully fledged business class cabin), Economy Xtra (including the infamous Sky Sofa product) and their standard Economy cabin. Now flying to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale (Miami) from Sao Paulo’s Viracopos airport, Azul’s A330s will eventually be rolled out to potential new destinations such as New York and Madrid. Designed with a short lead time by UK based design agency, Tangerine, the cabins manage to encapsulate the Azul brand by adapting off the shelf products, and working with the manufacturers to change colour, finish and trim.
As an added element of customisation, a walk up-bar has been introduced into one of the galleys to create a social space, and area to allow passengers to stretch their legs. “Our focus for the project was to rapidly customise a catalogue version of Stelia’s Solstys business class seat and create a bar from a galley. Importantly we had to design and develop all of the colour, material & finish for the seating and cabin, to work on both the A330 retrofit and A350 line-fit aircraft.” said Martin Darbyshire, CEO of Tangerine.
In business class, passengers are provided with all aisle access, in a 1 x 2 x 1 seat configuration, with an identical hard product to those found on Etihad, Air Berlin, Iberia, Thai just to name a few. The seats convert into a full 79″ flat bed and offer a 16″ screen. They are one of our favourite business class seats due to the privacy and format, allowing for versatile seating options, from solo travellers to those travelling as couples or groups.
However, Tangerine focussed most of their efforts on the premium cabin. “Our involvement with the economy plus and economy seats was limited, it involved selecting the colours for the ultra-leathers to be used on the seat covers, and other finishes, in order to distinguish the two cabins. Inevitably, given the pace of the project and the small quantity of seats, flexibility was restricted. But Azul still committed to the sky couch version of the economy seat from ZIM.” continued Darbyshire.
In economy, passengers are treated to a 9″ touchscreen and 31″ seat pitch, whilst passengers seated in the white seats, (Economy Xtra) are treated to an extra 3″ of seat pitch, which is more than worth the extra spend on these long-haul hops.
The Sky Sofa is an adaptation of the Air New Zealand product, which can also be found on China Airlines, the difference being, this is the first time we’ve seen a 4 across sky sofa, offering a full length bed in comparison to the three seat versions found on China Airlines and originators Air New Zealand.
Considering Azul hadn’t offered a business class or long-haul product before, creating a new product from scratch could have been seen as a tricky task. “Working closely with Azuls’ brand team we were able to co-work and quickly define the right way to build on Azul’s colour palette, moving it into a more sophisticated positioning. Patterns were developed that connect to well-known icons of Brazil, such as the pattern of tiles from Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, used subtly to add a Brazilian zing to the cabin.” said Tangerine.
The airline has picked Panasonic Avionics’ eX3 system for its in-flight entertainment offering, and says all seats on its A330s will come with personal USB and power ports. The system, in a similar move to Virgin America, also allows passengers to order food and drink from their seat using the in-seat TV, with the choice brought to the seat by the cabin crew. But does it conflict with the walk up bar concept? “I don’t believe so. Azul astutely offers choice and options on price-points that passengers have the option to adopt or not.” Whilst many carriers offer seat-to-seat chat whilst also allowing passengers to pick where they seat, (thus effectively removing the need of this communication service) it’s surprising to see so few airlines allowing passengers to order dining options at their seat. We believe there is a valid future for such an onboard technological offering.
Whilst on first glance, it appears yet one more carrier has embraced a sea of blue seats, however, just like Hawaiian Airlines, Azul has allowed attention to detail to offer a truly unique cabin product. “Tangerine achieved something unique and iconic through the careful of use of patterns and by defining a palette of blues that give richness and sophistication, rather than adopting a solid blue aping the colour of the logo.”
With such a short time-frame attached to the design project, the overall product is delightfully polished, offering what seems like a perfectly considered cabin design, with every element working in harmony – and acts as a prime example of how time pressures don’t have to mean bolting together contradictory products in a cabin. “Our biggest sense of achievement from this project comes from bringing meaningful change in features to a catalogue business class seat, in a really short timescale.” says Tangerine. “This can only be done through deep and rapid collaboration between the client, the designer and seat manufacturer, working as one team together towards a common goal.”
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