New JAL Airplane Seat Design

New JAL Airplane Seat Design
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JAL Airplane Seat Design to Create a Cabin Space
Yuichi Akutsu

Seat designs as the symbols of airline companies
In the 1990s, airline companies were competing among themselves to provide the best services to business class customers.  It was because the globalization of business activities promoted international business trips, and competition to attract business class passengers increased as they brought greater profits.  In 2000, a British company introduced flat seats that could be used as beds in business class cabins of airplanes flying long distances.  This changed the role of designs.  Up to that point, each airline company applied its own fabric design to the standard seats provided by seat manufacturers.  But in 2000, they began to search for distinctive features in the functions and forms of seat.  In other words, seat designs representing the corporate identity came to be required.  Around that time, GK was assigned to develop the first flat seat for Japan Airlines (JAL), and presented the prototype of an innovative seat named the “JAL Shell Flat Seat.”  With the concept of a relaxing and private seat and the aim for being edgy and global, the shell form was devised to accommodate to various sitting positions.  The shell-type seat was highly appreciated as a creative seat with highly mature design for business class cabins of international airlines.  It became widely reputed as a superior business class seat among customers and airline companies.  Since its introduction, the seat has served as a part of the brand value of JAL.

 

Comparison of old and new of aircraft seat construction (RECARO, Exhibits at Aircraft Interiors EXPO) Left: Economy class seat 9777 in 1968 Right: Business class seat 6510 in 2002

Evolution of the product identity – Aircraft seats performing multiple functions
In August 2008, the environmentally friendly and next-generation type Boeing 777-300ER jumbo jet plane was introduced replacing the conventional jumbo jet planes to the North America route.  In this plane, Shell Flat Neo Seats were installed.  Our mission was to create a new value while maintaining the identity of the original Shell Flat Seat.  Business executives flying around the world are concerned about how comfortably they can spend hours in an airplane.  We tried to improve the seat to satisfy passenger needs for resting, enjoying entertainment, working, eating, and sleeping within a limited space in an aircraft for more than 10 hours, and to fulfill the contradictory desires for openness and privacy.  The form of the shell was modified, and a feeling of “being wrapped” was created by applying the same color of a seat to the back of the seat in front.  Improvements were made for the sleep comfort and the container space, and the monitor screen was enlarged and its operation was made easier.  In addition to these functional improvements, the Japanese way of hospitality was expressed in the use of fabric for upholstery and other details.  It was an expression of the brand message of JAL to become Japan’s wings to connect the world with safe and quality services.  The inner shells with subdued hues that give passengers an all encompassing feeling of rest, as well as the sense of a private corner, and the outer shells using a curved surface that help create a stylish and futuristic feeling within the cabin.  The atmosphere created by the materials, hues and finishing touches was fully examined.  A great amount of time and effort was spent to creating a sense of extra value among passengers through touching and sitting on the seat for many hours.

 

Improvements were made for the sleep comfort and the container space, and the monitor screen was enlarged and its operation was made easier. In addition to these functional improvements, the Japanese way of hospitality was expressed in the use of fabric for upholstery and other details.

Unity and individualization of interior designs
Along with the design of the Shell Flat Neo Seat, the total interior design for Boeing 777-300ER aircraft was carried out.  This newest flagship aircraft was going to be the model that would direct the future interior identity of JAL aircraft.  Requirements here were unity in design as JAL aircraft and separate designs to attentively satisfy passenger needs of different classes.
Customarily as visual identities, the names of lines or brand colors are applied on a part of finishing materials used for the interior design in general public transportation vehicles.  From the standpoint of designing customers’ experiences, GK dared to avoid the use of the brand color in order to create an “interior like a living space of customers” instead of the interior for the airline company.  High quality and sophisticated silver and grey were used as keynote tones to give unity in the interior of the aircraft.  To lead passengers to different class cabins, colors of different brightness for each class were applied to help passengers feel the flows of the colors upon boarding.  For upholstery, traditional Japanese patterns were woven to express the spirit of becoming the “wings of Japan,” and “Japanese hospitality.”  Although the airframe and seats are foreign made, the fabric for upholstery was manufactured by a Japanese company which had inherited the traditional textile technique.

 


A new idea for customer experience
One idea was adopted from among the ideas included in the working program seeking an ideal aircraft interior.  It was the art gallery installed in the bar space for the executive class cabin.  GK proposed this gallery to welcome passengers at the time of boarding, and to give them a change during flight. Here time-honored Japanese wisdom works for welcoming a guest with displaying a picture at  an entrance and hanging a scroll of Japanese-style painting in a teahouse.  It is general to use the standard airframe, galley, lavatory and the like prepared by aircraft manufacturers.  As such, they are almost the same in any aircraft.  For 777-300ER, the “Sky Gallery” was loaded upon obtaining an agreement not only from JAL but also from the equipment and aircraft manufacturers.  The world’s first art gallery in an aircraft made its debut with a flight to New York on August 1, 2008 together with the CM “The Newest JAL.”

Yuichi Akutsu, Advisory Designer, GK Industrial Design
JAL Airplane Seat Design to Create a Cabin Space
Yuichi Akutsu