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Colour match

PriestmanGoode has just completed a follow-up programme with South African Airways for new Airbus A330-300 cabin designs. Ian Harbison finds out more

When South African Airways (SAA) decided to lease a fleet of five Airbus A330-300s, it was seen as an opportunity to introduce a new cabin configuration at the same time, says Luke Hawes, Director at PriestmanGoode. The design would be based on the interior developed by his company in 2014 for the airline’s 16 Airbus A320s.


As part of that original process, the design team immersed themselves in South African culture, working to develop a colour palette based on the dark anthracite of contemporary architecture and cityscapes, saturated golden tones of winter sun and earthen landscapes. Highlight colours such as burnt reds and blues were taken from African design and craft sources, and used to contrast the other tones. Hawes says that being able to tell a story to an airline board of how the colour palette was conceived is a great way of building relationships and often makes the decision process easier.


For the A330-300 fleet, the work included the Business Class and Economy Class cabins, as well as entrance areas, brand panels and cabin branding throughout the aircraft. He says the opportunity of working on a widebody aircraft is always exciting as there is more space to work with. Stepping into the cabin, the large areas of burnt red provide a dramatic entrance at the L2 door. The branded welcome panels used here are repeated across the cabin, as well as on literature pockets. He notes that the appearance of the monuments have been enhanced by the cabin lighting.


Business Class has 46 customised Thompson Vantage XL lie-flat seats in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration that offers a combination of privacy and direct aisle access. In a move away from the usual high-end automotive look that uses leather, the new seats translate the aesthetic into laminated fabric dress covers produced by Rohi and Franklin Products.  Hawes believes fabric actually provides a more comfortable environment for long journeys, while leather is less durable and can show distortions when stretched tight over the seat, or lit from above. 


Leather makes an appearance, but is limited to the credenza, headrests and seat arms. A custom Replin fabric is used on the inside of the seat shells.


The seat back fabric in each cabin uses one of a number of patterns inspired by traditional African crafts, textiles, basket weaving and furniture. These are updated versions of bespoke prints that featured in the A320 design and were developed in coordination with SAA’s branding agency CUB3D. The prints are used in various ways in Business Class, from bulkhead foil designs down to the amenity kits. The seat back fabric is complemented by prominent stitch lines, while the highlight colours appear as reveals under the headrest, offering flashes of burnt red in Business Class and blue in Economy Class. 


The burnt red is used in other areas of the Business Class seat, such as the personal stowage shroud, which was designed to create a distinct look for SAA, and incorporates the reading light, seat controls, noise cancelling headphone stowage hook with feature stitch detail, water bottle, and PC power/USB ports. It also features as a backdrop to the shroud for the 15in touchscreen monitor, which has a slimline surround to give the seat a more domestic appearance. There is additional space for tablet devices to accommodate dual screening, as well as standard stowage purposes.

A small floor-mounted compartment can be used to store small valuable passenger items such as watches, rings, earrings and mobile phones, plus a designated area for personal notebooks/small laptops.


The rear bulkhead in both cabins uses a metallic look for a feeling of luxury but it is actually a very thin sheet mounted to a substrate. A minimised attachment part was manufactured by AIM Altitude to provide a translation of the A320 branding and to add a wash light to the feature artwork above.


The Economy Class cabin features 203 Geven Piuma AQ seats, primarily in a 2-4-2 configuration but changing to 2-3-2 at the rear as the cabin tapers. Each seat is fitted with a 10.1in high-resolution screen, individual USB charging ports and access to shared PC power points. 


The aircraft are being outfitted by the airline’s MRO organisation, SAA Technical, in Johannesburg. Hawes says that there were huge demands to deliver a complete cabin over only a short 10-month programme, but that the team demonstrated an outstanding level of technical knowledge and expertise in the hangar, and the resulting cabin is a true representation of the design vision. 


The aircraft are part of a Long-Term Turnaround Strategy (LTTS) for SAA. Despite many constraints SAA made strategic decisions and were able to work together with PriestmanGoode and other partners to maximise the level of customisation available to them. The overall effect is still impressive and in line with the A320s, says Hawes.


These are the 242 tonne MTOW versions of the aircraft, with a range of up to 6,350nm, allowing it to operate to Washington, DC.  

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