Those of you eager to enjoy the state-of-the-art when it comes to passenger experience will have quite a few options to try out in the course of the coming months.
While 2022 brought us Finnair’s innovative and much lauded, non-recline Airlounge business class seat, Virgin Atlantic’s A330neo glamorous Upper Class suites and Delta’s new First Class on the A321neo, 2023 certainly won’t be falling behind when it comes to cabin revamps.
We do not intend to present here an exhaustive list of every single cabin upgrade currently in the works, but we have compiled a list of what we think are five of the most significant and thorough aircraft cabin refits that you will be able to enjoy at some point this year.
This is, possibly, the single largest (in dollar terms) cabin refit program to date anywhere in the world. The Dubai-based carrier is spending $2B in a major effort to upgrade the interiors of its entire A380 (so much for the early rumors of the A380s demise!) and Boeing 777 fleets. We are talking about 120 wide-body aircraft in total.
This massive refurbishment exercise, which kicked-off in late 2022 and is expected to go on until mid-2025, has already seen the first refitted A380 delivered and entering service in the first days of this year on the flagship Dubai to London route.
- Air France
The first of Air France’s refitted Boeing 777-300ER aircraft is making its debut on January 20, 2023, with a flight between Paris-CDG and New York-JFK.
The new cabin features a business class fitted with 48 seats that have been designed for extra privacy and comfort. The focus of the new Air France business class experience has been placed on what the airline calls the “3 Fs”: fully flat beds, full access to the aisle and full privacy (thanks to sliding doors that allow passengers to be out of sight from fellow travel companions). Each of these seats is equipped with a 17.3-inch 4K HD anti-glare screen and a Bluetooth connection that allows passengers to use their own headphones as well.
Air France has chosen a palette of cold yet somehow elegant (dark blue, grey and white, punctuated by some touches of the airline’s corporate red) for a cabin whose air of sobriety and elegance is enhanced by the use of materials such as wool, brushed aluminum and full-grain French leather in the finishings.
The French flag carrier is also expected to roll out its new, refreshed first class product, called “La Première” towards the end of this year.
Ok, this one was technically introduced in the last days of 2022 (we were there to cover it!), but we would still include it in this list, because, to all practical effects, it has been a new year novelty.
The Spanish flag carrier is calling this the “A350 Next”, because this cabin benefits from the latest A350 improvement package delivered by Airbus.
In addition to several aerodynamic improvements, the European aircraft manufacturer has managed to make the walls thinner and the passenger cabin one inch wider than the previous iterations of the A350.
Iberia has also removed the overhead bins in the central part of the business class cabin, adding to the sensation of space.
This A350 Next features a 3-class cabin fitted with 31 Recaro CL6720 lie-flat business class seats, 28 premium economy and 293 economy class seats, all of them, across all classes, fitted with Panasonic 4K screens.
This hardware upgrade has been accompanied by a comprehensive firm-wide program to refresh the whole passenger experience and onboard service and has also involved an update of crew uniforms and of the gastronomical offering onboard.
If all goes according to plan, 2023 may see the rollout of the much anticipated Allegris premium cabin across Lufthansa’s long-haul fleet.
This cabin refit program is part of a comprehensive product and service upgrade program through which Lufthansa is planning to invest $2.5B all the way through 2025.
Those fortunate enough to fly on the First Class Suites will enjoy ceiling-high privacy walls, the comforts of a meter-wide bed and their own wardrobe.
The corresponding business class, which is already in service in some of the airline’s aircraft, will be fitted to all remaining long-haul aircraft types in the German airline’s inventory. It features higher walls and sliding doors for privacy, direct aisle access and seats that can be converted into a two-meter-long bed.
Economy class passengers will also see improvements, namely, the extension of the Sleeper’s Row product to all new long-haul aircraft, giving people the ability to fold up leg rests and use an additional mattress for rest and sleeping.
Lufthansa Group subsidiary Swiss will refit its Boeing 777 fleet with its version of the Allegris cabin starting in 2025.
In 2022, KLM unveiled its new Premium Economy class, and it is said to be preparing, at some point this year, the refitting of its Boeing 777 fleet with a new business class product.
Sources at the Dutch airline confirmed they are working on a business class revamp, but declined to provide any additional details at the time they were contacted for this piece. Some media reports point to the current 2-2-2 business class configuration, which is already showing signs of its age, likely being replaced by a 1-2-1 setup
This update would provide every business class traveller direct aisle access as well as increased privacy with individual sliding doors. If confirmed, this would align KLM’s B777 business class experience not just with that being currently offered by some of its direct competitors, but also with that available onboard its own Dreamliner fleet.