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For an airline looking to upgrade its fleet, picking a new airplane is just half the challenge. Many decisions remain on how to furnish the interior.
"Customer service is what marks an airline at the end of the day," said Kara Gill, a program manager for Air Canada, which has ordered 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. "We need to differentiate ourselves."
Gill and her team recently went on a shopping trip to furnish the galleys of those new airplanes.
Instead of flying around the world to meet with different galley equipment suppliers, Gill and her team travelled to the 787 Dreamliner Gallery, a giant showroom in Everett, Wash.
"We're able to touch and to feel and to experiment with new products that we've never used before. It helps our decision making process so much more," Kara Gill, Air Canada
The 54,000 square-foot (5,016 square meters) facility, designed with renewable materials, brings the major vendors under one roof. At the gallery, airlines can choose cooking equipment, galley inserts, bathrooms, fabrics, in-flight entertainment systems, seats, crew rest and systems.
"Our primary goal in developing the 787 Dreamliner Gallery was to simplify and streamline configuration processes for our airline customers by providing one place to go to see and experience all of the offerings in the 787 catalog," said Dreamliner Gallery Program Manager Patty Rhodes.
"We're able to touch and to feel and to experiment with new products that we've never used before. It helps our decision making process so much more," said Gill.
Over several days, Gill and her team sampled top-of-the-line ovens, coffee makers and chillers as different manufacturers showcased their equipment's capabilities.
Airlines take a full day to analyze exactly how food and flight attendant uniforms look in different lighting schemes.
One supplier highlighted a steam oven's ability to cook salmon and beef roasts without drying the meat. Another supplier touted their oven's user-friendly control panel.
For airlines that care about customer service, everything is considered, including how the food or fabrics look under certain lighting conditions. So there's a mock cabin for them to try things out.
"They basically take half the day to the full day to analyze exactly how their uniforms look in the different lighting schemes, how the food looks," said Mark Larson, a manager at the Dreamliner Gallery. "Every minute detail is very much thought through."
As Gill and her team continued sampling different cooking equipment, they knew they weren't on just another shopping trip. Millions are on the line as their decisions will affect Air Canada's long-haul service for years to come.
"It's a large investment that we are making for many years at a time [so] we want to make sure we make the best decision ... possible."
"It's a large investment that we are making for many years at a time [so] we want to make sure we make the best decision ... possible." Kara Gill, Air Canada
Air Canada is one of 57 airline customers that have ordered 827 Boeing 787 Dreamliners.