The Collins’ AirLounge seat: How we made the best business class seat in the sky
With its gorgeous Marimekko crafted textiles, Iittala tableware and sleek finishes, Finnair’s updated business class is a study in classic Nordic design. But what really sets it apart is the stunning new Business Class AirLounge seat created by Collins Aerospace.
A chair designed to help you work, kick back and sleep in comfort, it is the product of years of work in collaboration with the design experts at Collins Aerospace. Take a seat and it’s impossible not to feel how much effort has been put into making sure it’s the best business class seat in the world.
‘An opportunity to change business class’
“We used a 3D contoured shell to effectively carve out more living space for the customer and create a bigger seat space that they can then interact with,” says David Kondo Head of Customer Experience, Product Design at Finnair. “There are a lot of positions and ways that you can use our seat that you can't with other business class seats.”
The project to develop a new Finnair Business Class seat and new look cabin started four years ago and has been marked by close collaboration across teams to create something truly outstanding.
It all started when Kondo saw a prototype of the Collins Aerospace AirLounge seat at an aviation industry conference.
“Once I saw the seat I fell in love with it and convinced Collins Aerospace that Finnair was the right partner to launch it,” says Kondo. There then followed intense work to develop a seat that stands out from the crowd and has a distinct, Finnair character.
“If you look at the market, a lot of the seats used by airlines are actually the same. So even though you'll see differences in color and finish and occasionally a slightly different aesthetic, there are not actually many business class seats out there,” says Kondo.
“With Collins’ AirLounge seat, we saw an opportunity to change the thinking of how you fly in business.”
‘A piece of Nordic furniture’
With no recline and a fixed, contoured design, the new AirLounge is designed to look and feel more like a piece of classic Nordic furniture than a simple airline seat. There are multiple ways of using it, with Kondo revealing that the designers were influenced by Japanese culture, where sitting on the floor is more prevalent. That means you can sit cross legged on the wide seat, as well as lie flat comfortably, slide into a more relaxed position or use the two pillows to sit upright and create a working environment using the movable table.
Kondo says that while the updated in-flight entertainment system will carry an introductory video about the AirLounge seat, customers are being invited to explore it for themselves.
“When you first get to the seat, the idea is that you'll settle in and nest. There are lots of storage features. Once the plane is up and in cruise, then you're kind of free to use the seat how you like. There are different panels you can raise to create different living surfaces.”
Panels can also be moved to create shared dining spaces with other travellers, with the opportunity to share plates and taste different dishes from the extensive new menu created by Finnair Kitchen. The Harri Koskinen-designed Iittala tableware complements the Nordic finish of the AirLounge seat.
A place to work and rest
The seat’s flexibility is also backed up with an impressive amount of connectivity, including USB A, USB C, PC power and Wi-Fi. This was a challenge that needed to be met in order for the AirLounge seat to become a class apart from its rivals.
“USB ports are relatively new for airlines and there's actually an incredible amount of cooling space and all sorts of technical considerations needed to get them into the seats,” says Kondo. “But we got there in the end.”
Customers flying in Finnair’s new Business Class cabin will immediately notice the difference. AirLounge’s unique design and cutting edge technology make it something special.
“I think Finnair has an innovative spirit and isn't afraid to be bold in trying something different,” says Kondo, whose belief in the project is clear to see.
“We saw this concept and fell in love with it.”