Thai's new A330s delayed due to seat problems

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Thai Airways International has had the delivery of five new Airbus A330-300s delayed due to problems with aircraft seats manufactured by Japanese seat maker Koito Industries.

This comes as the Japanese government ordered the Yokohama-based company to review its business operations, after it was found to have falsified safety test results for seats on in-service aircraft.

Problems with Koito's seats have resulted in delays in the delivery of new aircraft to Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) as well.

Thai's VP of investor relations Raj Tanta-Nanta says the airline's five A330s should have been delivered by now.

"Three of them were supposed to come last year, followed by another one in January and another in February," he says.

"We heard that three of the five aircraft are ready, but without seats," he adds.

Thai is hoping that Koito will be able to install the seats within the next two months, says Tanta-Nanta.

"If worse comes to worst, we will have to find a new supplier but that would take another six months," he adds.

The delay to Thai's new aircraft is the latest episode in the fall-out from the controversy surrounding Koito, which has been ordered by Japan's transport ministry to stop the shipment of new seats while it reviews its safety procedures.

Japanese media reports say Koito had fabricated fire and shock resistance test data, by using figures from previous tests.

Up to 150,000 aircraft seats could be potentially involved in the falsification, which reportedly started as early as the 1990s, add the reports.

Officials at Koito were unavailable for comment when contacted. However, the company's president Takashi Kakegawa was reported to have apologised for Koito's actions at a news conference on 8 February.

Koito reportedly has seats installed on the aircraft of more than 30 carriers, but it is unclear if all of them had passed the fraudulent safety tests.

ANA, Japan Airlines (JAL) and SIA say they have aircraft with Koito seats on board, but do not have plans to stop operating these aircraft at the moment.

"We are liaising closely with the ministry and Koito to see what the next course of action is. If there is a need for repairs, we will follow accordingly. However, the ministry has told us we can still continue to use the aircraft," says a JAL spokeswoman.

The airline has 184 aircraft with Koito seats on board, she adds. These aircraft are Boeing 747-400s, 767s, 737s, 777s, MD-90s and Airbus A300-600Rs. Overall, 45% of JAL's aircraft seats were manufactured by Koito.

ANA operates 141 aircraft with more than 26,000 Koito seats, says a carrier spokeswoman.

Delivery of its new 777-300ER aircraft, to be fitted with Koito seats in premium economy class, has been delayed.

Singapore Airlines' 11th Airbus A380, due to be delivered this month, has also been delayed. Koito is supplying the business class seats on the aircraft.

There is no need for SIA's aircraft seats to undergo repairs at the moment, says a spokesman. "If there's a need in the future, we will comply," he adds.