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Seating plan

Aircraft seats are the most visible part of the passenger experience. Following the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Keith Mwanalushi checks how the seating industry is responding to the low cost and regional markets
 

Market research analysts at Technavio have estimated that the global commercial aircraft seating market will grow steadily at a CAGR of almost 8% by 2020. 

 

Their report pinpoints retaining customers and brand image maintenance as the primary concerns for airlines, requirements that directly correlate with providing a comfortable aircraft seating environment for passengers. 

 

The vital importance of these requirements has induced airlines to regularly replace and refurbish aircraft seats. According to this market study report, the increasing modernisation of aircraft seating will be one of the major drivers for the growth of this market. Factors such as the recent increase in passenger traffic and the need to meet passenger demands will likely prompt airlines to make significant upgrades to their seating arrangements.

 

It is no surprise that this year’s gathering in Hamburg for the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) was another event with great appeal, breaking new attendance records.

 

“The event was hugely significant to us,” reports James Woodhead, Senior Sales and Marketing Executive at Mirus Aircraft Seating. “The show was about demonstrating that Mirus is here to stay. We generated significant interest at the show as it gives us the opportunity to present our seats to the global market,” he adds.

 

Zodiac Seats, who was also at Hamburg, sees the low cost and regional market as of extreme importance. “It's a dynamic market with many players and platforms, and according to the build rate forecast, this regional market will continue to grow over the next years,” affirms Laurent Stritter, Vice President Marketing and Product Strategy at Zodiac Seats. 

 

Zodiac say that recent successes have leant them a strong leadership position on the regional market and they now have the staying power to maintain this position despite many newcomers. 

 

Low cost and regional carriers represent a substantial part of Zodiac Seats’ business, Stritter says. “We consider the regional market as very key for us and that's why we're in special partnerships with our OEM customers which rely to a large extent exclusively on us for seats supply on their aircraft.”

 

Dr Mark Hiller, Chief Executive Officer and Shareholder at RECARO – the aircraft seating specialists – says AIX 2017 was extremely successful for the organisation: “The feedback from our many visitors was positive and enthusiastic in every respect. What this tells us is that we are on the right path – as a partner to our customers, as a solutions provider and as a driver of innovation.”

 

Hiller is content with RECARO’s announcement of several new orders from airlines including flydubai and Alaska Airlines. 

 

Another highlight was the Crystal Cabin Award – one of the most important accolades in the industry – which honoured RECARO’s ‘Smart Cabin Reconfiguration’ concept, developed in collaboration with Airbus.

 

The concept features an innovation from RECARO called ‘Flex Seat’. Through a simple sliding seat concept, the seat pitch can be increased for passengers when flights are not fully occupied. To this end, Hiller explains that the SL3510 economy class seat for short and medium haul flights may be simply folded up, thefront seat rows pulled back, much like an accordion, to increase the seat pitch. “This results in significantly more space for passengers,” Hiller concludes.

 

Further, he says RECARO is setting new standards in terms of cleanliness and hygiene in the aircraft cabin. Specially coated surfaces on the frequently touched plastic parts of RECARO aircraft seats will offer passengers increased protection from bacteria. 

 

“Because of the antibacterial properties of the coating, 99% of bacteria disappear within three hours,” states Hiller. Additionally, on request, the application of the antibacterial coating is possible on tray tables, arm rests and seat backs, as well as the bridge of the CL3710 long haul economy class seat. “Due to the thin coating application, there is close to no impact on weight whatsoever.”

 

In addition to all this, the CL6710 business class seat can be equipped with different wellbeing features – including heating, massage and various lighting options, which can be controlled via the seat control unit (SCU) or the RECARO App. Impressively, the CL6710 also features an ergonomic relaxed seat position, as well as noise-cancelling headphones which are offered by several airlines.

 

RECARO also presented its Intelligent Seat feature (I-Seat), which enables highly efficient operation and maintenance via remote monitoring of the seat status information. 

 

Regarding the wealth of innovations, Hiller says: “The needs of both passengers and airlines change during the life cycle of an aircraft seat.” 

 

RECARO plans to offer its customers comprehensive services for modification and retrofit projects in the aircraft cabin, as a certified design organisation.

 

By awarding the certificate to RECARO, EASA essentially extended the rights and obligations for the handling and approval of cabin equipment projects to the German aircraft seat manufacturer. This should enable aircraft operators to save considerable time and money.

 

Mirus Aircraft Seating also demonstrated several new items at AIX. The new Hawk LR seat was on show, which features an ergonomic and pressure mapped comfort system to optimise the seat for long haul flights.

 

Woodhead revealed several new options for the Hawk platform – including three different IFE presets – a smart slimline embedded system, semi-embedded tablets, and BYOD. “We also introduced the Vision 2030 concept seat – a concept-only carbon fibre seat weighing just 3.8kg per passenger,” he notes.

 

Woodhead also acknowledges the significance of the low cost and regional carriers market: “They are extremely significant to our business,” he declares. “Whilst we are generating interest from full service airlines, we are receiving the most interest from low cost carriers [LCCs] and even established airlines who are looking to adopt an LCC model.” >>


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