INTERIORS: Airbus Space-Flex concept could add three seats to A320

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Airbus today unveils its innovative Space-Flex lavatory and galley concept which could enable some A320-family operators to fit an extra three seats on board their aircraft.

The new design replaces the A320's full-width rear galley with a smaller galley together with two lavatories that were previously located forward of the twinjet's rear passenger doors. The space vacated by moving the lavatories rearwards is taken up by a second small galley area on the right-hand side and an extra row of three seats on the left-hand side, boosting revenue potential for airlines.

"It's something we have been studying for all members of the A320 family," says Airbus head of interiors marketing Bob Lange (pictured below). "We are using space in the aircraft that was previously unused."

An added benefit is that because the relocated lavatories are next to each other, they can be easily converted into a single, larger enclosure to provide access for wheelchair users - a facility that up until now has only been available on widebodied aircraft.

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Airbus has worked on the concept with a handful of airlines but aims to use this week's show to gather feedback on its Space-Flex mock-up from a wider selection of carriers. The manufacturer expects to decide in the second half of this year whether to launch Space-Flex commercially, for first deliveries from around 2014, says Lange. The concept would be offered for retrofit as well as to equip new aircraft as it does not require any any structural modifications.

Lange says he does not anticipate the splitting of the rear galley into two sections to adversely impact onboard service provision. "The testing we have done so far with airlines indicates that it's certainly not a problem," he says.

Space-Flex will mainly benefit scheduled carriers operating with two-class cabin configurations as the approximately 30% of the A320 fleet operated by low-cost carriers already has the maximum number of seats allowed, and therefore cannot accommodate the extra three seats.

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"We would offer this as an option - but most carriers would take it up," says Lange. He adds that the tentative 2014 in-service date for Space-Flex could be brought forward "if we see very strong market interest".