Zim Aircraft Seating has closed a contract with an undisclosed widebody customer for its new premium economy seat.

The reclining variant of the new product – the fixed-shell example of which is soon set to take off with Air New Zealand – has seen a high demand, says Zim chief executive Sven Achilles during AIX in Hamburg. “The customer can choose between a more expensive a heavier fixed-shell, or a recliner that has less weight.”


Source: BillyPix

Zim Aircraft Seating chief executive Sven Achilles highlights the value of premium economy seating

However, unlike standard economy, both versions feature additional privacy elements; something Achilles says are a strong requirement of customers travelling post-pandemic. 

Identifying an “attitude shift” among travellers, he says that passengers are increasingly seeking the psychological comfort of having more personal space and privacy; something the introduction of ‘protective ears’ on the reclining premium economy seat provides. Zim is also increasing its use of anti-microbial coatings on plastic surfaces as a response to pandemic-induced hygiene concern. 

“From an airline perspective, the real estate and the revenue you can generate in the [premium economy] area is a strong business case,” highlights Achilles. “Your cash cow might be business class, but if you break it down by square footage, the best financial investment is in premium economy. That’s why we launched two new products.” 

Both the reclining and fixed-shell variants of the new premium economy seats have now secured launch customers, says Achilles, with the widebody buyer to be announced in a couple of weeks.

Zim is at AIX seven months after the seating manufacturer acquired Haeco Cabin Solutions. While the company has “tripled in size overnight” following the merger – rising from 120 employees to over 500, with an additional production facility in the USA – supply chain shortages continue to impact operations, especially concerning plastic elements.

Aircraft delivery delays from OEMs also “impacted [Zim] last year a lot,” although Achilles predicts this will have less of an affect in 2024. He identifies attracting and retaining skilled labour as imperative, saying that both of these areas require “a lot of attention and new thinking” if Zim is to continue building its capacity.