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South African Airways recently placed an order for five new Airbus A330-300’s, a twin-engine long-haul aircraft. Despite the airline’s very public financial difficulty, it began introducing the new plane on its existing route network, with the new A330-300 flying from Johannesburg (JNB) to Lagos (LOS), São Paulo (GRU), Washington, DC (IAD) via Dakar (DKR) and Munich (MUC).

With the order, South African Airways, together with seat manufacturers Thompson Aerospace and London-based design consultants Priestmangoode developed a new business-class and economy cabin.

The New Seats

Each business-class seat is 79 inches in its lie-flat position, has 45 inches of pitch and features in-seat power via an international power socket as well as a USB port. These new Thompson Vantage XL seats for South African Airways are visually stunning. It’s great to see an airline using some color rather than the all-too-common grey and navy tones we usually see in long-haul products.

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In terms of the interior design, the patterns, stitching and colors bring a strong presence of modern South Africa into the cabin, similar to how RwandAir features Rwandan-inspired designs in its cabin.

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Let’s take a closer look at the African-inspired patterns that are being integrated into the seat design. The center part of the seat reminds me of Kuba Raffia textiles, a traditional African weaving pattern that dates back nearly 400 years. The design is a unique example of the abstract in African art and has been applied to the new A330 business-class seats.

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From a practical point of view, a great new seat feature is how the in-flight entertainment screen slides out, allowing an iPad or tablet to be placed alongside it if travelers prefer to view the content on their own devices rather than opting for the supplied IFE options.

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Overall Impression

These new seats will transform the business-class cabin to a place full of design, culture and comfort — they’re comfortable, spacious and bound to be very popular with passengers. I also like the new options to place a tablet next to the IFE screen, as the bring- your-own-device trend continues to flourish.

Do you have any plans to fly on South African’s new Airbus aircraft? Let us know in the comments, below.

All photos by the author.

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