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September 10, 2015 – Late September will see a big celebration at British Airways, as the airline takes delivery of the first of its 22 B787-9s. BA is enjoying successful operations with its B787-8s, but what does it have planned for the 20ft extra fuselage length of the -9? More business seats, more economy capacity perhaps? BA has something more special in mind, and is launching a bespoke first class cabin.
BA asked its regular first class customers how they would like to see the suites evolve, and its in-house design team, in collaboration with the Forpeople design agency, applied this feedback in creating a new suite specifically for the B787-9.
Comfort wasn’t an issue, but changes in the technology that passengers have become accustomed to using, and new ways of interacting with technology, have driven a few changes. Thus a large part of this research considered how customers use the suites, with the design team striving to ensure that key functions are controlled by simple, intuitive touch mechanisms – just like the cars and devices customers operate in their everyday lives.
For example, one of the best known and loved elements of BA’s first class suites is the seat recline knob, which looks classy and delivers a real haptic pleasure when operated. For the B787-9 suites, the knob has evolved into a smart ‘jog-dial’ which, in addition to the familiar seat recline function, also manages five additional functions including headrest movement and lumbar inflation, as well as a ‘global’ lighting control to set both ambient and reading lighting. The idea of controlling several functions using a single controller has become fairly commonplace in the automotive world, and it helps to reduce button clutter in the suite.
Above: The finish and attention to detail in the ‘jog dial’ is tremendous
A similar approach has been taken with the in-flight entertainment console, which is now a smart and attractive touchscreen handset which resembles a modern smartphone. During flight, the handset can be docked so that customers can use it as a second screen, being able to watch the moving map on the handset and a movie on the 23in fixed IFE display, for example.
There have been several stowage developments for the Dreamliner suite, which again reflect the changing nature of the items passengers bring on board. For example, a discreet stowage area has been added next to the armrest, which is ideal for holding electronic devices as they charge via the in-seat power. A new locker positioned at eye-level is also handy for stowing for smaller personal items such as tablets, spectacles, passport and washbags. A mirror has also been fitted to the inside of the locker door for personal grooming.
There is also a new ottoman next to the adjustable footstool with enough room for shoes, handbags and personal items, while the personal suiter for jackets and coats is now accessible without the customer having to move from their seat.
Above: With eight suites, the first class cabin is a little more intimate than the airline’s other four-class aircraft, which all have 14 suites
Overall what we love about the suite is that it takes the best of the current first class suites and genuinely moves them forward. The jog dial is a great example of this, as is the familiar twin window feature, which is now integrated with the Dreamliner’s electrochromatic window dimming system. It’s not all high-tech though, with a details like the knurled finish on the reading light, the contrast stitching, metal trims and the quilted upholstery evoking the feel of a luxury car.
The November issue of Aircraft Interiors International will feature further details of the B787-9 First suite,
Passengers can book now to be among the first to fly the airline’s first B787-9 Dreamliner, and indeed its new first class cabin. The aircraft will start flying the London to Delhi route from October 25.