From everyone at TheDesignAir, we want to wish you a very Happy New Year. As the new year rolls in, we take the time to celebrate 2016. It’s been yet another fantastic year in aviation with numerous new products rolled out and airlines once again investing heavily into brand, product and design. At the start of December, we opened six new awards to the public vote. The response was overwhelming and it was little surprise to see the winners were in line with our own opinion.
Each year, we will award carriers that have considered brand, product and design in their passenger experience, and our internal criteria means that only the very best products matched with a strong design ethos and enhance (rather than hinder) the experience of the passenger will be found on our shortlist, so the winners stand proud as going above and beyond.
We are thrilled to see such a varied aesthetic throughout all of the winners, from elegant retro-styled uniforms, residential lounges and state-of-the-art spacious cabins. So let us take a look and see who won last year’s awards.
TheDesignAir Readers Poll Awards 2016
Winner Best New Uniform 2016
Alitalia Uniform by Ettore Bilotta
Designed by Ettore Bilotta, a Milan based haute couturier, the striking new look for Alitalia has won them the title of Best New Uniform 2016 by TheDesignAir. The stylish new uniforms represents Italian excellence around the world and the red cabin crew uniforms and green ground staff uniforms are topped off with elegant ruffled pill-box hats that represent the terraces of Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera.
The look is bold and bright and certainly will draw attention in airports, but it is distinctly Italian. The boldness of the design actually works to the airline’s benefit, creating a unique and easily recognisable look and we love the nod to the retro with hats, gloves and leather handbags to accentuate the female outfits.
Winner Best New Lounge 2016
Cathay Pacific ‘The Pier’ Business Class Lounge, Hong Kong
The airline revealed its flagship business class lounge in Hong Kong late 2016, and the space encapsulates the design ethos that StudioIlse has brought to the Cathay Pacific’s premium ground product. This vast space has been reimagined into a beautiful residential lounge featuring a slow and fast lane. The slow lane offers luxury seating, expansive views and planting to calm a passenger and let the world go by.
The fast lane, featuring dining, bar, showers, business centre and coffee station all help satisfy a passenger with a shorter connection, or those just wanting to interact with the facilities more. The attention to detail in every part of the lounge is impeccable, the finishes and furniture are unexpected and naturally with the Cathay signature style, elevate the senses. This flagship business class lounge for Cathay Pacific reinforces the need for spaces in airports around the world that don’t conform to a utilitarian airport-centric design.
Winner Best New Business Class 2016
China Airlines A350 Business Class
China Airlines new A350 business class has won our readers award for 2016. The brand new product reflects the 777 cabin, but with an all new colour and trim and new hard product details. The original cabin was designed by Ray Chen, but the China Airlines design team have added flourishes to act as a point of difference between the A350 and the 777-300ER business class cabins.
Additions of Blue, a traditional Taiwanese colour, dragon claw lamps and a more metallic finish to the seats make the A350 a younger, more dynamic design compared to the 777 counterparts. New carpets, seat finishes and redesigned SkyLounge all add yet more design touchpoints, making the cabin anything but a bland passenger experience.
Winner Best New Livery 2016
Voted by our readers, Alaska Airlines has topped the list for the best livery launch in 2016. Reinventing the previous Alaska livery, Hornall Anderson managed to align a historic brand image with sensitivity and care. The Eskimo face – first introduced in 1972 – remained but with the injection of a new dynamic range of blues and energetic greens, the character came alive on the tail fin.
The new colours are meant to represent the markets the carrier now flies to including verdant Hawai’i and Costa Rica, but the perhaps unintentional result is the effect of the Northern Lights, common to Alaska, on the aircraft. The larger, more prominent and legible Alaska wordmark has also been reworked, partly to remove the complexity of the logo for a digital arena. The effect is sympathetic, revamped and contemporary, with Horizon’s new brand following suit early 2017.
Winner Best New First Class 2016
Swiss 777-300ER First Class
TheDesignAir readers have celebrated Swiss’ new flagship 777-300ER aircraft by giving the title of Best New First Class 2016 to the flag carrier of Switzerland. The new First Class suite acts as the pinnacle of the carriers’ design ethos, showcasing how carefully considered design can also respond to the needs of a First Class passenger.
London based Priestmangoode have reimagined a First Class cabin that offers a sophisticated, paired-back residential feel. The use of natural materials, veneers and Corian are in perfect balance with the lighting and technology that the suites offer in abundance. The new suites offer 50% more space for the passenger, enhanced privacy and the industry’s largest 32” video screen.
Winner Best Airline Brand 2016
Cathay Pacific has one of the most iconic airline brands around the world, and its recent brand refresh has reinjected the glamour of travel in a quieter understated way. With new signage, livery and lounges being rolled out across the network, Cathay’s mission is to simplify the journey, and bring the ‘Joy of Discovery’ to flying.
With some of the most beautiful lounges in the world which impart a ‘home away from home’ feel, the carrier has been able to remove the usual images associated with airline travel and replace them with calm, effortless and beautifully crafted memories. The elegance of the brand, simplicity of the passenger experience and attention to detail have all set Cathay’s brand higher than their rivals, and once again has taken top spot in our readers poll.
TheDesignAir Awards 2016
Winner Most Improved Airline Brand 2016
In 2016, United went through a dramatic brand shift, with the announcement and initial roll-out of Polaris. While it’s not a surprise that United has had to play catch up with their competitors, the announcement of an upgrade of the international hard and soft products in business class, now known as Polaris, came at the right time.
Unlike American who announced they will bring Premium Economy to the skies and Delta’s new spacious suites that will enter service this year, United has already invested both on board and on the ground, with a new Polaris lounge already opened in Chicago. The carrier might be investing in the front of the aircraft for now, but no doubt a halo effect will mean we should expect to see a premium economy cabin emerge and a refurbished economy product on the near horizon.
Winner Best First Class Design 2016
It is not just the brand new First Class lounge in AUH airport that has helped Etihad maintain their position in our rankings this year. As Etihad continues to receive brand new Dreamliners, the chances of their passengers experiencing the latest first class product are increasing. At the pinnacle of the product set, the flagship First Class Apartments on the A380 are leading the airline’s fight for the most lucrative and rare of passengers.
Etihad’s First Class product has yet to be matched by a competing airline. The airline has invested heavily into a truly bespoke, holistic design that encompasses graphic design, interior design, hard and soft product, as well as a signature service standard that Etihad has perfected so well, it is rolling out the same standards to their partner airlines.
Winner Best Business Class Design 2016
With the latest reveal of the China Airlines’ A350 business class product, the new fleet of 777-300ERs and A350s have set the Taiwanese flag carrier at the forefront of cabin product design. The next-gen programme which has seen a wave of new lounges, brand new aircraft and heavily customised cabins has crafted every aspect of the passenger experience for their business class passenger.
From Dragon claw lights, the Sky Lounge, even bespoke poetry etched into bulkheads, no designer stone has been left unturned. But the design hasn’t overshadowed the comfort or hard product the carrier has invested in. Large luxurious high tech seats are appointed with luxurious finishes and paired with deeply comfortable soft products. Design runs deep with China Airlines, and matched with a friendly, less formal, more sincere service, the airline’s business class is certainly one of the most unique and delightful cabins in the sky to fly.
Winner Best Premium Economy Design 2016
Another carrier to introduce the A350 in 2016, Cathay Pacific relished in the opportunity to invest into their premium economy cabin. Cathay’s interiors may be subtle compared to China Airlines, but their paired back ethos doesn’t mean there is any less consideration in design. The soothing colour palettes and brand new seats mean it is even more easy to relax and enjoy a long-haul flight with Cathay.
Designed by Studio F.A. Porsche, the new seats all offer 12.1” personal screens, increased seat pitch, leg-rests on every seat and a beautifully designed reading lamp. While the seats may be a fraction narrower than their older 777 counterparts, the ability to lower the arm rest to stretch out will make it easier to find that sweet-spot for sleeping. For oneworld premium tier fliers the advantage of the new suite of Cathay lounges means the entire experience couldn’t be more beautiful.
Winner Best Economy Class Design 2016
Etihad‘s economy class has featured won best economy class design two years running due to the roll out of the Smart seat, found on the carrier’s A380 aircraft. The entire aircraft, as well as the 787, have been designed to give a residential feel, rather than an aircraft, and toilets, galleys and aisles have been designed to make the space more inviting and open.
There are touches such as the pillow that can be split into a neck pillow, blanket bags and more substantial amenity kits, and each has been carefully designed with the passenger experience in mind. This hard and soft economy product, unique to Etihad, has meant that the carrier has stayed at the top of our list once again for 2016.
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