Airbus is studying ways to raise slightly the A320 family's seating capacity through changes to cabin monuments, in an effort to boost the twinjet's competitiveness over the Boeing 737.

Under a project dubbed 'cabin efficiency and earning-capacity improvements', a number of cabin changes are being examined, the most significant of which would be to add between three and eight seats. Other improvements being studied include new overhead bins, sidewalls, and ceilings.

"We're looking at opportunities to get more seats by having different galley or toilet configurations, keeping in mind that the limitation can often be the exit-limit of the aircraft," says Airbus executive vice-president for programmes Tom Williams.

Of all the Airbus single-aisle variants, the seating increase would benefit the A320 the most as it currently has the biggest capacity deficit to its direct rival, the Boeing 737-800.

In typical two-class layouts, this runs to 12 passengers but would be decreased to just four if eight more seats were added.

However, the A320's lower certificated exit-limit means that its maximum capacity will remain pegged nine passengers below the 737-800's, at 180 seats.

Airbus is also progressing with the development of the inerting system for the A320's centre fuel tank (FTIS), which is required as part of new safety regulations.

"We took the lead on the single-aisle programme, and have got the process under way," says Williams. The system has already been installed on to a new production A320, and deliveries of 11 FTIS-equipped single-aisle aircraft will be completed this year.

"We'll take the same concept and apply that on the long-range [A330/A340] product," adds Williams.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news