ANA Reveals New A380 Cabins: Nice Seats, Terrible Branding

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I love an airline with a good brand, as it gets passengers excited to fly them, even if they don’t objectively offer the best onboard experience. Over the past few years airlines have started to realise the importance of having a focused brand and target audience, instead of just trying to be the best at everything. For example, even though Singapore Airlines probably offers a better inflight experience, I was more excited to fly Virgin Atlantic premium economy than Singapore Airlines premium economy last year.

The single airline that’s turned around the most with their branding is probably United, with their Polaris business class offering. They turned around and offered a sleek experience that was much more focused on high-quality comfort (with their bedding) with local U.S. touches (lobster mac n’ cheese). Was the execution perfect? No – after a couple of years, we’re waiting on their second Polaris lounge to open later this week in San Francisco. But people actually book United to try their new Polaris product now, which tell us about the power of marketing.

The next airline to market a specific product is ANA marketing their new A380 interiors, and…wow.

a plane flying in the sky

Sometimes I feel like East Asian airlines use more of a lexical field of words with modern, luxurious connotations to market their products, as opposed to words that actually go together (e.g. Asiana’s Business Smartium, Korean Air’s Prestige Sleeper, Japan Airlines’ BEDD dining), but that’s just me.

ANA’s A380s will feature new cabins

While other airlines use the A380 as the crown jewel of their fleet, ANA is using their A380s to shuttle high-capacity routes between Japan and Hawaii, so they’re not trying to offer the world’s best business class product. And I’m fine with that – different airlines use different aircraft for different purposes, and if ANA can fill those A380s, then I appreciate that they’re valuing function over form on those planes.

a diagram of a seatANA’s high-capacity A380 layout

I’m also very intrigued in the various “bar counters” (I’m assuming they didn’t mean “galleys”), as well as the multi-purpose room at the back of economy class. ANA hasn’t said anything about the bar counters, and the multi-purpose room will be a place similar to a lavatory (with a padded seat in place of a toilet), where mothers can tend to their babies inflight.

a bathroom with a sink and a mirror

However, none of the cabin classes seem to have the same products as ANA’s current planes have. Specifically, apart from in first class and economy class, I can’t see a marked improvement in their seats.

ANA’s new first class seats seem sleek and comfortable, and I love the elements of backlighting that the design seems to incorporate.

a computer cubicle with a desk and computer desk ANA Airbus A380 First Class

a close-up of a business classANA Airbus A380 First Class

However, their business class product has shifted from a Vantage-style staggered seat to a Solstys-style staggered seat. For more details on each type of seat, Swiss features a Vantage-style business class seat on their planes, and Hong Kong Airlines features a Solstys-style staggered business class seat on their planes.

IMG_0143Swiss Boeing 777 Business Class

a group of people in an airplaneHong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Business Class

I do prefer the Solstys-style business class seat to the Vantage-style business class seat, though only by a slight margin, so I’m surprised that they didn’t aim for product consistency with these planes. Do these seats just make more economic sense for ANA, given that they could’ve taken this opportunity to go for a radically better high-density business class seat? This new business class seat puts them in line with THAI, Asiana, China Southern, etc., who all have the same type of seat on their A380s.

a row of seats with a few tablesANA Airbus A380 Business Class

Premium economy features a different seat as well, similar to Lufthansa premium economy. I don’t see how much better this is than ANA’s old premium economy seats.

a close-up of a seatANA Airbus A380 Premium Economy

Meanwhile they’ve seemed to incorporate Air New Zealand and China Airlines’ Skycouch concept into their economy class seats, where a portion of their economy seats are provided with legrests that fold up to create a flat space to sleep on. I find it interesting that while their normal seats have 34″ pitch, the COUCHii (more on that later) seats only have 32″ pitch. This makes sense due to the restricted flexibility that the extra legrest offers regarding seat pitch, though ANA will have an industry leading economy class product in terms of legroom.

a row of seats in an airplane ANA Airbus A380 Economy Class

a row of blue seatsANA Airbus A380 Economy Class

How is ANA marketing these products?

As is common for an airline introducing an entirely new seat of cabin products, ANA is marketing these products as ANA HAWAii:

ANA also created a new concept name called “ANA HAWAii.” By flipping the “ii” 180 degrees, it turns into two exclamation points. This symbolizes the numerous excitements that passengers are able to experience including cabin features, and promotions, as well as the grand opening of a new ANA Lounge at Honolulu Airport.

The “ii” also extends to the products, where the Skycouch has been named “ANA COUCHii”. Oh my – while there are a few approaches to airline marketing, this marketing scheme is just cringeworthy, and the above paragraph just strikes me as complete BS.

Is the “ii” meant to be meaningful to anyone? Is the airline expecting people to say “I’m going to fly ANA’s COUCHii product today” much like they’d say “I’m going to fly United Polaris today”? How do you pronounce it? Can people automatically associate “ii” as two upside-down exclamation marks (I certainly can’t)? There are so many things wrong with simply slapping an “ii” at every new aspect of the cabin experience, and it says absolutely nothing about what ANA is trying to go for with their new A380 products.

Apparently the words “kokochi”, “kimochi”, and “kawaii” (comfortable, feel-good, and cute) all end in i’s, so ANA’s Japanese marketing team just slapped an extra i at the end of the former two words to constitute their marketing scheme. “ii” also means good in Japanese, but it just seems so half-assed to draw such shallow parallelisms between words as an allure for people to try a new product. This is so much harder to relate to than, say, Virgin Atlantic’s Corner Suites (which are basically the same thing, except the seats on this aircraft are much newer since Virgin Atlantic got their “Corner Suites” from ex-airberlin A330 aircraft).

Bottom Line

Overall it’s nice to see that ANA is finally acquiring their A380s and making some good use out of them, as these planes will be pretty high-capacity, and feature great products across all cabins. However, I’m really not a fan of this new “ii” marketing scheme, and find it obnoxious more than anything. Regardless, I’d like to be able to fly ANA’s A380 business class (or, um, COUCHii class) one day.

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