This is the TheDesignAir’s hottest Design Airlines to try in 2023. Whether you fly regularly or are saving up for that once in a lifetime trip, here’s our recommendation for airlines, big and small, that bring a bit of style to the skies, but which have you flown and which are you wanting to try? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to watch our video, and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

10. Turkish Airlines

While a giant global player, Turkish Airlines has worked hard to elevate its passenger experience, making it a contender for any global traveller. With just two cabin classes, the carrier has managed to perfect both in equal measure. From flying chefs in business class with candlelit dinners, to the impressive IFE found in both business class and economy alike. There are plenty of design details from glamorous uniforms to epic lounges in Istanbul; the carrier knows how to bring the glamour of travel back to the skies.

Design notes we love: Whether it’s the Turkish salt and pepper pots in business class, or the real ivy plants in the bathrooms, there’s plenty to love, but the uniforms for us represent an airline with a certain measure of style.

9. China Airlines

This Taiwanese carrier is perhaps one of the most exciting design airlines in Asia. It’s certainly not one of the world’s largest but the carrier makes the passenger experience a design journey in itself. From the dragon claw lamps in business class, to the library onboard, and the many iterations of persimmon wood that adorn the cabins, this is the antithesis of mainland Chinese carriers. In Taipei, the airlines’ lounges are a deep dark, sultry interpretation of a tearoom.

Design notes we love: China Airlines literally has designed everything from the plates and uniforms to the cabins and lounges, but for us it’s the playful narrative of modern and traditional Chinese and Taiwanese elements that are weaved through the passenger experience that make us notice something new every time we travel.

8. Air Tahiti Nui

One of two Pacific airlines to join the list, Air Tahiti Nui is a colourful, fragrant airline that is like stepping foot in Tahiti as soon as you board. With design flourishes across the cabin, it’s a riot of Pacific colour, with aquamarines and ocean blues flooding the cabin. Scenes of the tropical archipelago adorn the bulkheads, and the uniforms add even more colourful touches. It is the epitome of a boutique airline, and while it is a great way to get across the Pacific, it is also a more interesting way to get from Europe to the West Coast of America thanks to its Paris to Los Angeles route too.

Design notes we love: While the cabin is a riot of colour the one keepsake, that’s sadly not going to last forever is the Tiare flower that’s given to every passenger at the start of the flight.

7. Oman Air

Often overlooked by its louder airline neighbours, Oman Air is one secret Middle Eastern gem that is certainly worth taking a look at. It’s smaller, more nimble, but don’t let that fool you. Many of the carriers in this list are smaller in nature. That means they have to work harder for your attention, and Oman Air have done this in heavy measure. From beautifully presented meals, sumptuous bedding and a First Class that’s a culinary adventure in itself, this is a carrier that’s designed to delight on every level.

Design notes we love: The gold leaf serviceware in First Class might not be seen by many, but its absolutely stunning, referencing the mountainous backdrop to Oman. For those in Business Class, the pyjamas are a delightful keepsake, and the airport in Muscat is a design marvel in itself.

6. Fiji Airways

Let’s say a big Bula to Fiji Airways, which is our monochromatic hero in the southern pacific. Another small carrier with big brand ambitions, this is a carrier that recently upped the ante further with newly designed meals onboard. The A350 cabins are a masterclass in design, with white interiors brought to life with authentic Fijian motifs. There’s something grounding about the airline, which feels more private jet than commercial carrier.

Design notes we love: The use of the Fijian motifs, brought to life by Futurebrand. It’s a beautiful representation of the local culture, which shine in an otherwise understated cabin.

5. Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic is still one of the most recognised design airlines in the skies. With bars and social spaces on every single aircraft, ‘Wonder Wall’ walk up self-service bars in Premium and crew who bring a smile to every flight, the airline is one for those looking for a more relaxed journey with a social, playful vibe. Its latest A350s bring a great new Upper Class product, and the new A330neos also features the retreat suite, a product ‘above’ Upper which allows a space for two to enjoy in privacy. 

Design notes we love: While the inflight product is still one of the best in the skies, we still love the airline’s clubhouses, which are the soho houses of the airline world.

4. Etihad

Etihad hasn’t lost its edge even through a tumultuous time. Its latest A350 cabin and seat product continues to excel, (albeit with a little less uniqueness). That said, the new A350 seats are just über-luxe, and little details like the ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ reading lamps and wireless charging stations, this is a seat to just sink into and leave your worries behind. Paired with the new Armani Casa range of bedding and service ware in Business Class, Etihad just effervesces glamour.

Design notes we love: Whether it’s the new Armani Casa bedding or stunning uniforms, nothing quite beats the airline’s approach to service, where crew come and serve your drink with a smile… that is, until the airline’s flagship A380 returns to service later this year.

3. Condor

So, if holidays were an airline, they’d look like Condor. The new image of Condor is certainly eye-catching. The airline won most improved airline brand at TheDesignAir Awards 2022, and its bold stripey livery caught our judges’ imagination as well. The airline has also upped the ante with an impressive new interior on the A330neo fleet, with super large TV screens, funky denim-look seats in economy and a nautical club-inspired Business Class that we cannot wait to try out in March. 

Design notes we love: Stripes are 2023’s QR code. They are unashamedly everywhere. The entire new image injects a new look into this much-loved German leisure brand, in some ways it surprisingly surpasses its larger crane-logo’d competitor.

2. Finnair

This Finnish carrier has always paved the way in Europe for that trendy ultra-minimalistic Nordic design. From Ultima Thule glassware to Marrimekko soft and service products, there’s a sense of well-balanced trendy design, all encapsulated in a Hygge blanket of deep blue, especially on their new cabins currently rolling out across the fleet. Its inspirational Airlounge is also a business class seat like no other, with no mechanical lie flat mechanism, this is a cocoon of comfort to envelope yourself in. And it seems the critics agree that this is a comfortable, environmentally better way to fly.

Design notes we love: Move over Noma, the dining onboard is a piece of art, from the plates, to the glassware to the presentation of the food. All this in your navy-blue cocoon of happiness.

1. Starlux

Perhaps our hottest ticket for you to try is Starlux, which is simply oozing in design details, no matter which cabin class you travel in. From its ultra-modern First Class suites on its A350 to the all-lie-flat business class cabins on its narrowbodies, there’s comfort to be found whichever seat you pick. It’s not just about the pointy end, there’s even cocktails in economy class. The airline even launched its A350 interior with a super-luxe fashion shoot. This is one airline that isn’t just design over function though, there’s plenty of luxury service items to enhance the passenger experience.

Design notes we love: From branded playing cards to cocktails from the future. Even the flower holder in the toilet has been designed within an inch of its life. But for us, it’s the comprehensive brand, from uniforms to interiors, there’s been no leaf unturned in the ambition to become one of the leading airlines of the world. Small, but perfectly formed.

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Posted by:Jonny Clark

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