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Japan Airlines unveils high-tech interiors of new A350-1000 aircraft

By Karla Cripps, CNN

(CNN) — When an airline places an order for new planes, it’s given a great opportunity to boost its appeal among travelers looking for maximum comfort – particularly where long-haul flights are concerned.

Japan Airlines (JAL) has done just that, this week unveiling the interiors of its high-tech new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, “which will become the airline’s new flagship for international service after nearly 20 years,” the carrier says in a statement.

JAL has ordered 13 of the large, widebody planes from Airbus. The aircraft was originally going to enter service in late November, to be used on the Tokyo (Haneda) to New York (JFK) route.

But that timeline has been postponed “due to a supply chain disruption affecting the delivery of components,” says the statement, which adds the new aircraft will likely take flight “before the end of the year.”

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at what travelers will get to experience when they finally do board that new A350-1000.

World’s first headphone-free stereos

In an age when amenities like showers and private suites are common offerings in commercial aviation, it can be a challenge for an airline to differentiate itself from the competition. This often requires them to offer something unexpected.

In the case of JAL, they’ve eliminated the need for headsets in the front end of the plane.

Both first- and business-class cabins of the new A350-1000s will offer what the airline says is the “world’s first” headphone-free stereo. Passengers can listen to the inflight entertainment system using the seats’ built-in headrest speakers.

The technology, created by French aircraft interior designer Safran in collaboration with audio tech company Devialet, was revealed at last year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, Germany.

CNN Travel’s Francesca Street was there to test them out and had this to say about her experience: They are “no replacement for the cocoon-like experience of noise-canceling headphones, but it’s a comfortable set up and feels more akin to the experience of watching a movie on your couch. It would be perfect if you were flying with someone else and wanted to chat and interact as you watched a movie in tandem.”

First-class cabins

The Haneda to JFK flight is nearly 13 hours – a lot of time in the sky – meaning passengers with the funds will be tempted by JAL’s slick new first- and business-class suites.

The first-class cabin will feature just six suites – each with a private sliding door – in two rows of three.

That’s two fewer seats than what’s offered in the first-class cabin on the Boeing 777-300ER jets now servicing many of JAL’s long-haul flights.

Privacy and space were key considerations here, with the airline even eliminating overhead compartments. Instead, each suite has increased storage space and a small closet.

First-class passengers have a choice of three seating modes in their suites. There’s the full sofa, a seat/single bed combo and the full double bed.

As for size, each suite wall rises approximately 157 centimeters (62 inches) in height. Seat pitch is approximately 211 centimeters, with a width of around 123 centimeters. The bed stretches out a comfortable 203 centimeters, while each monitor is 41 inches.

Business-class cabins

The JAL 777-300ER jets currently serving JAL’s long-haul flights have 49 business-class seats. With the new A350-1000, the airline will increase that number to 54, spread over 14 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Despite this jump, JAL says in the statement that “ample spacing has been prioritized to ensure a comfortable and individual inflight experience.”

Among the biggest changes coming are business-class suite doors, offering increased privacy, and the placement of the overhead storage bins, which have been positioned on the window sides only “to create a more open atmosphere,” says JAL.

Size-wise, the suite walls are about 132 centimeters in height and each monitor is 24 inches. Seats have a width of about 56 centimeters, with a pitch of 130 centimeters. When converted into a bed, the length is approximately 198 centimeters.

The airline says special cushioning structures evenly distribute body pressure.

There’s also an electric privacy partition for those traveling with companions and, similar to first-class, additional storage space inside each suite, including a small closet.

Premium and economy cabins

A common question among travelers: is it worth paying the extra for premium economy? Is there really that big of a difference?

In an effort to take away the need for speculation, JAL is pulling out a few new stops. For instance, its adding large partitions between the 24 seats in its premium economy cabin, which will be laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration.

It’s also “the first premium economy class in the world to introduce electrically operated reclining functionality,” says the airline.

The seat width in this section is about 48 centimeters, with a pitch of 107 centimeters.

There’s also an electric leg rest that can be adjusted to sit horizontally for extra comfort.

As for entertainment, the new 4K monitors are 16 inches – 1.3 times larger than the current model, says the airline.

And that just leaves economy class. It’s worth noting that JAL was awarded the “Best Economy Class Airline Seat” five years in a row at the annual Skytrax “World Airline Awards.”

These new A350-1000s are likely a reflection of the airline’s goal to keep winning that title. JAL says in the statement it “has further enhanced the spacious legroom and improved the seating for enhanced comfort.”

Each of the plane’s 155 Recaro-designed economy-class seats has a width of about 46 centimeters – the top end of the industry average – and a pitch of 84-86 centimeters. They are set up in a 3-3-3 configuration over 18 rows.

Meanwhile, the 4k inflight monitors in this cabin are 13 inches and have Bluetooth connectivity, allowing passengers to use their own headsets while enjoying the inflight entertainment system.

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