When V Australia took delivery last November of its fifth and, at present, final Boeing 777-300ER, the aircraft's cabin had one subtle but major difference: a new economy seat.
VH-VPH featured economy class seats from Recaro, whereas V Australia's first four 777s (all delivered in 2009) had economy seats from Japanese supplier Koito Industries. Last year Koito admitted it falsified test data on 150,000 aircraft seats and made unauthorised design changes, potentially rendering the seats unsafe.
V Australia dropped Koito as its supplier for the 288 seats in its economy class when Koito could not guarantee it could meet V Australia's delivery requirement for its fifth 777.
"The appearance of the [Recaro] seat is very similar to that of the economy seat in the first four aircraft," a V Australia spokesman says. Costs arising from the change to Recaro were negligible and the carrier is not currently seeking damage payments from Koito, he adds.
Seats for V Australia's premium economy and business class are unaffected, the spokesman says. "The International Business and International Premium seats were never sourced from Koito for any of our aircraft."
The carrier does not plan to retrofit its first four aircraft, but a company spokesman says the carrier will comply with relevant airworthiness directives.
"We will always air on the side of caution where safety is concerned and we will comply with any directives necessary to confirm the relevant economy seats in our aircraft are fully compliant with all required certification standards," the spokesman says.
Last September EASA and the FAA proposed separate airworthiness directives. EASA's proposed AD required affected seats to be replaced within two years after the effective date of the directive if no testing is performed. Additional tests could permit the seats to remain in service for a longer period of time.
The FAA's proposed AD was less stringent and required operators to test the seats and replace them if necessary. Neither the FAA nor EASA have issued a final ruling.
When the extent of the Koito fall-out became evident last February, a V Australia spokeswoman told The Australian the carrier thought the problem was with a different seat. "We don't have any particular concerns," she said at the time.
Today a spokesman says, "Regulators and ourselves...would not permit continued operation if there was any danger to flying public."
"We will continue to liaise with aircraft manufacturer Boeing and relevant authorities to ensure this is done."
Airlines including Continental and Thai Airways had to postpone aircraft deliveries as they waited for alternative seats.
V Australia was one of 43 airlines identified as having potentially defective aircraft seats. The full list of affected airlines and aircraft can be found here.