TheDesignAir was lucky enough to be invited to trial Condor’s brand new A330-900Neo ‘2-litre’ aircraft just a few months after it launched the shiny new plane to the world. Jumping at the chance, we wanted to explore in-depth the reasons why the airline won both best new livery and most improved airline brand 2022 last year. Why 2-litre? Because the A330-900Neo uses less than 2 litres of jet fuel per passenger per 100kms flown making it one of the most economic and environmentally less-damaging aircraft in the skies.

Check out our full report in video format or click here to watch it on youtube:

On the Ground

We started our journey to the Maldives in Frankfurt Airport, which is by no means my favourite airport in Europe, as it seems to be anti-intuitive when it comes to passenger experience, with a never-ending maze of signage and check points designed to confuse and slow down the passage of passengers through it. However, starting on the right foot, we headed to the check in area. Condor has its own separate check in area at the very end of the check-in hall, making it easy to locate.

On first impressions, the signage depicts the new brand perfectly. There’s little sign of the old Condor image now in check in, with striped liveries adorning the walls and passenger signage a smorgasbord of stripey wayfinding. Sadly, there was a bit of a queue, with only two check-in staff when we arrived catering for several flights meaning that business class check-in was pretty slow and sadly, economy class passengers had to wait even longer.

After about 20-25 minutes, we picked up our boarding pass from the friendly, if not somewhat rushed check-in agents, and made our way through the terminal. Frankfurt airport isn’t huge in comparison to some international hubs, but with all the security lanes and passport controls we were grateful for Condor’s fast track which took some of the sting out of the trek.

Depending on where the aircraft is docked, there’s a lounge nearby, thanks in part to the fact Condor still utilises Lufthansa’s business class lounges which are located all over Frankfurt Airport. But this is something we would love to see change, after all, Condor has a great opportunity to create a branded ground experience at Frankfurt that will set it apart from its competitors instead of sharing the very same experience with them.

That said, the lounge was spacious, well-catered, with a range of drinks, food (mainly bread and carb based but enough to keep hunger at bay pre-flight). Albeit we wish the lounge had a better view, as the ones at the B Gates are surrounded by a circular passenger walkway meaning the lounge can be quite dark especially at night. We’ve never been the biggest fan of Lufthansa’s lounges which are sterile and functional at best.

Before long, it was time to board, and walking through the airport it would be impossible not to notice your aircraft, with its stripey award-winning livery really catching our eye as we got closer to the gate. The livery does for Condor what Air New Zealand’s safety videos did for them. A clever piece of branded design can pay dividends in brand awareness, and instead of creating something understated and professional, the airline has seemingly played caution to the wind, and created something truly striking that turns heads.

The Cabin

We were lucky enough to be first to board while the plane was just having its finishing touches so we could see the whole aircraft from tip to tail. Boarding commenced from the first door, meaning the airline’s approach to the L2 entry door was missed, where a large welcome panel and striped ceiling lighting sets the scene as you approach the aircraft.

Even so, on boarding through the L1 door you still get a sense that this is an airline with a desire to stand out and love it or loathe it – we love it – the stripe motif running through the cabin really makes for a memorable experience onboard.

Unlike the 767’s the Business Class cabin has opted for all-aisle access in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration, immediately trumping Lufthansa’s current fleetwide product. This said, Lufthansa’s new Allegris design will offer an equal product in the long run. But Condor has pipped Lufthansa to the post with an impressive passenger experience with a well-appointed and perfectly trimmed seat product that is a masterclass in cabin design.

The striped bulkhead design at the rear of the cabin is perfect to trigger the entire cabin design, and the use of a deep slate blue makes the design of the space akin to an upmarket, sleek nautical club. The colours used, as well as the Neo’s mood lighting features creates an impressive and colourful space, even though its monochromatic in nature.

At the front there are two storage areas, which were often comically mistaken for toilets, but that’s because that’s where they usually feature, instead there is one at the front and one at the rear, enough for 30 seats, and they also feature the stripes and Korres amenities.

Obviously, the best seats in a staggered environment are those away from the aisle, so solo travelers really should select those next to the window. Even better, at the front of the business class cabin is the airline’s Prime Seats. Ones you must pay a little more for (on our flight to the Maldives, they cost €299 extra), but this price tag does give a range of additional amenities, and swathes more space, especially the window seats which have larger ottomans than the centre pair, perfect for dining with a loved one.

The Seat

At 2-metres long, the Prime Seats are the airline’s version of a ‘Business Class Plus’ which offer a premium experience above and beyond standard business class. As it is a staggered design, there’s plenty of storage beside the seat, with a large side table and storage area for amenities and headphones. Unlike the rest of the cabin thanks to the front row architecture, the Prime Seats also have a second side table next to the ottoman as well as a small storage unit for more valuable items.

The seat controls are super easy to use, and require two touches, one to wake up the panel and another to activate, to stop accidental control of the seat when leaning. There’s also USB USB-C and standard power adapters, a large table which folds out from the centre to allow dining for two, and an intuitive controller with a track pad to aid navigation.

The seat design is a little clunky, but there’s good reason. The ottoman section of the front row is custom designed for Condor, complete with the large dining table and privacy screens. These custom designs add a wealth of additional benefits, so the fact the table is always on display in comparison to the usual business class seats is forgiven.

As we mentioned earlier, the best prime seats are the ones by the window, they are larger, with less of a compromise to your personal space.

The extras

On boarding, there’s a wealth of amenities, from champagne, to slippers, amenities kits which are basic but do the job, and a range of striped travel organisers ranging from small cases to shoulder bags – which for us had a second life as a beach bag in the Maldives. But the real winner is the stylish pyjama set complete with stripey-lined hoodie.

There is also a snack box which is delivered after take-off, filled with Haribo, popcorn, pringles etc, which isn’t that dissimilar to the snack box you find in Emirates First Class.

The pillow offered is substantial and comfortable, and the blanket is a little hit and miss, the new one is great, offering a striped, soft touch but on our return flight we still had the existing blanket. Also missing was the additional rituals amenity kit which we had seen prior, but once again, we believe the airline is still trying to get to grips with the logistics of all these additional products, and this will all be ironed out in no time at all.

After take-off, there’s a wealth of hot towels provided as well as complimentary WiFi access allowing for messaging for the whole flight for the front row Prime Seats.

The food & drink

The airline still has decent food on offer. For sure it’s not going to be award-winning, but it firmly sits in the middle of the road of Business Class fare, not disappointing, but not really sticking its head above the parapet. But one thing Condor does excel at, is portion control. These are substantial meals and won’t go leaving you wanting for more.

On boarding you are served real Champagne in a real glass (take note American carriers) and after take-off, the bubbles change to a higher echelon of calibre. Which are served with nuts while the table is laid. There are two things that we can see now need to catch up to the new design language, the table and glassware, and the tablecloth, which now feel a little dated in comparison.

The airline has already injected some of the brand with cute striped salt and pepper shakers and paper napkin ring. When it came to service, the crew couldn’t have been nicer, and we found out for some of them, this was their first time flying on the aircraft which showed, but it was clear their pride and excitement far outweighed their familiarity of the aircraft. The service approach was a bit confused, sometimes service us first, and sometimes starting the service from the back of the aircraft. I think this is a service proposition that’s still being ironed out as the prime seat offering was only a matter of weeks old when we tried it – but it seems that the logic is that the crew will serve the front row first, then go to the back of business class to continue the service from the back to the front.

Just like a few years ago when we flew Condor last, the starters were great, and it’s nice to have a selection rather than just one on offer. The main courses were also substantial, but the veal was a little tough, however the fish main dish was a lot nicer.

This was followed by a course of cheese with crackers and breads, as well as a cheesecake dessert that was delicious – all washed down by digestif’s – not that we opted for them, as the wine and champagne had already hit the spot.

After dinner, which finished a respectable 2 hours after take-off, it was time to head to sleep, and I reclined the seat into an ample bed, which was super comfortable, giving me more than 5 hours uninterrupted sleep. One of my concerns being at the front of the aircraft would be hearing galley noise, but there wasn’t any throughout the flight.

I was woken by yet another hot towel and a glass of juice with just two hours to run, and within 15 minutes, we were served our second meal, which consisted of a delicious hot and cold breakfast with warm pastries. There was also an impressive first for me onboard, a boiled egg which was served as part of the breakfast, and its also good to see the airline has invested in a Nespresso machine, meaning they could offer a really strong espresso to help me on my next leg of the trip.

The entertainment

The airline offers huge screens in business class, but at 27” the monitors in Prime Class are even bigger. They are 4K as well, offering crystal sharp resolution for all your favourite movies, TV shows and the moving map. All of which were top of the range, and certainly I didn’t want for more when it came to the entertainment selection.

The interface for the movies was intuitive and made for good UX, and I loved the calm sand coloured tones that ran throughout the IFE system which was easy on the eye. With the touchscreen being so far away it was in its own timezone, the hand controller became super useful, and again, was easy to use and tucked away in a good spot in the seat.

Sadly there was no inflight magazine apart from the duty free brochure, so I resorted to the map to contemplate my next destination with Condor.

In conclusion

Condor not only deserve their most improved brand award from TheDesignAir last year, they have highlighted how many brands – even with the smallest of budgets – can deliver an excellent customer experience product as long as they have one magic ingredient –their people. We mentioned before that if Condor invested into the hard product they would be on to a winner, and we weren’t wrong. We’re not the only outlet waxing lyrical on Condor, which shows that consistency is also key.

The truth is that the hard product has elevated Condor to new heights, and while the actual seats are replicable by other carriers, the design touches, and the brave embrace of stripes as a brand image isn’t. There will now be something iconic about Condor, not just on the outside, but on the inside too. Are the Prime Seats worth an additional couple of hundred Euros? We think so, and if you are travelling as a pair, maybe even opt for one, so you can dine together, in a pseudo first class, without the ostentatious price tag.

As I do every year, I ask on your kind support to keep things going. If you are able to donate – whatever amount – it all gets funnelled back in to the site, to keep the site full of content. And I thank you personally for your kind support.

Posted by:Jonny Clark

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