Narrowbody cabin reconfigurations are often regarded as simpler and cheaper than they are for widebodies.
Typical reasons are that narrowbodies are smaller, they are often used by low-cost carriers – which prioritize simplicity – and expensive, complicated installations like in-flight entertainment or lie-flat seats are rarely required.
However, changing mission types and preferences among airlines and passengers are challenging some of those views.
Efforts to establish towards long-haul, low-cost travel mean that today’s narrowbodies are operating longer flights, often necessitating in-flight entertainment and multi-class seat offerings.
Jetblue, for example, operates ‘all-core’ and lower-density ‘Mint’ configurations of its A321s on domestic routes and has mooted plans for a “reimagined transatlantic version” of Mint that will feature more lie-flat seats, as well as a long-haul version of its core economy layout.
Furthermore, many short-haul carriers not yet planning longer missions are still ordering larger-gauge narrowbodies, which gives them the option to consider rangier network in the future.
At the same time, connectivity and in-seat power is becoming a priority for passengers, even for short flight. Asian airlines have led the way with such offerings on their narrowbodies, but European operators may soon have to follow suit to stay ahead of the competition.
Another complicating factor is the cabin parts supply chain.
SR Technics’ product sales director for aircraft engineering services, Oladi Olukolu, points out that while narrowbody cabin work is somewhat less complicated than for widebodies, “this creates a false illusion because there are still material lead times that are often overlooked”.
An example is the passenger service units that sit above each seat, while changes to cabin management systems can require reprogramming services from original equipment manufacturers that match the changed configuration.
To find out more about the changing interiors market, see the December Inside MRO.