04 May 2014 11:30
In late 2008 Etihad Airways embarked on a search for a leading design agency partner to design their future cabin interiors for their new fleet of A380’s.
Etihad Airways stated its ambition was to be the
best airline in the world and outlined a vision for the project that would
build on its success to continue to redefine airline travel. This meant that the airline wanted to disrupt
the status quo in the industry and create a unique guest experience that would
reflect the airline’s next phase of brand maturity and the exciting vision of
After a global pitch process, Etihad Airways
believed that no single agency could support and deliver the vision so they
asked a number of agencies to work together as a consortium to deliver their
challenging ambition. Etihad Airways created the EDC – the collective name for
the Etihad Design Consortium, which incorporated three companies, Acumen, Factorydesign and Honour Branding.
Acumen were chosen to design the onboard seating
across First Class, Business and Economy.
Factorydesign were tasked with designing the passenger experience and
cabin interior elements such as galleys, lavatories and passenger destination
zones. Honour Branding were asked to
coordinate the project across the EDC and manage the interface with
Etihad. Honour’s role was to advise
Etihad on the innovation process and define the design strategy for the concept
As the cabin interior products emerged Honour and
Factorydesign were then tasked to work closely together to design the onboard
guest experience, which included the new catering and onboard service offer.
The project began with an extensive and unique
piece of customer research, the Etihad Big Talks in cities around the world.
The EDC partnered with Promise Communispace, leaders in co-creation, to put the customer
at the very heart of the innovation process.
The research output created a vast number of ideas that were categorised
into seven key customer insight territories. These territories helped to set
the briefs and the strategic vision for the new onboard products and services.
EDC were initially tasked with developing an
overall vision for the aircraft and were asked to build on the airline’s
successful ‘Inspired Service’, which was informed by some of the world’s best
hotel and hospitality experiences. The vision created was to bring the
individuality and exclusivity of a ‘Luxury Boutique hotel experience - that
embraced Arabian modernism’.
Every aspect of the guest experience and cabin
interior was explored, generating a large volume of concepts.
The initial concepts were developed into physical
full size mock-ups and were tested with customers to help evaluate and narrow
down the options. EDC then developed the preferred concepts and built a partial
full scale mock up of the Upper deck A380 and an entrance area on the main
deck, at a secret location in a warehouse near Heathrow Airport, which later
became the innovation lab for development meetings and concept testing.
Through 2011 / 2012 the EDC developed the concepts
and began to interact with Airbus and the chosen vendors to understand the
technical interfaces of the new concepts into the aircraft, supporting the
airline through key design and technical milestones. During this time work also
started on translating the A380 product vision across the new B787 and adapting
the products to meet the challenging constraints of the new catalogue
aircraft. This resulted in a new First
Class suite product with a forward and aft configuration, enabling the width of
the seat to be increased and create a unique ‘joggled’ aisle configuration.
As the project moved into the technical design
phase through 2013/14 EDC continue to support the Etihad team and the global
supplier base to deliver the products to reality.
As the designs became more defined the mock-ups
were updated to reflect the final product. The A380 and B787 mock up cabin
sections were transported to Abu Dhabi to be built in the airlines new
Innovation Centre, which will serve as a showcase and training facility for all
staff and an innovation lab for what comes next.