Two or three years ago, with production of airliner programmes ramping up fast and demand for cabin refits soaring, airframers and their airline customers had one obsession when it came to seats: ensuring the supply chain was a robust enough to provide choice and competitive pricing, and prevent the sort of snarl-ups that affected Safran subsidiary Zodiac.
The emergence of several new players – including Lift in the USA, and Acro and Mirus in the UK – has, together with a possible cooling-off in demand, eased some of that capacity concern. While seat manufacturers remain under pressure to deliver on time and at the right price, quality and weight, much of the emphasis has moved to customisation.
Traditional distinctions between cabins and airline business models are blurring. Suppliers, for instance, are being tasked with developing the simplest, lightest, and tightest seating configurations for ultra-low-cost operators, as well as sophisticated hybrid products that help a carrier carry a distinct and passenger-friendly brand through all sections of the aircraft.
Economy-class market leader Recaro – which won a Crystal Cabin Award during AIX 2019 in Hamburg for its latest CL3710 long-haul economy seat featuring an innovative, patented neck-support and a lumbar-comfort – also displayed at the show its newest entry-level product: the fixed-recline SL3710. Airbus is to offer the latter as a factory-fit option on its A320neo.
Sekisui SPI is a major supplier of plastic mouldings to the seating sector – its offering includes its "infused imaging" technology. The company's president, Ronn Cort, says airlines are increasingly keen to customise or segment their economy-class cabins and are tasking suppliers to come up with simple solutions. "They are asking us how they can do this without creating a regulatory nightmare," he says.
Acro revealed at AIX 2019 its simplified Series 6LC seat, aimed at low-cost carriers. The company says it will soon announce a launch customer. Meanwhile, fellow UK start-up Mirus has added TUI as its second operator for its Hawk seat – to be fitted on Boeing 767s – after arriving on the market in 2016 with an eye-catching 60,000-seat order from AirAsia, covering retrofits and line-fit seats on Airbus A320s.
Adient Aerospace is a new name in the business-class segment. Launched at AIX in 2018 as a joint venture between Boeing and German automotive seating provider Adient, the company this year announced Hawaiian Airlines as the launch customer for its Ascent lie-flat seat on the island carrier's incoming fleet of 10 787-9s.
Also in the premium market, HAECO Cabin Solutions unveiled at the show its Eclipse hybrid seat, designed to serve as a premium economy seat on widebodies or business-class product on single-aisle types. Turkish Airlines has asked Airbus subsidiary Stelia to develop a business-class seat for its A350-900 and 787-9 widebodies – the carrier has 25 of each on order.
Another UK manufacturer, Pitch Aircraft Seating, which began trading in 2014, revealed one of the most unusual seating deals of the event. Its PF3000 economy product will be a line fit on the Antonov An-148/158 family. The Redditch-based company is also retrofitting the seat on the An-158s of two Latin American airlines, in an arrangement with lessor SAAL.
Also at the show, Italian seat-maker Geven announced a tie-up with finance company Velantis to offer leasing packages to airlines.
For more news, pictures and analysis from AIX 2019, visit our dedicated event page
Source: Flight Daily News