by guest blogger Jorge de Luis Sierra
Avgeeks might be familiar with the term “Airspace”, but do you know where does this idea comes from and what are the particularities of this branding concept? Let’s go back in time and analyse the birth of this iconic marketing approach.
In 2013, Airbus launched the first flight of the A350. This new aircraft model had a completely diﬀerent focus in what cabin customisation was oﬀering at that time: The introduction of the “catalogue” approach. On regards the interior branding aspect, the customer was able to “build up” the aesthetics of the cabin by “picking off the shelf” already pre-designed branded trim and finish items: decorative foils, coatings, carpets, curtains… that Airbus had already developed, following a setting of neutral semi-cool (nor warm) color palette. This was considerably reducing the costs of the aircraft cabin itself, as the airlines were sticking to an already pre-defined contractually-agreed assets towards the modules selection (galleys, stowage, partitions, lavatories). So for this new aircraft type, in order to remain in this “lower cost” frame, the interior branding was somehow provided by Airbus pre-settings. Of course that this idea evolved with the time, and nowadays there are further possibilities for the airlines, but this concept was the seed of what would come next.
At the 2016 Aircraft Interior Expo exhibition, Airbus unveiled AIRSPACE in parallel to the launching of the Airbus A330’s upgrade on its NEO version (New Engine Option). A wider cabin space with some redesigned features: line-fit LED lighting systems; re-design of the overhead storage compartments (including doors and latches); antibacterial aseptic surfaces in lavatories; and customisable welcome area panels at the ceiling of the main passenger boarding door, were some of the highlights exhibited. But what literally caught everybody’s attention was the super high intensity “pink and blue” lighting scenario displayed at the section of the A330’s mock-up at the booth. Certainly the intention to move towards a futuristic and innovation/ technology driven concept: the aircraft (cabin) of the future.
The aim of this showcase was somehow to strength Airbus’ vision for their interior aircraft space and cabin hard-product. And after the reviews and interests that were generated, Airbus started to develop and enhance the newborn Airspace concept: a relaxing, beautiful, living and inspiring space.
“Relaxing” because of the new ergonomic re-design of the side wall panel lining, where few inches were gained to the cabin – widening the shoulder area on the outbound seat and enhancing passenger comfort.
“Beautiful” because of the design and quality exercises to implement a detail oriented trim and finish approach, having as a referent the baseline of the existing A350 colour palette.
Focused on the “living” because of the enablers in configuration thought for a cleaner, better connected and optimised cabin space.
And “inspiring” because of the Airbus approach to create a consistent own signature, in accordance and in coherence with the A350 product.
The aircraft manufacturer wanted to make recognisable to the the passenger that they were flying “Airbus”, no matter what Airline was operating that flight: the fact that the aforementioned A350 colour palette was becoming the baseline for the A330 Neo’s was also a great conditioning factor.
This company’s harmonisation concept was then started to be developed into a much deeper and committed cross-program and product strategy. So it didn’t take longer until the single aisle family (A320’s and A321’s) was also incorporated into this Airspace approach. Earlier 2021, the launching customer that was completely following the Airspace approach for the single aisle, took oﬀ for the first time.
Since the Airspace branding was firstly unveiled, the strong “pink and blue” lighting scenario mentioned before and that was primarily driving the concept, was deemed into a more gentle and inviting atmosphere, yet futuristic. The cabin enablers that strive for a better passenger experience, like wider bins and more comfort -and noise reduction- assets were implemented cross-program. The sanitary arrangements like the antimicrobial surfaces and “touchless” features in lavatories were also a game changer – specially now on this post-pandemic momentum.
With regards to the aesthetics and finishing, this imposed branding theory could somehow clash with the principles of customisation that each and every airline would like to implement in order to diﬀerentiate from their competitors. But the fact is that Airbus has smartly listened to their customers and adapted this Airspace approach to every single need: Airlines with a high demand of customisation can easily translate their colour, material and finish brand with a cross-program and harmonised methodology; and those airlines which main focus is not precisely on the branding design of their cabins, can get a top rated very interesting high-end quality interior, all in the same product oﬀer.
Jorge de Luis Sierra is an aircraft interior0design and Aviation Branding specialist.