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An inside job

GAL Aerospace is responding to demand in the regional aircraft cabin upgrade market. Keith Mwanalushi looks at some of the optimised solutions the company has on offer

The aircraft cabin upgrades market is expected to reach $8.9 billion in 2023 and interior modification and retrofits are likely to remain the most dominant application.


In March, GAL Aerospace launched its solution to increase overhead bin capacity for regional airlines operating the Dash 8-Q400 aircraft with classic interiors.


The new overhead bin solution is part of an ongoing product development effort by GAL Aerospace to improve the customer experience and extend the service life of Q400 aircraft fitted with classic interiors by providing a plug and play replacement for the original, undersized bins.

GAL Aerospace sees the regional aircraft sector as a primary target for the aftermarket cabin solutions: “We feel the demand is driven by a combination of increased passenger expectations, the need for increased on-board storage to eliminate the inconvenience of gate checking carry-on luggage, and the airline challenge of service inconsistencies caused by mixing new aircraft with enhanced interiors with existing classic interiors,” Jonathan Cornwell, Vice President, Business Development tells Low Cost & Regional Airline Business.


Over the last few years, the cabin maintenance market has benefited from a higher demand for cabin retrofits from older generation aircraft. The drop in fuel prices have made these heavy fuel use aircraft more economically viable with airlines operating the aircraft longer and extending their leases. This has consequently created a demand for cabin updates and investment. As fuel prices level out, the sector may witness a drop in demand and this work needing to be replaced.


The expectations of passengers today are high. They want to have access to some sort of in-flight entertainment, even if it’s a ‘bring your own device’ system increasingly in use with long haul low cost carriers. While they may not expect as high a seating pitch in economy sections, they do expect enough overhead bins for carryon luggage. All these expectations are pushing the market to innovate in developing new equipment, using new lightweight materials, and finding ways to quickly repair or replace parts.


Insufficient overhead bin space poses a major challenge to on-time departures, frustrates passengers and cabin crew, and causes airlines to employ inconvenient and expensive gate check or plane side services to mitigate the problem. Cornwall says GAL’s replacement overhead bin solution is specifically designed to accommodate standard roll-aboard bags, thereby eliminating the need for gate check service, and greatly improving the passengers’ overall travel experience.


Cornwall explains that the overhead bin solution for the Q400 was developed in response to an identified demand from regional airlines and aircraft leasing companies such, as their launch customer for the project, Nordic Aviation Capital.


Regarding the Dash 8, Cornwall says the enhanced interiors on late model and current production aircraft has created a demand for larger overhead bins capable of accommodating standard carry-on luggage. “As aircraft approach the end of their lease terms, operators and leasing companies are looking for opportunities to competitively remarket and/or operate these aircraft against or in parallel with current production aircraft,” he says.

“The Q400 is an incredibly versatile aircraft that will continue to play an important role in the regional market for many years to come. Our overhead bins and other regional aircraft interior products will enhance the customer experience, reduce the cost for the airline, and allow better service integration during fleet expansions,” added Glen Lynch, President and CEO of GAL Aerospace. “The Dash 8 family of aircraft is part of the fabric of the Canadian Aerospace industry and we are proud to play a role in supporting the global operators.”


GAL’s plug and play, replacement overhead bins are now fully certified with Transport Canada, the FAA, and EASA.

In addition, GAL Aerospace has entered a collaborative relationship with Bombardier for the development and aftermarket retrofit of interiors for the existing CRJ Series fleet. As part of this relationship, GAL will collaborate with Bombardier to enable go-to-market optimised solutions in support of the in-service CRJ Series fleet.


More specifically, GAL Aerospace has received authorisation from Bombardier to supply cabin interior aftermarket support for the new CRJ550 aircraft that was recently launched.


Cornwall explains that GAL collaborates with Bombardier to address requests from existing operators wishing to update, reconfigure, or modify aircraft interiors with solutions that meet current market demands. “Our combined goal is improving customer support and enhancing the overall passenger experience. In addition, we effectively extend the life of in-service aircraft by improving the overall cabin functionality and modernising ageing interiors.”


Speaking on the full scope of works on the CRJ Series, Cornwall says the focus, starting with the new CRJ550, includes the complete line of CRJ aircraft. “The cabin interior solutions touch virtually every part of a passenger cabin including galleys, lavatories, headliners, sidewalls, overhead bins, LOPA reconfigurations, storage closets, window shades, first-class self-service bars, and LED lighting.”


In the regional sector, jets (RJs) have been the main target for cabin upgrades, but is there any significant growth and consistent demand for more turboprop cabin modifications?

Cornwall responds saying GAL’s interest in supporting regional aircraft began with regional turboprop’s and continues today with the commitment to support the aftermarket for the ATR and Dash 8 families of aircraft. “Recognising the high price sensitivity, GAL is currently the industry leader for cabin solutions to these versatile aircraft. We are the fastest and most efficient provider of innovative and integrated cost-effective cabin solutions,” he states.


Lightweight seating

Rising fuel prices have created demand for lightweight materials in the cabin. Nevertheless, some factors which are expected to drive the cabin interior market soon, like fuel prices and environmental taxes, may become restraints in the future. The aim of operators is to increase their efficiency and reduce costs while at the same time enhancing passenger comfort and satisfaction.


Cabin maintenance standards have always been aligned to safety first, however, the industry is seeing an increase in the scope of works for seat refurbishments by airlines as they strive to ensure passenger comfort is met.


To improve passenger comfort, carriers are opting for modern slim line seats on their single aisle aircraft which gives passengers additional living space. There are trends where OEMs have developed innovative seat designs, such as curved seatback and staggered seating, which offers passengers more living space.


For instance, Mexican low cost airline Volaris is to fly weight optimised SL3510 economy class seats, which it hopes will significantly reduce carbon emissions. The seat’s weight-optimised concept scooped the Crystal Cabin Award in the Industrial Design & Interior Concept category in Hamburg. At only 9kg, the seat is around 40% lighter than conventional aircraft seats, making it one of the lightest economy class seats on the market, according to the manufacturer RECARO.


“Volaris selected this seat because it provides superior quality, comfort and design while minimising weight and maintenance concerns,” said Volaris Vice President Holger Blankenstein in a press statement. “By selecting RECARO, we now have the ability to offer our customers comfort and convenience while also flying one of the lightest seats on the market. We look forward to an exciting collaboration with RECARO.”


“With a reduction of components and a weight-optimised seating product, Volaris will successfully save on fuel and maintenance costs,” commented Mark Hiller, CEO and Shareholder of RECARO Aircraft Seating. “Our vision is to go above and beyond to create the best travel experience.”

Elsewhere, Acro Aircraft Seating Series 3 ST+ seat has been selected as part of a fleet wide cabin refresh on the ATR aircraft that the Finnish airline Norra operates for Finnair in regional operations. The cabin refresh is a part of continuous efforts to enhance customer experience and comfort of Finnair customers. Acro has been working to deliver the project in an efficient lead time of eight months and it will be a first delivery for the seat type on an ATR aircraft.


Alan McInnes, SVP Sales at Acro said: “We are delighted to welcome Norra and Finnair as new customers. We have collaborated with the team to develop a customised version of Series 3 ST+ that includes an enhanced leather literature pocket, coat hook, luxurious leather seat covers and bespoke cushions. The space-saving advantages associated with Acro’s unique curved seatback design will provide passengers with superior levels of comfort, especially at the 31in pitch selected for this.”

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