PAL's New Business Class Cabins Are Stunning (and Very Filipino)
While we tend to raise eyebrows over most things local especially when it comes to air travel, it seems that Philippine Airlines is set to change preconceived notions with beautiful new cabin designs for their Airbus A330-300.
The country's flag carrier hired Tokyo-based LIFT Strategic Design to come up with a look that allowed for the premium passenger experience, putting together stunning design details with practicality.
Obvious changes can be seen in the wider seating and new IFE screens. In business class, for example, LIFT managing director Daniel Baron tells Esquire that they installed seats that can lay fully flat (23 inches wide and 78 inches when flat), with adjustable Lantal air cusions and extra padding. There's a four-way headrest, more storage, a headphone hook, a pod that cancels out noise, and an 18.5-inch monitor.
"[PAL's A330-300 is the first in SE Asia with the Thompson Vantage XL in Business Class, the most comfortable seat in its class, designed for sleep and with ample privacy, plus direct aisle access," says Baron.
For premium economy, seats are as wide as 19.55 inches with eight inches of recline. Apart from more storage pockets, it comes with a 13.30-inch monitor, and a mini pull-out cocktail table. Economy, meanwhile, is fitted with 18-inch wide chairs with added cushioning and a six-inch recline.
Apart from these upgrades, however, Baron wanted to come up with something that still reflected the Philippines.
PAL's original wall design "Coastlines"—also designed by LIFT—represented the country's many islands, but change was due, especially as the company positions itself as a premium, full-service, global airline.
Filipino-inspired designs are integrated on the forward and rear wall coverings (which are laminated plastic sheets), seat fabrics (across all classes), as well as the lining of the literature pocket and meal tables in business class and the carpet in premium classes.
Baron wanted the walls of each seating area to be stylish yet "unmistakably Filipino." Inspired by the barong Tagalog, they came up with a vertical pattern in various widths with a beige background for the Premium classes and crisp white in Economy. It also has that soft, pearlescent finish with a metallic touch—typical or more formal barongs.
The textiles were custom designed for PAL but developed by approved aviation suppliers located in Europe and the U.S. Baron explains, "Aircraft manufacturers mandate that all materials in the cabin meet extremely stringent requirements related to flammability, toxicity, et cetera."
"The Philippines has an incredibly rich heritage in textile weaving," Baron explains. "I wanted to celebrate this heritage in the cabin, so that from the moment they step on board, foreign visitors are welcomed by the flavor of their destination, and returning Filipinos instantly feel like they’re already home."
Baron admitted that aircraft cabin design is difficult because so much has to be communicated in such a tight space and to such a diverse group of people. "At the end of the day, it’s all about arriving relaxed and refreshed."
LIFT has also worked on the designs of China Airlines, HK Express, and more. To Baron's knowlege, there are no current plans to update PAL's uniform.