Air New Zealand / Inflight Experience

Liberating travellers from the ordinary


How does a small national airline compete with global carriers and become the number one airline globally in service, innovation and creativity, year after year?


The Challenge

The Approach

Long-haul travel is one of the last remaining generic product and price fought consumer categories left globally. The marketplace is littered with similar fare structures, service offerings and cabins rather than offering a compelling end-to-end experience that met both the functional and emotive needs of long-haul travellers. We identified that to remain not just competitive, but to continue to build revenue, brand and customer value we must lift ourselves out of the ordinary and take a leadership position by delivering a customer-driven differentiated long-haul experience that is truly unique in its promise and delivery.

The executive team at Air New Zealand set down a challenge to the design team to design a customer-led innovation approach to the design of their pending 777-300ER aircraft deliveries, that:

  • Delivered a true step change in long-haul travel
  • Provided a 2 year leap on the competition when launched
  • Delivered new revenue opportunities

Due to our goal of a totally integrated program, it was crucial we developed a holistic design strategy that would inform all aspects of the program from cabin environment, seat design development, branding, service through to digital experiences. The design philosophy needed to drive both form and function whilst communicating brand attributes unique to Air New Zealand. The design ‘philosophy’ was developed from extensive design discussions, analysis and user-testing as attributes we all felt was both authentic and deliverable. The ambition was to set a new expression of New Zealand that talked both our natural environment and inventive spirit.

Through customer research we discovered that New Zealand represented an ‘egalitarian’ society - not about classes; open minded people always making you feel welcome; and a young progressive culture prepared to stand tall and be counted on a world stage. We took those insights as inspiration for developing a design expression. ‘One expression regardless of class was a key design principle, from business, to premium economy and finally through the economy cabins. Allowing the products, features and service to differentiate.

The designed experience was made up of a number of key elements - the cabin decor, the innovative SkyCouch, the stylish ‘Inner and Outer SpaceSeat’, Inflight entertainment  soft product through to food and beverage service. All elements were designed within one Thoughtfull-led, integrated design process to ensure that our designed elements achieved maximum impact.The SkyCouch is the result of that thinking and approach and an integral component of the economy passenger experience.  In summary, a cabin that makes a business class passenger feel like they’re travelling First, and premium economy passengers feel like they are travelling business. An overall experience that delivers a much greater sense of value than any other carrier in the sky.

The Outcome

Because of the bold approach to the problem, Air New Zealand was quickly catapulted to the top of the airline industry, receiving multiple awards, including Skytrax and Crystal Cabin.

Air New Zealand also received several Red Dot and IDSA awards for design excellence. The airline has been voted top airline globally across the different cabin classes consistently over the past 6 years, being voted as the most innovative airline in the world.