The delivery date of the first Airbus A350-900XWB (A359) for China Airlines (CI) is quickly approaching. Today, the Taiwanese airline officially unveiled the cabin designs of this game-changing aircraft type. Configured as a 306-seater, the aircraft will be able to accommodate 32 passengers in Premium Business Class, 31 in Premium Economy Class, and 243 in Economy Class, including 12 sets of Family Couch seats. Nonstop European routes from Taipei to Amsterdam, Rome, and Vienna will be the first long-haul routes to see the new product after its first delivery in late-September 2016. After Airbus completes assembly of the remainder of the 14 aircraft-order, China Airlines will be further deploying the A350 to Oceania, Canada, Hawaii, and other new destinations across Europe and North America.
Back in 2015, when China Airlines released teaser-statements on its upcoming Airbus A350-900XWB, the aircraft was described to have a “cheerful” and “joyful” interior. After having our hands on the latest cabin pictures, >talkairlines compared the simulations to the Boeing 777-300ER interiors. While the seat cover-design and color combinations of Premium Economy and Economy Classes are extremely similar on both aircraft types, there are significant differences in the Premium Business Class cabin and carpet. Let’s take a close look at what differentiates the A350 from the 777.
In Premium Business Class, China Airlines chose to continue utilizing the Super Diamond model from B/E Aerospace. The hardware, along with the personal table lamp and 18″ PTV screen, is almost identical with that of the 777. The configuration is 1-2-1 abreast and each seat can be converted to a 78″ fully flat bed with 28″ width. However, the seat covers feature a light color palette. In comparison, 777 seats are decorated with some rather dark shades. Also interesting is the lamp design-difference. On the 777, the lamp has a dark gray stand; on the A350, a metallic gold “dragon claw” stand instead. Furthermore, due to the tightening of seat-safety regulations, the A350 seats will have 3-point airbag seatbelts, opposed to the 2-point ones on the 777.
The carpet design is also notable. On the 777 and other aircraft types, China Airlines has been conservative while choosing carpets. Unicolor has been typical across the carrier’s fleet. Yet, this is about to be changed. On the A350, the carpet has a pattern created by calligraphic drawings of persimmons, symbolizing “persistent prosperity” in Chinese. The negative spaces are of light gold colors while the positive spaces are dark blue. This powerful contrast creates a fun and exciting visual effect. Other non-conventional approaches can be seen on the suite shell, with metallic patterns inspired by persimmon-textures, and the gradient polka-dotted sidewalls. Another fascinating touch can be seen in the shoe compartment, which will gently shine a blue inner color to ease the finding of storage spaces.
Sky Lounge is not absent on the A350. However, it now bears a different name. “Sky Bistro”, the A350-version of the acclaimed 777 Sky Lounge, is similar to its sister product in food and beverage offerings. However, the space design has drastically changed. On the 777, the sides of the Sky Lounge offer coffee, snacks, and books while the main area has fruits, alcoholic beverages, and instant noodles. On the A350, all options will be integrated and offered together at the main area: coffee and Western snack options on the left section; tea and Oriental snack options on the right section; instant noodles, spirits, nuts, and fruits in the middle. The sides will only be decorated with the lounge name and quotes. This change is likely due to space constraints.
In Premium Economy Class, China Airlines has once again chosen the fixed-back Zodiac AIRgo FX Premium seats. There is no significant design changes as the appearance of the seat is almost identical with that on the 777. However, due to the width of the A350 cabin, there will be one less seat in each and every row. On the 777, Premium Economy Class has a 2-4-2 layout; on the A350, an alternative 2-3-2 layout is chosen. Each customer will get to enjoy 129° of recline (11° more than on the 777), 20″ of width (1″ wider), and 39″ of pitch. There will also be 12″ PTV screens, larger seat pockets, and higher legrests, as compared to the 777 Premium Economy product.
In Economy Class, China Airlines will be offering the Zodiac Z300 slim-line seats in a 3-3-3 layout. Following the Airbus 18″ Industry Width Standard, the China Airlines A350 Economy Class will provide customers with more comfort: 116° of recline, 18″ of width and 32″ of pitch. Another good news is that the seats will have higher seat pockets. This, along with the slim design, will further contribute to overall spaciousness and make the customers feel like the pitch is 34.5″. Besides the typical Economy Class seats, there will be 12 sets of Family Couch seats (a total of 36 seats) in the first section of the cabin. Throughout the cabin, there will be a number of randomly placed red cover-seats, symbolizing the seal of promise from China Airlines.
All lavatories on the A350 will follow the 777 design philosophy in having a Chinese landscape ink painting on the wall. However, a redesign has been done: the artwork now bears a metallic and pixelated texture. Another surprise features the “royal blue” color. From behind the Premium Economy Class headrests, inside the Economy Class seatpockets, to the Premium Business Class storages, the color is hidden in various places where the customers least expect design touches.
China Airlines will also be introducing new boarding and embarking music along with a scent, specially created for the carrier. In-flight meals on A350-routes to Europe will be designed and advised by Michelin star-decorated chef André Chiang (江振誠). The beautiful 777 tablewear design will used to serve the meals. Moreover, mood-lighting on the A350 is more advanced than that on the 777. New LED technologies will allow more vibrant colors and endless combination-possibilities. One interesting mood lighting theme is “Chinese New Year”, inspired by the red and gold colors of the koi fish, a symbol of fortune and prosperity. (Us at >talkairlines originally thought that the design is inspired by Chinese red lanterns.) Other special A350 elements include quieter cabins, panoramic windows, larger overhead luggage compartments, and cleaner air. The aircraft type will also have in-flight connectivity (Wi-Fi), which will be complemented by the power and USB outlets at each seat, and Panasonic Avionics eX3 system for AVOD.
Applause for Ray Chen, the chief designer for the new lounges and cabin interiors, who has once again delivered an exceptional product for the Taiwanese national carrier. Over recent years, China Airlines has been rapidly transcending into a designer brand. The latest effort is the establishment of the new Brand Development Department. Aware of how cooperations with design firms, branding consultants, and suppliers are more important than ever, the carrier hopes to utilize this new department for brand strategies, management, and consistency. We are certain that these efforts, along with the new hardware products and nonstop routes, will allow China Airlines to transform into one of the premium global airline brands.
Each of the 14 China Airlines A350-900XWB will be named and decorated after an endemic bird of Taiwan. The first two aircraft will be named “Mikado Pheasant” and “Taiwan Blue Magpie” respectively. Between April 26 and May 20, China Airlines will be inviting the public to vote at www.china-airlines-a350.com.tw, in which each voter chooses 3 from a list of 24 bird species. The top 12 species will be used to name the rest of the A350 fleet.
After its first delivery in September 2016, the China Airlines A350 will initially be deployed on short-haul regional routes, such as that to Hong Kong. By early 2017, long-haul routes, such as those to Amsterdam, Delhi, and Rome, will be flown with the A350. Other destinations, including Vancouver, Honolulu, and those in Oceania, are also expected to see the China Airlines A350 in the near future. The A350 is also anticipated to enable the launching of new routes to Seattle, Milan, London, and a Spanish destination, either Barcelona or Madrid.
EXTRA: Official China Airlines Airbus A350-900XWB Cabin Interior Simulation