UPDATED: United wants “Fusion” integrated IFE/seats for Boeing 787s


Updated to include Boeing comment.

Yesterday we ruminated about whether or not Boeing 787 customers should demand a retrofit of last generation in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems post-delivery as compensation for the programme’s lengthy delays. Today, let’s talk about whether or not 787 customers should demand new IFE systems pre-delivery. Boeing appears to be under pressure to do just that.

According to a source, United Airlines wants “Fusion” – B/E Aerospace’s slim economy-class seats with Panasonic Avionics’ Integrated Smart Monitor – for the 787 order it inherited from its merger with Continental Airlines.

The “Continental” 787s arrive far earlier than United’s 787s (with delivery of aircraft 45 currently slated to begin mid-2011, followed by delivery of aircraft 46, 52, 53 and 55). United would ideally like Fusion to be linefit to the much-delayed twinjets, says the source.

Could this be part of possible 787 delay compensation to customers?

One hurdle to bringing Fusion linefit to the 787 has apparently been jumped. I hear that Fusion has received “technical offerabiilty” on the 787. Technical offerability? Yes, apparently, Boeing has created this term for seats that need to be quickly added to the 787 catalogue – seats that have been deemed low-risk due to the good standing of their suppliers.

Boeing says:

“The term ‘technically viable’ is a term we use to describe when a seat has met the technical requirements for Boeing offerability. However, seat offerability (including integrated seat+IFE or seat by itself) is based on multiple criteria being met. Meeting the technical requirements is just one of those requirements. Others include meeting design requirements, having strong market interest, matching Boeing strategies, etc.”

One supplier that is no longer deemed low risk is Koito, whose seats are no longer offerable on Boeing or Airbus aircraft due to the Japanese firm’s egregious practices. Koito falsified test results on 150,000 seats in the world fleet. Continental was a major customer of Koito with some 278 aircraft in the carrier’s fleet carrying Koito seats.

In any case, with Continental now tapping B/E for seats on its Boeing narrowbodies, and looking to bring B/E seats to its 787s – and with other former Koito customers banging on B/E’s door – the seat manufacturer is cooking with gas.

Incidentally, United isn’t the only carrier vying to get B/E seats with the Integrated Smart Monitor. I understand that 787 customer LAN is eyeing the same integrated IFE/seat.

Add publicized Fusion customer Delta Air Lines to the list (Delta has opted for the Weber seat integrated with Panasonic’s smart monitor), and you have a fast-growing list for these cohesive IFE/seats.

Continental PR could not be immediately reached for comment. 

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