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The future’s light

Canadian holiday travel carrier Air Transat has showcased its first Airbus A330-200 with a fully redesigned interior. Tom Zaitsev went aboard the aircraft to see how the airline has evolved

The unveiling event, held for Air Transat’s customers at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, was part of a fleet-wide cabin makeover and attendant marketing campaign. This fittingly marked the 25th anniversary of the carrier and its parent tour operator Transat A T Inc, although that was not intentional. Offering a glimpse into the newly refurbished A330, Air Transat president and CEO, Allen Graham, said the project had been in the drawing stage for two years, and was driven by the desire to provide a whole new level of comfort and convenience for passengers.


“Of course, the related motive is to enhance our brand through a renewed range of high-quality leisure travel products,” he explained. “We believe in product segmentation and want to differentiate ourselves from competitors in this industry. At the end of the day, it’s all about the passenger in-flight experience. Apart from vacation at the holiday destination, the most amount of time our customers spend with Transat is on board the aircraft in the care of our cabin crew. And they should enjoy those hours too.”


At present, the airline operates an all-Airbus fleet made up of 11 A310-300s and a dozen A330-200s. Alongside the Economy Class, both models have a premium ‘Club’ compartment. But while all of its A330s are slated for an entire interior modification, only six A310s will undergo it, albeit to a much lesser extent.


This is because Air Transat has decided to return five selected A310s to lessors over the next few years, with the possibility of phasing out or replacing the other six eventually. In contrast, the A330s are likely to remain the backbone of its fleet for the foreseeable future.


To better use cabin space and meet prevailing requirements, the cabin makeover on the first refurbished aircraft involved changing the original two-class layout with 321 economy and 21 premium seats. The new configuration, which will become standard throughout the rest of the carrier’s A330s, accommodates 333 passengers in coach and 12 in Club Class, for a total of 345 passengers. Space for an extra three seats has been freed up due to a slimmer seat structure and improved floorplan, yet both sections have more room per person.


The draft was made by a specially hired French firm, Designescence, and was informed by two of Air Transat’s flight attendants with a knack for interior remodelling. But both Jean-Marc Eustache, Transat AT president and CEO, and Graham had a hand in all conceptual decisions. “Enlarging individual space was our priority when we thought up the new cabin layout. We especially wanted to have wider seats installed at a bigger pitch.”


Other key items on the wish list included a superior in-fight entertainment (IFE) system, trendy LED-based ‘mood lighting’, as well as modernised lavatories and galley structures. To fulfil these tasks to its specifications, Air Transat selected the German seat manufacturing incomer ZIM Flugsitz and three US-based companies, including in-flight entertainment specialist IMS; Bruce Aerospace, which provides customised lighting solutions; and interior modules supplier TIMCO Aerosystems.


The first A330 was refitted at the carrier’s base in Montreal at a cost of C$4 million ($3.9 million). The next one is being refurbished during a heavy check at TAP Maintenance & Engineering in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “It got stripped anyway, so we took advantage of that to put a new interior in,” noted Graham, adding that the third aircraft will be done this summer in Montreal as well. Cabin upgrades on the rest of the A330 fleet are to be completed by the beginning of 2013, when Air Transat will also start making over the A310s.




The entire programme hinges on striking the right balance between comfort and cost savings, first of all on the seating side, hence ZIM played a particularly important role. Originally an engineering consultancy, which designed structural components for Airbus, in 2008 the company started to develop its own seating systems, and before long became an established supplier for major airlines, including Thai Airways, Air Berlin and Japan Airlines.

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