PAL’s A350 – featuring a brand new cabin product – will soon start flying on its long-haul city pairing of Manila to London Heathrow. The lighting system onboard might not have taken the limelight, but it certainly creates it, designed as part of a truly holistic cabin concept.
“Following on PAL’s A330 retrofit and new A321neo with fully flat beds in business class, the A350 program was about underlining the airline’s positioning as a full-service, global network carrier,” says Daniel Baron, owner of Lift Strategic Design. “So it was important to look beyond the usual color, material and finish, and communicate ‘the heart of the filipino’ in a brand new way.”
It is true that in many cabin design programs, mood lighting is often considered after the rest of the trim and finish is in place due to the still-siloed approach to the passenger experience. “In the case of the PAL A350, the robust lighting system gave us the ability to make mood lighting an integral part of the onboard experience, with distinct scenes designed around country, culture and brand. We aimed for a new level of differentiation, a new emotional connection,” says Baron.
Lift has worked with Philippine Airlines on a variety of projects for over a decade, which meant that Daniel has spent a large proportion of his time in the Philippines. “Thanks to those experiences, we understand well the character of the nation and the aspirations of the staff. We wanted to communicate the spirit of a nation that prides itself on hospitality, on generosity, on celebrating life.”
Over five million Filipinos work outside their country, many for years at a time, sending money home to support parents and send kids to school. “They may be flying in economy class, but in my mind their hard work and sacrifices make them super VIPs. A lot of time was spent developing lighting scenes that would instantly say, from the moment they board the aircraft, ‘you’re already home’.”
The themes – some of the most vibrant in the skies – include boarding/deplaning, Christmas, Sunrise, Flag colours, Fiesta and Celebration, featuring a mix of motion lighting themes and static colour washes. The level of detail is remarkable, including the sunset theme which concludes during the final meal service, where a slow transition from midnight blue culminates with the “sun” in orange rising slowly above overhead bins toward the ceiling. As it fades out, the cabin sidewalls become bathed in warm amber.
The process took longer than most people would believe, and Daniel spent a week with two members of the PAL team at Airbus Hamburg, where the company’s abstract designs were transformed into simulations in the lighting mockup. “I am thrilled with the results. Many are first-in-the-world mood lighting scenes, unique to PAL and unmistakably Filipino.”