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Inside Finnair’s epic design transformation

Finnair’s Long Haul transformation is set to revolutionize how our customers experience flying between Europe and Asia and the United States. A huge undertaking, the work took on added significance as Finnair looked to create something unique during the challenging months and years of the coronavirus pandemic. With Finnair Cargo operations opening up new routes and new opportunities, it was the perfect chance to develop an experience that would excite customers desperate to see the world again.

The overhaul of the long haul Airbus A330 and A350 fleet has been a true team effort, with designers, engineers, customer experience executives and iconic Finnish brands coming together to work in the most difficult of circumstances to create a unified experience that no other airline can match. The result is nothing short of extraordinary. This is the inside story of Finnair’s epic design transformation.

A unifying experience

There are 24 Airbus A330 and A350 aircraft in Finnair’s long haul widebody fleet. And by the end of 2023, all of them will have been completely overhauled, with new Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy Class cabins featuring the very best in Nordic design. But what makes this update truly special is the fact that all of them will have the same look.

“It all comes down to customer preference,” says David Kondo, Senior Manager, Customer Experience and Design Strategy at Finnair. “We know from our corporate segment and our frequent fliers that consistency is really important.  They want to know what they're buying. So it was really important to be able to offer that consistency across the fleet.”

Doing so wasn’t easy, explains Kondo.

“That was certainly the challenge we had with our existing cabin configuration. The A330 and A350 are just worlds apart, both in terms of aesthetic and in terms of arrangement inside the cabin. So with this relaunch, we've taken the opportunity to really streamline and make them as consistent as possible.

A technical challenge

Surmounting this challenge came down to developing a good understanding of the dimensions of each aircraft, as well as how they look beneath the seats.

“The A330 is quite a lot narrower than the A350. So even though seat bases are basically the same, underneath they’re completely different, with different fitting,” says Kondo.

“The A350 is slightly wider, but has a slightly smaller pitch, whereas the A330 has a slightly longer pitch but is slightly narrower. The average customer won’t be able to notice the difference and the living spaces are kept consistent between the two. But there is a slight difference in geometry.”

The result is that Finnair is one of the only major airlines in the world to offer the same widebody product across its fleet.

Not just engineering 

The engineering challenge of bringing the A330 and A350 widebody fleet together, creating a consistent finish in the process, wasn’t the only part of Finnair’s design transformation. It was also about developing a look and feel that worked across every aspect of the customer experience.

On the planes themselves, that meant using new Iittala designed tableware, created by leading designer Harri Koskinen. Iittala’s Nordic heritage and Koskinen’s deep knowledge of classic Finnish design meant that he and his team were able to create pieces that fit in perfectly with the form and function of the new fleet.

Then there was the demand for a unified finish. That’s where renowned Finnish brand Marimekko came in. A long term Finnair collaborator, their new textiles found throughout each cabin speak directly to Finnair’s wish for a high class, deeply Nordic look.

On the ground, the fleet’s new look ties in with the ongoing renewal of Helsinki airport’s updated T2 and Finnair’s new lounge. This new design language is immediately noticeable, aimed at making customers feel comfortable from the moment they check in.

With new long-haul routes planned, this coming together is the perfect way for Finnair to mark its 100th birthday in 2023.


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