It’s rare to find innovation in Business Class products in the past few years. Since the likes of Singapore Airlines’ new monocoque seats and Qatar Airways QSuites, many carriers are opting to customise off the shelf products, which naturally bring tried-and-tested comfort, but will never advance the passenger experience the same way that a truly innovative ground-up product would.
So imagine our surprise that even during the pandemic, Europe’s innovative carrier Finnair continued to invest in a new long-haul passenger experience product that leap-frogs the competition, with a fixed shell cocoon of a seat in business class, brand new Premium economy seats and even a beautifully executed social space in between.
Many years in the making – we were there when the innovation process started right at the beginning – Finnair’s new Business Class seat is actually the result of work between Finnair and Collins Aerospace, creating the very first AirLounge seat flying in the skies. There’s no long wait time to be able to experience the product either, as it starts flying this week, and will be rolled across the entire fleet in time for the airline’s centenary next year.
Ripping up the rule book and actually assessing how passengers use these seats today resulted in anything but a traditional aircraft seat. There’s no recline, no complex mechanics, instead it reflects how we utilise furniture in our own homes. The result, surprisingly, actually maximises comfort, space, and freedom to move during a long-haul flight.
The masterclass here can be seen in the seamless design aesthetic between Finnair’s Helsinki lounge and these new aircraft interiors. The same adoption of the clean lines and the dark, comforting colour scheme that celebrates Nordic design creates an epic and unparalleled branded experience.
David Kondo from Finnair’s Customer Experience team, who led the design work for the new Finnair long- haul experience, said: “We wanted to rethink business class and create more of a residential environment, emulating the comfort you would expect at home. By doing away with complicated seat mechanisms and using 3D curved shells, we’re able to provide a larger flexible living space. This allows you to move more freely and take up different positions that traditional aircraft seats do not allow.”
The seat concept was originally conceived by PriestmanGoode of London. The seat was further developed by Collins Aerospace, with customisation and final design execution by Finnair and its appointed design partner, Tangerine.
“The collaborative partnership with Finnair enabled the launch of this innovative seat and helped bring a truly unique cabin concept to life,” said Mark Vaughan, vice president and general manager of Interiors Seating for Collins Aerospace. “I truly believe that together we have set a new bar for passenger comfort and the travel experience.”
The result is an epic masterclass in cabin interior design. Shock and awe go hand-in-hand with comfort and familiarity. Stepping onboard is like arriving at home. Finnair have precisely fused residential aesthetics within aviation, and it’s going to be interesting to watch the competitors play catch up.Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir
The new Business Class seat
The seat’s innovative fixed contoured shell with no recline enables a wide variety of sitting and sleeping positions: you can sit at different angles, rest your feet on the ottoman or use infill panels to create a large flat surface. A mattress and duvet turn the space into a comfortable bed, and you can use the cushy pillows to relax in a variety of sitting positions. The high cocoon like shell of the seat provides privacy, while the divider between central seats can be lowered when travelling with a companion.
The lighting options in the seat allow tailoring the ambiance of every customer’s own “nest”. Along with a customised lamp that doubles as a reading light, a do not disturb light is included if total privacy is desired. The in-seat lighting complements new cabin mood lighting designed in partnership with Jetlite to combat the effects of jetlag. The design scheme is inspired by Nordic nature, complete with the northern lights as the cabin is dimmed for sleep.
The various storage options within the seat include spaces for personal items, laptop, and all pillows and blankets; all certified for taxi, take-off, and landing, so customers can settle in right away and have their essential items conveniently at hand right from the start of the journey.
The flexible table can be used to read, dine or work. Each seat comes with impressive connectivity, including USB A, USB C, PC power, and wireless mobile charging. All of Finnair’s long-haul aircraft are equipped with internet connectivity. The Inflight Entertainment System comes with a new more user-friendly, customised interface and a wider 18-inch screen, making time onboard fly.
The new Premium Economy
Finnair has also unveiled its brand-new Premium Economy product which will offer an appealing new travel option for its long-haul customers. This new travel class for the carrier further aligns it with the rest of oneworld and will offer a better seating choice with approximately 50% more space than Economy Class. The new cabin class is situated in its own intimate and dedicated cabin with a maximum of just 26 passengers per aircraft.
The A330s will feature a 2 x 3 x 2 configuration while the wider A350s will offer a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration. This brand new Premium Economy seat has been optimised for enhanced comfort and ergonomics, featuring memory foam cushions, a deep 8” recline, waterfall leg rest and 6-way headrest. Dedicated stowage for laptops and small personal items is incorporated to the design so that customers have everything they need at their fingertips throughout their flight.
Finnair is the launch customer of the “Vector™ Premium” seat, which is manufactured by HAECO, who also provide heavy maintenance services and are performing the cabin refits for Finnair. The seat has been heavily customised to Finnair’s exacting specifications and designed in partnership with London based design agency Tangerine.
Emphasising the design
In line with its long design heritage, Finnair has worked with top Finnish design houses to complement the cabin ambiance and premium travel experience through beautiful new textiles and tableware.
All meals are served on new chinaware from Finnish design house Iittala. The Kuulas dining collection is designed by Harri Koskinen and inspired by the contemporary home environment. Each item in the collection is carefully designed with aviation in mind, making the collection efficient and lighter to support aircraft weight and CO2 reduction targets.
Business Class customers will enjoy renewed meal and beverage offerings, including an up to six-course meal in modern bistro-style and another lighter meal. In between meals customers can enjoy the stunning new refreshment area located at the main entrance of the aircraft.
The Finnish fashion house, Marimekko has created unique pillows and a duvet for the Business Class and neck pillow and blankets in Premium Economy, with Maija Isola’s iconic designs in soothing dark colours.