With new, maintenance-stingy jets coming into fleets, there will be less work for MRO shops to do. But the current health of airlines has some offsetting benefits. Continued traffic growth means at least some older jets are being kept in fleets, requiring significant maintenance. Financially strong airlines tend to do discretionary maintenance that may be deferred when budgets are tight. And financially strong carriers can afford the upgrades for passenger convenience that are less feasible in lean times.
With an operating margin of nearly 25% in the first half of 2017, The Alaska Air Group has been one of the strongest of the generally very healthy U.S. airlines. And it is using its cash to make its high-value business class offers even more attractive.
Alaska will be getting Recaro’s CL4710 business class seats on 32 new 7377MAXs coming into the fleet. The carrier also decided to retrofit 11 current 737s with the same business class seat. A spokesperson says Alaska selected the Recaro seat for both improved comfort for passengers and its utility benefits.
The CL4710 was designed specifically for the kind of domestic and shorter international flights that Alaska flies. It is comfortable and has flexible equipment options. For example, conveniently integrated into the in-arm table is a tablet holder with a power outlet for passengers’ personal electronic devices. The new seat will be installed in first class cabins of the 737s.
Installation will carried out at a third-party facility, and “the work will be aligned to heavy check where possible to minimize grounding the aircraft,” the spokesperson says. The retrofits will be completed within a six-month period from late 2018 through early 2019.
Retrofits, upgrades and modifications are not a bad way for shops to fill their lines as the sheer volume of airframe work is limited by the new-generation of composite-intensive aircraft. They also enable airlines to keep older aircraft flying and attractive to passengers.