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Finishing the furnishings

When it comes to furnishing the premium end of an aircraft cabin, materials and finishes are everything, as Kerry Reals reports

PriestmanGoode, whose airline clients include Air France, Lufthansa and, more recently, United Airlines, believes that the interior of a first class cabin should be finished to a standard that mirrors the passenger’s experiences outside the aircraft.


“In premium cabins, we focus on bridging the gap between the cabin interiors and the other aspects of the passenger’s life. Take, for instance, the first class passenger. Consider the type of car that he drives, the home he lives in, the hotel he stays in – the cabin interiors need to work seamlessly within that context,” says Maria Kafel-Bentkowska, CMF (Colour, Material, Finish) External Lead at PriestmanGoode.


Recent developments have allowed designers to use textured materials which “imbue the cabin with a sense of luxury”, says Kafel-Bentkowska. An example of this is a cocktail table built into the seat in United Airlines’ new Polaris business class cabin. The table features a customised marble-effect Polystone solid surface.


“This surface carries the design language from the United Polaris lounge, which features marble, on to the aircraft, creating a seamless design language from start to destination,” says Kafel-Bentkowska, adding that the surface, which had previously not been used in commercial aviation, “adds texture and enhances the luxurious feel of the cabin.”


Cocktail tables have also been used by JPA Design to enhance the experience for business class passengers, as the company’s Transport Design Director, Tim Manson, explains: “Magazine racks are certainly a thing of the past, as are oversized, multi-coloured patterns. Premium cabins continue to follow hospitality cues and aim to provide a more personal experience that focuses on quality and comfort.


“For example, a small but significant detail we included on the next-generation business class cabin for Singapore Airlines was the introduction of a backlit cocktail tray which ‘heroes’ the glass, lending a premium and luxurious experience to the customer.”


JPA Design has also helped to create cabins for Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, Air China and Gulf Air. It is currently working with Garuda Indonesia on a cabin interiors transformation project and is lining up future contracts with other carriers. “We have several exciting projects for both widebody and narrowbody programmes in the pipeline and hope to be able to announce those shortly,” says Manson. 


PriestmanGoode’s marble-effect cocktail table was not the only example of a recently-certified material being designed into the United Polaris business class product. There is an ongoing quest by design houses to see an array of materials – particularly natural ones – adapted and certified for use in aviation, with the aim of creating an air of luxury.


“We work across various industries, not just aviation, so we’re always looking at what’s being done in other sectors, such as hospitality, to see what materials could be adapted for aviation use,” says Kafel-Bentkowska. 


“Aviation has stringent certification requirements so it can often take many years to develop materials. But these developments are essential, not just from a design point of view but also from a maintenance perspective – such as self-cleaning and anti-bacterial finishes.


“On the new Polaris that we designed with United Airlines, we’ve used a Boltaron translucent plastic that can be infused with full sheet colour artwork. This allows us to add touches of branded identity throughout the cabin without adding too much weight.” >>

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