El Al Dreamliner

Image via El Al

APEX Insight: El Al’s recently revealed Boeing 787 Dreamliner cabin, inspired by Israel’s landscape, represents a dramatic redesign of the airline’s brand image. APEX Media spoke with El Al and PriestmanGoode, the design firm behind the airline’s new Dreamliner interior, about the tones, textures and shapes that are incorporated into the cabin, from wood grain to diamond, which is an ideal metaphor for the new multifaceted Dreamliner experience.    

El Al collaborated with design firm PriestmanGoode to redefine its brand and onboard experience by blending modernity with a distinct sense of place and belonging in its 16 new Boeing 787 Dreamliner cabins, revealed last week. The airline also used this opportunity to introduce premium economy to its market for the first time.

The PriestmanGoode team immersed themselves in Israeli culture in order to gain a firm understanding of the country’s landscape and architecture, which ultimately influenced the tones and textures of the livery, seats and other elements of the cabin. As Galit Birenboim-Navon, manager of Marketing Strategy and Product Development at El Al explained, “When [PriestmanGoode] found the taste of Israel, the old and the new, the high-tech contemporary and the traditional Israel, seeing Jerusalem and seeing Tel Aviv on the same day, they began to understand Israel a bit better and understand our customers.”

EL AL B787 from PriestmanGoode. on Vimeo.

The diamond pattern, which appears on seat covers, monuments and the aircraft’s livery, was inspired by the interplay of light and shadows on the nation’s landmarks. Birenboim-Navon described it as the “jewelry” that adds a distinctive luxury to the welcoming cabin environment.

The program was deployed on a relatively tight timeline, with initial approval to proceed in November 2015 and four months to prepare the specifications that would be given to suppliers. Daniel MacInnes, associate director of PriestmanGoode, credits El Al’s decision to single-source Recaro seating for all classes of service on the Dreamliner with helping to keep the program on track. This was particularly important because it was the first time the Recaro CL6710 business-class seat would fly with any airline.

The wood-grain, which decorates the credenza of the business-class seat, went through a considered review process. “Our original design from Recaro was a certain color of wood, and it wasn’t in line with what El Al and PriestmanGoode really wanted,” said MacInnes. “We bought a large sample of wood grain, showed them to the owner of El Al and that was the direction for the wood finish.”  Recaro offered guidance on the materials that could be used to deliver the right appearance without complicating certification, working with the manufacturers of the plastic finish to match the wood grain exactly. “It worked really well,” said MacInnes. “It has a really nice warmth to it. It doesn’t look as muted as the one that was on the concept seat.”

To El Al’s new branding, this level of detail was critical. “El Al wanted to be very accurate with the feeling and the touch and colors and the atmosphere that each element would give,” explained Birenboim-Navon. “The credenza is something that we wished that would give an atmosphere of a wooden table, like sitting at home, with the right feeling…everything is delicate and business like.”

“We didn’t just want to develop a seat, we wanted to develop an experience,” said MacInnes. “The great thing that we found is that everyone at El Al, including the owner and the CEO were really invested in the design process. It really moved them. Everyone was included in every step of the journey.”

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.