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SAS Airbus A321 gets a fresh but familiar interior makeover

The first passengers who board the new SAS Airbus A321 long-haul aircraft immediately felt at home. That’s because with just half the time they normally have to design the interior of a new aircraft, the SAS product team ensured that the unique aircraft fits right in with the rest of the SAS family.

The Airbus A321 aircraft is the first narrow-bodied (single aisle) long-haul aircraft in the SAS fleet. Having entered official service on March 27, 2022, the aircraft enables SAS to flexibly meet changing Scandinavian travel patterns while also contributing to SAS’ ongoing climate-impacting emissions’ reduction. The aircraft, in fact, presents the airline with so many unique benefits that SAS was keen to get it up in the sky as quickly as possible. Before that could happen however, it needed to be turned into an SAS aircraft.

“When you buy a new aircraft, the interior is empty,” explains Per Tidéus, SAS’ Aircraft Interior Product Manager. “You have to fill everything up aft of the cockpit door, with things like galleys, stowage, seats, carpets and curtains.”

Tidéus, who is responsible for the interior layout and specifications on all SAS aircraft, works closely with Kristine Mayer, SAS Senior Manager Strategic Product Design. Mayer is responsible for the overall design of all SAS cabins, ground products, livery and uniforms.

And even though Tidéus and Mayer were only given around 12 months to design and fit out the new A321 aircraft – about half the time they normally have for long-haul aircraft – the design duo is a well-oiled machine. They began working together in 2013, when they introduced the latest SAS long haul-aircraft interior design that was launched in 2015.

Creating the unique SAS atmosphere on board

“That is the design that we still operate with,” says Mayer. “So, our initial task on this project was to take the SAS long-haul color schemes and materials and create the same feeling in the new aircraft. It is very important to create the same SAS calm and comfy atmosphere in all our aircraft.”

As well as the short lead time, the main challenge Tidéus and Mayer had for the A321 project was to replicate the feeling of a SAS wide body aircraft on a smaller plane.

“Even though this is a single aisle aircraft, in our mindset we hd to treat it exactly the same way as a wide body aircraft,” says Tidéus. “We want our passengers to feel that they are getting the same value for money,”

The A321 is also unique for SAS because it is a single aisle aircraft with a three-service class configuration – Business, Plus and Go. “All three classes are also unique in terms of design,” adds Tidéus. “Our Plus seats, for example, provide more leg room and, unlike many other airline’s premium economy seats, they are also wider than the standard economy seats.”

A tailor-made interior

A key challenge was finding the ideal Business seat for the A321. “The market wasn’t really ready for this kind of operation with this aircraft type,” says Tidéus.  “There weren’t that many suppliers that could offer a Business seat that really suited this kind of aircraft and give the perfect experience that we wanted to have within the very short time frame. But together with Airbus we could approach approved suppliers that could work quickly and seemed to like the way we worked as an airline.” 

Mayer adds, “The Business seat we ended up with looks really like a very modern SAS product now.”

Another challenge was getting the entrance area right. “We always try to find some elements in the entrance area that give a ‘wow effect,’” Mayer adds. “But we were quite restricted with this type of aircraft because this area is much more crowded. We used a laminate to create a flowing environment, a better atmosphere. It was a new design idea that we used on this aircraft.”

Tidéus and Mayer worked on the interior design of the A321 with Factorydesign, a London based agency that has collaborated with SAS on previous aircraft designs. “Following on from our previous work for SAS, we knew this program was going to be fast-paced,” says Peter Tennent, Director, Factorydesign. “But we successfully aligned this new cabin and seat with the already successful SAS design language through our close collaboration with the SAS team. This ensured that the interior design of the A321 contributes to the consistent, sophisticated and thoughtful cabin interiors across the SAS fleet.”

Efficiency the key in a small team

Tidéus and Mayer also worked with various suppliers including the seat supplier, galley manufacturer, light system company, in-flight entertainment system supplier, seat power outlet supplier and carpet, dress cover and curtain suppliers. Within SAS they work with departments such as Fleet management, Technical, Cabin operations, Revenue and Network.

“We are a small team, but it makes us very efficient, especially at balancing competing demands, which is perhaps our main challenge,” says Tidéus. “Each square meter inside an aircraft is a tremendously expensive area. So you have to utilize it in the most perfect way, to ensure our passengers get the best comfort and service out of it and our cabin crew have a work environment from which they can truly deliver the best service to our passengers. You have to have galleys that match the service that we are going to offer and as many seats in the cabin as possible, but in a comfortable way. So there is a balancing act all the time.”

Mayer adds that there is also a sustainability balancing act. “We think about sustainability in everything we do. And as well as looking for the most lightweight materials that we can, we also need materials that have a good long-lasting quality.”

“We got this one done so quickly because we are creative and quick at making decisions to solve problems,” concludes Tidéus. “We have done this many times. We know exactly what to do. And we are very proud with what we have successfully achieved with this new aircraft.”

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