With the long traffic boom extending further, many senior jets are going into shops for upgrades. These upgrades must reflect both airline economic objectives and passenger tastes.
Airlines are increasingly moving toward higher yield, all-economy layouts, according to Tom Mills, marketing executive with UK-based ACC Aviation Group, which does interior modifications among other businesses. “Many of our customers are favoring modern, light-weight seats, allowing them to transition to high-density configurations while making significant fuel savings, which in turn allows them to offset the initial cost of the seats,” Mills adds.
But lighter must not mean less attractive. Mills says with increasing competition, especially among low- cost carriers, many airlines focus on improving cabin aesthetics as a way to stand out. “It is vital to present your customer with a sleek and modern looking cabin.”
And full-service airlines are seeing a drop in demand for first-class service, with customers instead choosing business or economy. ACC is thus seeing a trend among airlines operating widebodies for removal of first-class seats and a shift from three-class to a two-class seating.
Interestingly, ACC is also seeing a shift away from integrated inflight entertainment systems. Many airlines now prefer to offer an in-seat power system instead. “Customers often bring tablets or phones with movies, books, or music downloaded already and use these devices far more than they use the existing IFE systems,” Mills observes. In-seat power allows customers to use their devices freely without power concerns. “A number of airlines are looking to improve upon existing in-seat power and increase the output, which would allow customers to power larger devices such as laptops as well.”
This might mean a decrease in seat-back IFE, but personal devices can still benefit from the C in IFEC, connectivity to the ground via Internet.
On the cost side, Mills says refurbished seat prices have generally been stable, typically around 40-50% the cost of new seats. One reason: wider acceptance of PMA seats has helped to keep refurbishment costs from rising year-on-year. “The refurbished seat market remains robust and competitive on pricing and airlines benefit greatly from these savings.”
ACC Interiors offers refurbished aircraft seats, spare parts for interiors, interior refurbishment, new dress covers, as well as designing, engineering, testing, and certification. Mills says his company has the world’s largest platform of seat availability, offering the biggest range of part numbers and seat series, competitively priced and with short lead times. OEMs typically require six months lead time on seats, while ACC can supply high-quality refurbished seats in as little as six weeks. This is especially important for leased aircraft, which must often be turned around in a few months. And ACC also offers consulting and management for full cabin retrofits.