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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How did JAL design the new SKY SUITE and SKY WIDER seats?

Staff from JAL cabin product design department tried out the new SKY WIDER seat
Staff from JAL cabin product design department tried out the new SKY WIDER seat. Image from Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines (JAL) official Facebook page has posted some stories of the design process for the new business class and economy class seats which will first roll out to the Tokyo Narita - London Heathrow route in early January 2013. You can see how much attention to details that the design team paid even when they are designing for the Economy Class seats!

When designing the new economy class seat SKY WIDER, which the seat pitch and width are 10cm and 1.7cm wider than the current economy class seats, one of the main focuses was how to make the seat more comfortable. JAL wants to get rid of that negative image and hopes from now on passengers will associate the new economy class seat as "wide" and "fun", and is their preferred way to travel.

In order to fine tune the details and comfort such as the firmness of the cushions, the design team would even tried out the seat overnight. This is to make sure the seat is as comfortable as possible for passengers traveling on long-haul flights. Usually passengers will use negative terms such as "narrow" and "painful" to describe the economy class seats.

JAL also tried to increase the storage space in the new SKY WIDER seat. The usual complaints from passengers were it is difficult to find a place to put some small items such as the immigration form, moisturizers and other cosmetic products that are commonly used during the flight. Because of that, JAL has increased the size of the net pockets behind the seat and added the small item holder. Also new is the smartphone holder so passengers can place their phones there.

When designing the new business class seat, SKY SUITE, JAL aims to provide the best business class seat in the industry. This is the first complete overhaul of JAL long-haul Business Class product. The last major change in seat design was back in 2002 when JAL first rolled out the JAL Shell Flat Seat (the current NEO seats are just a modification of that). The whole design process took almost 2 years to complete and JAL ends up picking the Super First Class seat from B/E Aerospace to provide unprecedented privacy and comfort in the new JAL business class cabin.

The first requirement was it has to be a fully flat bed as a lot of customers have voiced about that. But you don't provide the best business class product by just providing a fully flat bed given that's already the new industry standard on long-haul flights. JAL has paid extra attention to the comfort and privacy aspects of the SKY SUITE. During the initial design phase, the design team examined the living space such as the shape of the seat and the placement of each of the seat features every day until midnight. They sometimes even slept in the mock-up seats at the factory in Tucson Arizona USA to make sure the seat is comfortable to sleep in. After endless trial-and-error, they finally came up with the new SKY SUITE which has close to first class privacy and comfort. The design team also decided to introduce a mattress to further increase the comfort of the new full flat bed, which is an industry first!

According to the Facebook post, JAL has finished installing the new SKY SUITE seats on the first SKY SUITE 777 (SS7) back on October 1. The installation was done at the Tucson factory. But the design team had a meeting with the German factory about the SKY WIDER seat today. So sounds like the economy class retrofitting has yet to begin on the first SS7.

For more details, you can refer to the following posts (Japanese only) on JAL Facebook page for behind the scene design process of the new seats.

SKY SUITE design process
SKY WIDER design process

I am glad that they actually spent the time to sit in the seat even for the economy class seats! So many mistakes could be avoided this way. One classic example is the previous generation of fixed shell economy class seats on Cathay Pacific Airways (CX). The seat received so many complaints that they have to replaced it far ahead of its original replacement schedule. But I still have the concern of the touch-screen monitor in SKY WIDER. All the poking from the passenger behind probably won't be comfortable. Hopefully they don't (or can't) play Street Fighter with their touch screen LOL

Note that in the photo above, there's the new premium economy class seat, SKY PREMIUM, at the back. Maybe they will do a story on them next ;) Also the social media campaign for the new SS7 is ending soon. You have until October 31 to enter for a chance to win some cool SS7 related prizes!

Related Posts:
JAL launches social media campaign to promote SKY SUITE 777
JAL releases more details and pictures of the new 777-300ER cabins and services from Jan 2013
JAL announces new seats for long-haul flights
New Full-Flat bed seats coming in early 2013 and new elite benefits

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