The challenge presented to tangerine by British Airways in 2000 was daunting: “find us the holy grail of airline travel sprinkled with a bit of pixie-dust – and astound us along the way.” It was a turbulent time for the aviation industry: the global economy was lurching disconcertingly, fuel prices had begun to rise sharply and competition in the skies was increasingly fierce. Every major airline was scanning the horizon to locate the point of difference that would give them business advantage. Tangerine’s response to the BA brief was “Project Dusk” – an audacious design solution for their Club World business cabins that would stun the commercial aviation industry, redefine the business market and become a profit engine for British Airways.
‘Project Dusk’ required an understanding of the psychology of the business passenger as much as the practical constraints of an airliner. “Passengers told us they yearned for the freedom to move as they wished,” tangerine CEO Martin Darbyshire recalls. “You look under every stone on the beach and always bear in mind the benefit to the person using it and the business paying for it.” Central to a good customer experience in Club World was the opportunity to get some rest while flying. If you can’t turn in your airline seat you never get the deep sleep necessary to arrive rested. And the key to turning over was lying flat.
The answer, when it came, was groundbreaking and redefined the design of aircraft interiors; the now world famous and fully patented yin-yang approach. Instead of all passengers facing the front of the cabin, seats were paired in a forward/rearward formation. “No one had ever considered arranging cabin space in this way,” says Creative Director Matt Round. “It gave BA a fully flat six-foot bed in business class while still keeping eight seats abreast.” BA customers fell in love with the lounge in the sky. The cabin crew championed it. The company saw a return on its investment within 12 months.
On the back of that award-winning success, we were asked to re-design the business class cabins five years later. A tiny change to the angling of the seat allowed us to increase the width of the second-generation flat bed by 25%, without reducing the number of passengers accommodated in the cabin. When the Boeing Dreamliner was introduced in 2013, tangerine developed a new 2-3-2 configuration – dubbed the yin-yang-yin – for business class cabins in both the 787 and the A380 aircraft.
The design story
The client says:
"We regard tangerine as an agency at the very pinnacle of cabin and seat design and we’ve had a great relationship working hand-in-hand with them."
Peter Cooke, Design Lead, British Airways