PriestmanGoode has further evolved its relationship with United Airlines by designing its new business-class cabin
Client: United Airlines
Interior design: PriestmanGoode
Duration: Three years
Once part of a basic provision for early air travellers, airline cabins continue to evolve to meet the needs, comforts and expectations of a 21st-century traveller to now include facilities usually associated with the office, hotel and leisure. It’s quite a departure from those early days, even from the package holiday era, with designers continually discovering room for improvement on board, while also ensuring enough space for hand luggage and duty-free items – for non-budget airlines at least.
Earlier this year, United Airlines unveiled its new business-class cabins, called United Polaris, as delivered by PriestmanGoode, its design partner, which is overseeing a design overhaul across the airline’s entire fleet. During the three years the practice has worked with United Airlines, PriestmanGoode has fulfilled new design schemes for ground services, to include gate and lounge areas and aircraft cabin interiors, even down to tableware and amenity kits.
The practice has overseen the redesign of lounge and gate areas too for United
‘The United Polaris experience is a significant part of our work for the airline, as it’s the embodiment of our new brand vision as applied to the passenger experience from lounge to destination,’ remarks Nigel Goode, director at PriestmanGoode. Embodying the definition of luxury travel, the cabin features bespoke furniture, including galley and bar areas; branded elements such as literature boxes, boarding brand and cabin brand panels; new tableware, table linen, menus, salt and pepper pots, glassware, hollow-ware and even boxes of chocolates. The cabin interiors were also very much focused around sleep and in providing an environment that would allow passengers to truly relax, and leave them refreshed and rested’.
The design for the new Polaris business-class seat came to Acumen’s CEO Ian Dryburgh as a eureka moment while he was on a train, and he made sketches on the spot
Using the United Airlines logo and brand colours to develop the colour palette and patterns for the cabin interiors, the practice has also introduced new materials, such as harder wearing infused plastics, to not only reflect an exclusive experience but also for practical purposes; something that is vital to designing successful cabin interiors, says Goode.
The cabin includes an entirely new premium seat, based on an original, patented seat layout design by Acumen. PriestmanGoode led the strategic development and creative direction of the seat and, along with Acumen, has delivered a unique United Airlines product, which now holds the North American licence for the design.
Models made by Acumen showed that allowing all passengers having access to an aisle was possible
While distinctive features of the cabin include integrated personal storage with latching door, headphone hook and mirror, bespoke reading light and large solid-surface cocktail table, key to the seat’s design success is the angle of each seat, which ensures all passengers have access to an aisle.
New materials have been introduced into the cabin, such as harder wearing infused plastics, not only to reflect an exclusive experience but also for practical purposes
This eureka moment came, incidently, on a train when Acumen CEO and founder, Ian Dryburgh, started scribbling down a cabin layout that could offer every passenger access to the aisle and a lie-flat bed without limiting the number of seats in a premium cabin. From his initial sketches, to the first prototypes and models, and then manufacture, Acumen spent three years on the project before partnering with United Airlines to refine the design over an 18-month period.
The cabin’s colour scheme incorporates United Airlines’ brand colours
‘The layout came to me in a moment of inspiration on my way home. By angling the aisle seats, we could use the space more efficiently for both the passenger and the airline,’ says Dryburgh. ‘The result is a class-leading bed length, aisle access for all passengers, and enhanced personal space: the three most critical passenger requirements.’
The new business-class cabin ‘pushes the boundaries of what is achievable’
Acumen has been involved in the design of several airline seating products and invented the first Bed in the Sky, in the mid-Nineties, for British Airways. ‘Seeing the marketplace unfold over the years and being part of that story has given us a unique view of the industry,’ says Dryburgh. ‘From this vantage point, designing the ultimate business-class product has been like a riddle that has occupied my thoughts for many years. I have always been sure that there was an achievable layout that could optimise all of the passenger and airline requirements, and that someday the answer would become clear.’
Cabin items getting the PriestmanGoode design touch include glassware, crockery, and bespoke bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue for the lie-flat bed
Querying why combining in-line seats with angled seats had never been tried in an aircraft interior before, the first sketches captured this key principle, which Dryburgh describes as the ‘one big idea’.
‘Not only does it do something revolutionary – combining forward-facing and angled seats to optimise passenger privacy and space – it pushes the boundaries of what is achievable within the fixed space of the business-class cabin,’ he says. By all known measures, this product is the most space-efficient business-class seat on the market – but one that also prioritises passenger experience and comfort.’
Cabin items getting the PriestmanGoode design touch include glassware, crockery and bespoke bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue for the lie-flat bed
‘Much like the Bed in the Sky for British Airways, we believe that our latest design will revolutionise the aircraft interiors’ market and set the new standard for business-class products.’
Zodiac Aerospace UK