INTERIORS: Airbus tweaks A350 to seat over-sized passengers

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Aircraft seat manufacturers are still working to ensure that the armrests on economy class seats for the Airbus A350 XWB can completely retract back so that airlines can sell two seats to over-sized passengers.

A number of airlines noticed that when you push the armrest all the way back on certain A350 economy class seats, the hinge points "jut forward" so that "you had a bit sticking out that gets in your back", said Airbus vice-president marketing Bob Lange at an APEX educational session.

As a result, the airframer requested that the manufacturers study "moving that hinge point", said Lange, adding that he could not provide an update on "how far they've progressed".

B/E Aerospace, Recaro and Zodiac Group unit Weber Aircraft are providing economy class seats for the A350 and on "two of the three models the armrest is not flush" so those two undisclosed manufacturers were looking into it, revealed Airbus in April.

Their work comes as the issue of large-sized passengers is growing increasingly problematic for the industry. Research conducted a few years ago by Airbus found that comfort "is driven by width rather than pitch", said Lange. Thus, baseline economy seats on the A350 are a roomier 18in.

Asked if Airbus will need to revaluate the A350 catalogue in a couple years as people get bigger, Lange said: "18in is already better than on a lot of aircraft. We only get a certain number of opportunities in the life of an aircraft to actually do something about that, typically with a new cross section.

"You'll find that starting with the emergence of premium economy classes there will more transparency about the width available because the issue today is that the data that consumers are looking for on comparison web sites is not really accurate and doesn't really reflect the product they're buying, but I expect over the next five years or so to see much more of that information made available."