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It has been 5 years in the making, and now finally Etihad Airways have revealed to the world a ground-breaking suite of products which redefine all classes of flight for their flagship A380 and B787 Dreamliner fleets. Both aircraft design programmes represent the single-biggest commitment to cabin interior product design made by any airline in the world.
 The new interiors have been designed by a British consortium of Acumen Design Associates, Honour branding and Factory Design, of which Acumen were selected to design all on-board seating products:

The Residence’ A380 VIP offering – the world’s first 3 room private VIP cabin,
The A380 First Apartments’ – the largest first class in the industry set within the world’s first wide-body single-aisle seating layout,
The B787 First Class Suites – the first ever first class product to fly on a Boeing 787 and the only curved-aisle configuration in the industry,
The Business Studio – class leading business class seat with living-space to rival most first class seats, and last but not least,
The Economy Smart Seat with new fixed-wing headrest for maximum passenger comfort.

Occupying a staggering 125 square feet, ‘The Residence’ is an exclusive 3 room cabin located on the forward upper deck of the A380. Accommodating single or double occupancy, it features a living room with 60″ wide sofa, 32″ flat screen TV, chilled minibar and powered footrest. The separate enclosed bedroom has a double bed, 27″ flat screen, and a full length wardrobe. The bathroom is completely private featuring a shower, toilet and washroom. Guests in The Residence will also have a personal butler trained at the Savoy Academy in London.

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‘The Residence’ lounge room
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‘The Residence’ double bedroom

The revolutionary ‘First Apartments’ are exclusive to the A380. Each Apartment is set either side of a single-aisle (first and only on a wide-body aircraft). The First Apartments are fully private suites with a separate 30″ wide reclining lounge-seat and an ottoman which transforms into an 80″ long bed, as well as a chilled minibar, personal vanity unit and wardrobe. On six of the nine suites, the privacy screen can be opened to create interconnecting suites with a shared double bed.

The ‘First Apartments’ adjoining double suites
The ‘First Apartments’ personal vanity unit

The Boeing 787 First Class Suites are the first-ever first class product to fly on a Boeing 787. The unique and visually appealing curved aisle is formed by the tapered fore and aft facing seats, which provide extra room around the seat where the passenger needs it most. These fully private suites also have a chilled mini bar, powered ottoman, wardrobe, and the centre doubles may connect via a retractable privacy screen.

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The unique curved aisle of the B787 ‘First Suites’ cabin
The adjoining ‘First Suites’ on the B787

The ‘Business Studio‘ offers a class leading bed length of up to 80.5″ and presents a living space to rival most first class suites. With direct aisle access for all guests, the unique fore and aft “dovetail” configuration cleverly maximises the space where the passenger needs it most. The suite also offers flexible privacy from the aisle, as well as a separate privacy divider for the centre seats.

The ‘Business Studio’ centre seat has class-leading living space
Up to 80.5” of bed length competes with regular first class

The economy “Smart seat” offers customers greater levels of comfort and relaxation with the fixed-wing headrest. This new feature also provides additional privacy between seats and helps to create passenger zones.


Press Quotes

..Etihad Airways has just unveiled the latest upgrades aboard its A380 and it blows the competition away – far away..”   Fox News 

..a product so outlandishly luxurious that the worlds jetsetters are left with no question as to whos leading the in-flight glitz game..”   CNN

“..Etihad blow competition out of the water with re-imagined experience..”   Design Air  

“..These new commercial planes have the feel of the worlds best private jets..”   The Wire

Where it all began.. 

It began back in 2008 when Etihad Airways embarked on a search for a leading design agency partner to design the future cabin interiors for their new fleet of A380 (and latterly B787) aircraft.

Etihad Airways stated its ambition to be the ‘Best airline in the World’ and outlined a vision for the project that would build on their success and continue to redefine airline travel.  This meant that the airline wanted to disrupt the status quo in the industry and create a unique Guest experience that would reflect the exciting vision of Abu Dhabi.

After a global pitch, Etihad Airways asked three agencies to work together to deliver their challenging ambition. The EDC – Etihad Design Consortium – was created bringing together three companies, Acumen Design Associates, Factorydesign and Honour Branding.

Acumen was chosen to design the onboard seating across First Class, Business and Economy. Factorydesign was tasked to design the passenger experience and cabin interior such as galleys, lavatories and passenger destination zones. Honour Branding’s role was to coordinate the project and interface with Etihad. They also were to advise Etihad on the innovation process and define the design strategy for the concept work.

As the cabin interior products emerged, Honour and Factorydesign then worked closely together to design the onboard guest experience, including the new catering and onboard service offer..

The project began with extensive customer research. EDC partnered with Promise Communispace, a leading co–creation agency, with the aim of putting the customer at the heart of the project.  The research generated a vast number of ideas that were then categorised into seven key customer insight territories. These territories informed the briefs and strategic vision for the new on-board products and services.

EDC was asked to develop an overall vision for the aircraft based on the airline’s successful ‘Inspired Service’. The vision was to bring the individuality and exclusivity of a ‘Luxury Boutique hotel experience – that embraced Arabian modernism’.

Every aspect of the guest cabin experience was explored, generating a huge volume of concepts. Initial concepts were developed into physical full size mock-ups and tested with customers to evaluate and narrow down the options.  The preferred concepts were then developed by EDC who built a partial full-scale mock-up of the A380 upper deck and entrance area of the main deck, at a secret location near Heathrow Airport. This later became the innovation lab for development meetings and concept testing.

Throughout 2011 / 2012 EDC developed the concepts, worked with Airbus and the chosen vendors to understand the technical interfaces of those concepts into the aircraft; meanwhile supporting the airline through key design and technical milestones.

During this time, work also started on translating the A380 product vision across the new B787. Also on adapting the products to meet the challenging constraints of the new catalogue aircraft. This resulted in a new First Class suite product with a forward and aft configuration, enabling the width of the seat to be increased and creating a unique ‘joggled’ aisle configuration.

As the project moved through the technical design phase in 2013/14, EDC continued to support the Etihad team and the global supplier base to bring the project through to completion. 
As the designs became more refined, the mock-ups were updated to reflect the final product. The A380 and B787 mock up cabin sections have been transported to Abu Dhabi to become part of the airline’s new mock up and Innovation Centre, serving as a showcase and training facility for all staff.

EDC continues to work closely with Etihad and its suppliers, troubleshooting the fine detail through to delivery of the aircraft later this year.

Press Coverage:

The Independent

The Daily Mail


The Wire

The Design Air

ABC News

Fox News

Video presentations playlist for all classes:

a350, A380, airbus, aircraft, aircraft seating, B/E Aerospace, B787, blue sky, business class, economy class, Etihad, first class, Transport