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Etihad Follows Up A380 Livery Show with More Subdued Reveal of Sublime 787-9 Design

After the dramatic unveiling of its new livery on the A380 last week in Hamburg, Etihad Airways has quietly revealed the new livery on its 787-9 Dreamliners at an event in Seattle overnight.

The ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ livery looks just as dreamy on the Dreamliner as it does on the A380, with the pearly cream fuselage accented by facets of silver and gold.  What makes this livery, designed by Landor Associates, a bold choice is the airline’s willingness to depart from traditional symbolism and smooth corporate lines, opting instead to communicate the Eithadi cultural identity through abstract patterns reminiscent, as its name suggest, of the facets on a jewel.

The final assembly of the Etihad Airways Dreamliner is on show in this time-lapse video:

You can watch the livery come to life at the Boeing paint shop here:

While this aircraft does not feature a Residence, the First Class suites are sufficiently opulent and will no doubt be popular with customers.

The Business Studio sets a standard far above First Class seating on many of the world’s carriers; leading once again to the conclusion that the labels of the two classes have become so relative that they are meaningful only in marketing terms.

Of the many developments Etihad Airways made in the design of its A380 and 787-9s, the airline’s decision to make comfort and attention to detail as important for its Economy class product as it is for the other cabin products, was one of its greatest achievements.

The aptly named Economy Smart Seat considers many basic needs of the majority of the airline’s passengers, allowing space for comfortable seating over prolonged periods, by providing an ergonomic design seat with lumbar support.  There is sufficient space to enjoy meals and be entertained or productive.  All seats are equipped with adaptors.  More than 750 hours of on-demand entertainment can play on the 11-inch touch-screen TV, and each passenger issued special noise-reduction headsets.  There is also in-flight mobile connectivity and internet access for all.  The unique headrest wing design, an Etihad innovation, gives passengers somewhere comfortable to rest their heads as they sleep.

The airline could easily have chosen to focus its design effort and investments on the upper classes, and buy off-the-shelf economy seats with little adaptation.  Instead, it chose to consider the needs of all passengers and push the design envelope throughout.

Enjoy the benefits, no matter where or who you fly.   

I had the opportunity to discuss the product development process with Adam White of Factorydesign earlier this year, and we discussed the impact of all of the design innovations in these aircraft.  The argument that design innovations could trickle down throughout the aircraft, not only to that aircraft, but also resonate throughout the industry to new programs, was a bit of a controversy.

For those unfamiliar with what happens behind the scenes in aircraft interiors product development, this argument can seem like a stretch, but it is a fact.  Whenever a new trim material is tested and certified, a new structure approved for integrity, and a new standard set for what can go where on an aircraft, the bar is raised; not just from a competitive standpoint (which itself has impact) but also from a certification and design standpoint–opening up the possibilities for further cabin innovations and increasing the tools and resources available to industry designers and airlines.

These ambitious Etihad Airways A380 and 787-9 cabin projects are proof that, when an airline can justify such considerations in its market, the aircraft cabin design possibilities (front to back) are impressive.  It requires vision, commitment, time and money.  The lack of one or more of these is the issue many airlines must overcome.

Even so, when I look at a market where Ryanair decides to leave a few extra inches on its 737 MAX 200s for its passengers, in order to attract more business customers, I see the new aircraft activity, and the aircraft interiors competition, resonating throughout the industry in more subtle and lasting ways.  Change and the decisions on design will always be relative to the airlines’ market and target customers, of course; but as Airbus and Boeing project increasing demand for new aircraft world-wide through 2033, there will be thousands of opportunities to revisit this discussion, and to track cabin trends along the way.

There may have been better times, I just can’t remember them.

I feel I must say that, after working for twenty years in the industry, through fine times and frighteningly lean times, this is the most exciting time to watch developments in aircraft interiors.

I can’t believe I’m lucky enough observe, evaluate, and sharing my thoughts with all of you on this historic period in aviation.  I expect the industry to keep me busy asking questions and sharing insights for a very long time to come.  Together, we’ll have plenty to marvel at and to debate.

Hopefully, we’ll celebrate more radical programs, like the Etihad Airways game-changing cabins.  Etihad has proven it aims to change the commercial aviation industry in a number of ways, but competitors will respond.  This high-stakes competition will prove to be a win for passengers and a boon to those of us who enjoy reporting on the all the events along the way.

Featured Image: New Etihad Livery Rendering/Etihad Airways 

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