Klaus Brauer, Boeing’s director of passenger satisfaction and revenue, had two aims for the 787: improve comfort and dramatically reduce passenger seat lead time. “Seats account for the longest lead time for any part of the aircraft where there is an airline option,” he says. “Typically, that is 18 months. I am getting it down to four.”

Brauer has rethought the process whereby airlines select seats. Traditionally, they are given a huge range of options – cushion thickness, armrest configuration and so on. “So with a new aircraft we have to build in the production time for that particular seat and then certify it. With a $140 million aircraft, that means an awful lot of money sitting on the ground.”

Brauer therefore visited all the major seat manufacturers to convince them to produce catalogues with “palettes” of options grouped together. “I have been delighted with the response,” he says. Airlines that want premium-class seating “will simply have to choose 18 months in advance to protect their delivery schedules. It is up to them to manage that. But for the majority we can do it in four and save dramatically on costs.”

Boeing also carried out a study using anthropomorphic models to look at ways of improving leg room and increasing the space in front of the passenger, which has been adversely affected by the thicker seat backs necessary for phones and video screens. “It’s crazy that my laptop has a screen 1cm [0.4in] thick and yet on an aircraft it suddenly becomes 8cm,” says Brauer. “I am talking to the industry about that.”

Source: Flight International