Saudia this week received their first two 787-9 Dreamliners which is scheduled to start passenger operation in February. The new interiors are designed by Honour Branding, who also worked as part of the Etihad Design Consortium that brought the Etihad 787-9 Dreamliners to life (the only other Middle East carrier to currently operate the model). Honour partnered with Acumen D.A, one of the other consortium members to aid in the design of the Saudia cabin.
“The delivery of our first Dreamliners marks yet another exciting chapter in Saudia’s long-standing relationship with Boeing that began in the early 1960s,” said His Excellency Eng. Saleh bin Nasser al-Jasser, Director-General, Saudia. “With its reputation for reliability, operational efficiency and comfort, we now look forward to the 787 becoming an integral addition to Saudia’s fleet as we continue our fleet modernization and expansion as part of our transformation plans.”
Taking the business cabin in to the 21st Century, Honour Branding opted for a 1 x 2 x 1 seating configuration utilising the BE Aerospace Super Diamond seat (the same as those found on China Airlines new 777-300ER aircraft). The London based design studio has a long history with Saudia already, starting back in 2009.
They launched the new brand identity in 2012 in parallel with Saudia joining the Skyteam alliance. “We have since worked across the complete Saudia customer experience from check-in, cabin furnishings, B777 cabin including First, Business and Economy class’), A330 cabin and seats & the new KAIA Jeddah Airport development.” States Philip Bailey Senior Project Manager, Honour Branding.
Honour started working on the Saudia B787 aircraft in August 2013 where the company spent time defining the product strategy and aligning this with Saudia’s future business ambitions and strategy before making the seat selection and beginning the design process. This longer process has meant the cabins have a well balanced and thought through finish, with colour, tone and trim all working in harmony.
While the economy class cabin features 274 seats in a 3 x 3 x 3 configuration, the business class cabin offers just 24 seats (the 787 doesn’t feature the first class cabin found on the Saudia 777 aircraft).
However, the BE Aerospace Super Diamond Seat has been adapted by Honour to introduce an industry-first for these type of seats, which will be welcome news to many passengers. Saudia’s new Business Class seats had a very specific design criteria to remove the cumbersome airbags from the seatbelt which was a challenge that BE Aerospace and Honour had to overcome. “The original intention was to have furniture/seat back mounted airbags to improve the passengers’ comfort allowing the team to remove the lap belt airbag.” Said Bailey.
This was the first installation of a furniture mounted/seat back airbag which meant further certification and a change in safety criteria mid-program. However, Saudia are the first airline in the industry to successfully fly this technology. Saudia currently has six more 787-9s on order bringing the total to eight. The first routes will trial the aircraft on short haul hops between Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam and Dubai, before launching internationally to Paris CDG and Manchester on the 27th with Guangzhou following on the 28th.