INTERIORS: Zodiac, Airbus SFE deal causes a stir among rival suppliers

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Airbus's decision to hand the sole galley and stowage supplier contract for A320-family aircraft to Driessen-Zodiac Aerospace has caused a ripple among rival suppliers who believe they will still be able to supply galleys to customer airlines that have enough sway with Airbus, despite the manufacturer's assurances to the contrary.

Under the deal, Driessen-Zodiac will progressively introduce galleys as single source supplier furnished equipment (SFE), replacing the current buyer furnished equipment (BFE) approach. "Airbus's strategy is moving more and more to SFE," says Zodiac director business development Marc Groenewegen, adding that the manufacturer's proposed A320 production ramp-up to up to 44 aircraft a month is a key reason for the shift.

Driessen-Zodiac was one of six suppliers vying for the contract. Despite losing out, rival bidders AIM Aviation and Bucher are confident they will still be able to supply galleys to their existing customers.

"Our understanding is there will probably still be room for alternatives - I'm certain airlines will insist on having their incumbent supplier," says AIM sales director Chris Whetter.

Adds Bucher director of sales and marketing Beat Burlet: "We hope legacy carriers can apply pressure on Airbus so we can continue to do business with A320 operators. Bigger carriers who have invested millions into Bucher [products] and now have to move to someone new might not want to work with them."

But these hopes appear to be falling on deaf ears at Airbus, which has no plans to keep BFE galley models on A320-family aircraft in the long-term.

"Our goal is to progressively turn into SFE all these galleys. For the coming months and years there will be existing commitments to respect but eventually we don't plan at all to keep BFE," says Airbus head of pricing and customisation Régis Borra.

It is understood that Airbus also plans to move to a sole supplier SFE contract on galleys for the A330 and A340, although Borra will say only that "this is something we are considering, but there is no decision".