Aircraft Cabin Management editor Satu Dahl travelled to Athens to witness the unveiling of Aegean Airlines’ first A320neo in its striking new livery

    Athens, a fascinating fusion of magnificent ancient temples and modern architecture, is situated by sparkling blue sea and blessed with beautiful sunny skies throughout the year. It’s no wonder, then, that Greece’s largest carrier Aegean Airlines used this as inspiration for its bold new livery and brand identity. The carrier shared the impressive results of this design process with media and stakeholders on 12 February at the reveal ceremony of its brand-new Airbus A320neo aircraft.

    Investing in growth

    Aegean Airlines, established in 1999 as a small regional airline, is constantly expanding its operations and today serves 155 destinations in 44 countries. Following its acquisition of Greek regional carrier Olympic Air in 2013, Aegean has more than doubled its international operations and set a new passenger traffic record last year, reaching 15 million passengers.

    To continue its successful expansion strategy and increase its capacity, as well as renew its existing fleet, the Star Alliance member announced in March 2018 that it is ordering up to 42 Airbus A320neo family aircraft. This number has since increased and the airline is expected to receive a minimum of 46 A320neo and A321neo aircraft in total by 2025, with an option for 12 additional aircraft. Revealed to be the largest private investment in Greece, the order is valued at $6-6.5 billion at list prices.

    The reveal ceremony for the new aircraft and livery featured a dazzling laser show, and was attended by Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who  pointed out the value of the investment for Greece. “The Greek government actively supports companies that focus on cutting-edge technology, respect their employees and adopt sustainable growth practices. It is then that their own growth becomes of value to society. Aegean combines vision with reason and, while flying, remains grounded. This is an attribute that the country needs”.

    Aegean CEO Dimitris Gerogiannis explained that over the next six years, the airline will invest more than $500 million a year in expanding and modernising its fleet. “We have already received our first three aircraft and, by July, we will receive a total of six, which will support our growth for this year. We will take advantage of them starting as early as tomorrow, by adding more than 1.5 million seats to our network, during a very challenging year for airlines in Europe”, he noted.

    “For all of us, the new aircraft represents primarily a platform that enables our people to work consistently towards creating a better travelling experience for our passengers,” Gerogiannis explained, highlighting the significance of the investment and reiterating the company’s commitment for ongoing expansion.

    Created for comfort

    New passenger experience-enhancing onboard features for the Aegean A320neo cabin include USB chargers, personal device holders and unlimited wi-fi internet access. The aircraft is powered by Pratt & Whitney GTF engines and, in the cabin, the aircraft has a new seating configuration, accommodating 6–14 extra passenger seats. The new seats combine ergonomics, reduced weight, extra comfort and modern aesthetics.

    The aircraft, which operated its first flight from Athens to Munich on Valentine’s Day, offering passengers heart-shaped chocolates and with some lucky customers receiving gift vouchers for two return flights to any Aegean Airlines destination, has up to two hours of additional flight time and this will enable the carrier to fly to new destinations further away.

    Aircraft Cabin Management also spoke to Aegean Airlines’ programme manager for entry-into-service for the A320/A321neo, George Govatzidakis to discover the details behind the design

    Equipping Aegean’s new aircraft with the latest technologies for multimedia and entertainment such as USB chargers, personal device holders, wireless wi-fi on board and unlimited wi-fi internet access was essential. The airline says the A320neos will also provide an excellent platform for developing new innovative digital services.

    George Govatzidakis, Aegean’s programme manager for entry-into-service for the A320/A321neo aircraft, says working on the launch was an exciting and meticulous process. “Our aim was to improve the passenger experience and the feel of the cabin, but the challenges when planning new features are, of course, that you’re working with a certain ‘cube’ with limited volume when it comes to space and shape, and new regulations in effect such as HIC – head injury criteria regulation – need to be taken into account.”

    However, this was a great opportunity to evolve Aegean’s cabin design and introduce improvements, Govatzidakis explains. Global travel and transport design consultancy PriestmanGoode was appointed to work with the airline to develop a vision for the new brand. “Everything from logo design, livery, curtains, carpets and items for the cabin came together through great teamwork,” he says. The thought process for planning the new livery and brand identity for the airline involved combining key elements of what Greece is all about as a country – the beautiful Greek sky and seas, historical architecture and the country’s rich design heritage.

    The challenge of keeping a secret

    Govatzidakis says keeping the new livery under wraps until the launch day was tough. “How do you hide several aircraft coming out of the production line from plane spotters throughout the whole process, and maintain the element of surprise? We decided to do it ‘the hard way’, keeping the aircraft covered and out of sight until the reveal day.”

    Suppliers for the two-class cabin include UK-based Sabeti Wain Aerospace, which provided the intricate two-tone leather dress covers for the seats, and Scotland-based Muirhead which supplied the leather for the dress covers. Collins Aerospace supplied Aegean with its Meridian seats; in business class these have a ‘bridge’ feature, blocking the middle seat to provide more comfort and space for passengers. Aegean is the launch customer of the bridge feature, he notes. The airline opted for this choice over its previous solution with a collapsible seat in the middle to provide more operational flexibility. “We believe our business class passengers will respond very well to this new setup.” All the seats recline in both economy and business class.

    The right fit

    The design of the galleys was influenced by the requirement to keep on offering high-quality choices for passengers. “We have always taken pride in our onboard product and wanted to continue offering the same excellent experience. The back of the aircraft saw the biggest change where we managed to fit extra trolleys and stowage, while at the same time taking into consideration crew operations and service flows.”

    Govatzidakis adds that as well as maximising the use of space, minimising weight where possible was also a major consideration during the process. For its in-seat USB chargers, the airline opted for the ‘Ultralite’ product by Astronics which require only one service box per a certain number of seat rows.

    Astronics says the UltraLite system provides up to 30 high-power units per power supply using remotely located zonal supplies. This eliminates the need for a traditional seat-mounted supply, resulting in a lighter, lower-cost system with less impact on the passenger foot and storage space.