SANTIAGO, CHILE: LAN takes delivery of its first Boeing 787-800 today – and more significantly – the first 787 to be delivered in the Americas. Contrary to United Airlines’ recent experiences LAN feels that it is receiving the cabin it wanted from Boeing.
During a visit to LAN in Santiago, I had the opportunity to talk at length with the carrier’s brand identity director, Rajmin Hessin, who heads up the cabin definition project for LAN’s new long-haul cabin being installed on both the 787 and 767. There, I gained an appreciation for LAN’s approach to the inflight passenger experience.
Hessin says, “We drew our inspiration from the innovative qualities of the new Boeing 787 aircraft; trends in world design; the chromatic tonalities of South America; the warmth and reliability of our crew and for attention the to detail and impeccable service for which we’re known.”
“Using this inspiration, we reach a creative platform, which impacted the design of the new seats and amenities, as well as the selection of materials for the new cabin.”
Asked why the new long-haul cabin debuted on LAN’s new 767s Hessin says, “Currently we only have one plane with the new long-haul cabin – it’s a 767 – unfortunately the 767 arrived before the 787 – it was programmed the other way around”. Hessin continued, “No decision has been taken yet on whether we will retrofit the existing 767 fleet with the new cabin.”
Staying on Programme
So how did LAN approach the 787 cabin definition with Boeing against the backdrop of severe delivery delays? Says Hessin: “We started work with Boeing to define our new long haul cabin back in August 2010. Defining a new long-haul cabin is normally a 30-month programme – we did it in 24 months!”
“We realised very early on that it was going to be really important to have a very tight programme with Boeing backed up by a strong relationship with their team as well as our supplier’s teams.”
So, for example, he says, “During our 787 cabin definition there was someone from LAN at our suppliers probably 60% of the time. I believe that the presence of the airline in the factories and facilities of the suppliers is very important.”
“Throughout the definition process we also constantly evaluated new suppliers to ensure that we had a second source if we needed it.”
Adds Hessin: “I believe that through this tight programme and with the close working relationship we developed with Boeing that we have got the 787 cabin that we wanted.”
Premium Business Class
Hessin says the number one priority for LAN (based on premium business-class passenger feedback) is seat comfort. “Because the majority of our long haul flights fly overnight, the most important feature for our business-class passengers is rest so we believe we need to have the biggest bed available in the market.”
“The Zodiac Contour Aura is a catalogue seat, it’s something that we absolutely pushed for, the core of the seat and the interface to the aircraft is standard but we fully customised the back shell, ottoman, seat divider, cocktail table and of course the trim and finish of the seat,” says Hessin.
“We were on a 24-month programme so chose a catalogue seat as we didn’t feel we had enough time to develop our own seat. We had a very good experience doing this. We may do this again in the future but of course it depends on how attractive the products, and what choice, is included in the catalogue.”
Well-known airline analyst Henry Harteveldt recently said that these days business travellers expect to have direct aisle access. But Hessin disagrees, saying: “The biggest bed available in the market that still has good ergonomics is a six-abreast side-by-side because in all staggered configurations (for example herringbone) the seats taper and are narrower by the feet. So the only seat that can give you the same bed width from top to bottom of the bed is a side-by-side.”
As part of its 787-cabin definition process LAN surveyed its regular premium business-class passengers and received clear feedback that its passengers preferred the side-by-side seating to alternative staggered seating configurations.
“One major piece of customisation was to customise the first row ottoman so that it contained the IFE screen as on the 787 you cannot install IFE screens in the forward bulkhead.”
Hessin says, “We’ve had excellent feedback from those customers who’ve had the opportunity to try out our new eX2 IFE system from Panasonic. The system features touch screens with a new GUI programmed by Panasonic on behalf of LAN.”
“Dynamic mood lighting was important for us and gives us the ability to vary the lighting scenario dependent on flight phase, time of day but more importantly what the passengers are doing on the aircraft.”
And as a finishing touch to LAN’s new long-haul passenger experience the carrier’s current Bulgari Premium Business amenity kits will be replaced with new kits from Salvatore Ferragamo as from the 1st November.
In economy class LAN has opted for the B/E Pinnacle ‘B’ slimline seat pitched at 31” in a 3-3-3 configuration giving a 16.8” wide seat. The same seats installed on LAN’s new 767s are pitched at 32” as LAN opted to keep its existing LOPA rather than certify a new layout.
Hessin says, “The seat covers in economy will alternate in colour by row – blue and orange – reflecting the chromatic tonalities of South America.”
“The two pairs of outboard seats in the last row are reserved for crew rest on long haul flights and can be curtained off from the main cabin. They feature a pitch of 39” rather than 31” and have a leg rest installed as well as offering a 10” recline instead of 6”.
Interestingly LAN’s new Pinnacle seats have two cup holders – one accessible with the meal table down and another for when the meal table is up. “Our customers tell us that the cup holder is very important to them so we ensured that one was always accessible during flight,” says Hessin. The IFE/seat represents an integration project between B/E and Panasonic, and is the first such model to be linefit on a 787.
Asked whether there was room for a third class in LAN long-haul aircraft Hessin says, ”We did evaluate 8-abreast in the beginning as well as 9-abreast seating in economy – however the economics drove us to decide upon a 9-abreast layout. We felt that the experience and service offering that we provide more than balances the decision to go to a 9-abreast layout.”
“We are evaluating (in the context of the merger with TAM) whether we should introduce a premium economy class cabin with 8-abreast seating – it’s a trend that’s happening in the world – but we haven’t taken any decision yet.”