On a clear Saturday evening, Etihad Airways revealed their new livery on their first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at Paine Field. Although the new livery had been previously seen on the airline’s first Airbus A380 just a few days earlier, it didn’t stop Etihad from celebrating and being excited about not only their new design, but also this new aircraft type.
Originally, the roll out of the 787-9 was planned from Boeing’s paint hangar at about 6:45pm local time. However, it was pushed back a bit to let it get darker to increase the dramatic effect of the special lighting.
The delay was okay, since there was a tent set up in almost a living room configuration, with appetizers and drinks being served to waiting airline employees, executives, Boeing representatives, and media.
There was no question that most everyone there was excited to see the plane, and the energy was high.
Before the large hangar doors started to open, a few people spoke about the airline, the 787-9, and the importance of the event. There was a perfect backdrop of the sun setting over the Boeing flight line.
Soon, lights started racing across the paint hangar doors, while loud, upbeat music commenced. The doors slowly started to open and revealed a fog-filled hangar with Etihad’s new 787-9 waiting to be seen.
My first impression: Beautiful. And it seems that I was not the only one. As I shared the reveal via our Twitter and Facebook channels, all I heard were positive things about the design — which has never happened before (there are always some people who hate a new livery design).
Etihad states that the new livery matches up to the vision and heritage of Abu Dhabi, “in a globally recognisable way.” They state that, “The ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ pattern used in the new design reflects the lights and shapes of the Emirate. The designers used the ambient geometry present in the architecture and culture of Abu Dhabi and reinterpreted it with a sense of Arabian modernism which has become synonymous with Etihad and its home.”
The airline says that the Landor-created design was drawn from the different hues of the UAE landscape, such as “the darker sands of the Liwa desert and those of the Northern Emirates.” The inspiriation didn’t just come from the landscape, but also from the “modern Abu Dhabi and iconic buildings such as the soon to be opened Louvre Museum on Saadiyat Island, which has a beautiful domed roof that will refract geometric patterns of light to its surroundings.”
The main colors found in the livery are gold, dark sand, dark brown, metallic platinum, white, off-white, and grey. There is also a bit of red, green, and black used as well. What is really nice is that the main fuselage is not white, but a very classy (and sparkling) pearl color that stood out, even in the darkness.
One concern that the airline had with the redesign was what to do with the crest. In the previous livery, the crest was prominently displayed on the tail. Although it was decided to remove it from the tail, it still holds an important placement next to the main titles.
Another addition to the new design will be adding “Etihad” to the bottom of the planes. This is very similar to what Emirates does with their aircraft. For spotters, this is a good thing, since it makes it easier to identify the aircraft.
Etihad is hoping to move their entire fleet to the new livery within three years. This is very aggressive, considering that they have about 100 aircraft currently in service (including cargo). The quick re-branding won’t be cheap, but they stated, “we believe that the positive impact the new livery will have will far exceed any costs involved in re-painting the aircraft.”
For those of you who are fans of Etihad’s special liveries, do not worry — they plan to keep them around, and even introduce a few new ones.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to board the plane to see the new product inside, but it does sound impressive. Etihad’s 787-9 will have eight First Suites in a 1-2-1 configuration. Each suite wil have a 26″ wide seat that converts into a fully flat 80’5″ bed. Not only will the space have its own 24-inch TV monitor, but also a chilled mini-bar.
The Dreamliner will have 28 Business Studios, also in a 1-2-1 set up. These seats will have a 22-inch seat width and a bed length ranging from 75.7″ to 80.5″. There will be an 18″ monitor with many other amenities expected in this level of premium product.
Finally, the Economy Smart section will have 199 seats, set up in a 3-3-3 configuration. Each seat will have its own IFE system with a 11.1″ monitor. Seat pitch will range from 31-33″.
Etihad currently has no plans to offer a premium economy product.
After the display was over, some of us had the opportunity to sit down with airline executives, including Peter Baumgartner, the Chief Commercial Officer. There was no hiding that Baumgartner was excited, not only for the new design and finally getting close to taking the delivery of their first 787, but also about the future of Etihad Airways.
When asked, Baumgartner confidently stated that he feels Etihad’s Dreamliner product is the best of any other product currently seen on the 787. But he also admitted that getting there was not an easy task.
Purchasing a Dreamliner is a unique experience. Airline customers head to the Dreamliner Gallery and choose from a pre-selected number of interior choices. This is different from most other airliners where an airline first buys the frame, then works with other companies on the interior. However, for Etihad, the choices in the Dreamliner catalog were not enough and they wanted more. This turned out not to be an easy task.
Baumgartner admitted that there were some tough conversations with Boeing, but he is happy with the result.
When I reached out to Boeing to see how they handled the airline’s demands, Julie O’Donnell with 787 Communications responded, “We offer a wide selection of options to meet our many customers’ diverse needs. Those requirements continually evolve and as they do, we work closely with our customers to offer new creative and competitive solutions.”
Although he feels confident that they will take the lead with innovative interior products, he is aware that other airlines are always working hard to complete, and Etihad will need to work hard to stay ahead.
Etihad expects to take delivery of this first 787-9 sometime in December, and plans to inaugurate its first commercial flight during the first quarter of 2015. The airline has 41 Boeing 787-9s on order and an additional 30 of the larger 787-10s on order.