Asia-Pacific LCCs Weigh Costs Vs Paybacks For Aircraft Mods

Revenue-generating numbers touted by OEMs for airliner cabin modifications are not necessarily produced in reality, a senior executive at Singapore-based low-cost carrier (LCC) Tigerair cautioned.

Revenue-generating numbers touted by OEMs for airliner cabin modifications are not necessarily produced in reality, a senior executive at Singapore-based low-cost carrier (LCC) Tigerair cautioned.

Speaking as a panelist at the Aviation Week Network MRO Asia-Pacific conference in Singapore Thursday, Tigerair managing director Ho Yuen Sang said the real question on cabin reconfigurations was whether there would be a return on the investment.

Sang was responding to an audience question about the Space-Flex cabin modification being offered by Airbus for A320 family aircraft. The mod adds an extra row of six economy seats by using space at the back of the aircraft and reducing the rear galley space.

Tigerair, a Singapore Airlines subsidiary, operates a fleet of A320s. But Sang pointed out that six extra seats does not necessarily mean six extra passengers,

“On paper, it looks great,” Sang said of Space-Flex. “But it’s six more seats, not six more passengers. The question is what is the return? Can you sell those seats? That’s why there will always be a difference between the numbers [of the OEM] and the numbers of the airline.”

Sang also explained that Asia-Pacific LCCs also operate differently from European LCCs.

“For European LCCs, the average flight is one-and-a-half hours, but in this region one-and-a-half hours gets you nowhere, so you need to have carts for food. And duty free is big in Asia – the Chinese buy everything on the duty free cart. But SpaceFlex means you have no room for duty free and food carts,” Sand said,

Another panelist, Ang Chee Keong, head of engineering at Jetstar Asia, another Singapore-based LCC, added that the payoffs of some mods were more obvious than others.

“I don’t like to put things on aircraft just for the sake of it. I think you can see a good case for things like Sharklets (fuel-saving wing extensions),” he said.

“Jetstar was talking about getting new aircraft and putting 186 seats on them versus 180 on our existing aircraft, but then you have a fleet where some aircraft have 180 seats and some have 186 seats. What if one of the [higher seat capacity] aircraft goes down— what do you do about accommodating those extra six passengers [on lower seat capacity aircraft]? So for our [A320] neos, the configuration will be 180 seats with SpaceFlex.”

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