Airbus is eyeing a minimum seat width of 19 inches for eight-abreast, premium economy-class seats on its new A350 XWB, and could reveal its selection of suppliers at the upcoming 2013 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.
In April of this year the APEX Editor’s Blog exclusively reported that the airframer had issued a request for proposals to its existing suppliers to furnish premium economy-class seats on the aircraft. Presently, B/E Aerospace, Recaro and Zodiac unit Weber supply economy-class seats on the A350. EADs Sogerma supplies its Solstys business class seat, and earlier this year Airbus revealed that it would add the EADS Sogerma Equinox, Jamco America and Sicma business class seats to the A350 XWB catalogue.
Airbus head of aircraft interior marking, customer affairs Zuzana Hrnkova says Airbus is targeting the next interiors show in April, if possible, to disclose the premium economy seats to be offered on the A350.
The decision to feature an eight-abreast premium economy cabin on the new widebody (with minimum 19in seat width) was taken after participants in Airbus customer focus groups expressed an interest in that particular configuration.
Hrnkova says Airbus conducted surveys with airline participants, “and the outcome was the right seat configuration is eight-abreast compared to nine-abreast for standard economy”.
Airbus is also continuing to explore the possibility of offering a new seat-triple concept on its A320s. The design, tabled earlier this year, entails two 17in-wide seats and a third, 20in-wide seat. Traditional A320 triples measure 18in, 18in, 18in. Operators of the A320 also have the option of selecting a 17in seat to create a larger aisle space to increase turnaround times.
Hrnkova says that if an operate were to choose the new single-aisle triple option, it could install the wider seat across its entire cabin, which would mean 1/3 of that space would feature the larger seats, giving carriers the potential to generate additional revenue at no extra costs. “I think there are a lot of airlines thinking about how to increase ancillary revenue,” says Hrnkova.
She notes that the single-aisle triple concept introduced by Airbus creates a lot of opportunities in that regard for business customers travelling in economy that need extra room, parents with young children, aging people needing more space or the “Rugby man” that would also like additional room.
Presently, there is no launch customer for the offering, but Hrnkova says, “Everyone thinks the concept is interesting.”
Airbus has worked with B/E Aerospace on a prototype of the single-aisle triple seating concept featuring one wider seat, and Hrnkova says many airlines from different countries worldwide have evaluated the product. With the concept still relatively young, Hrnkova says airlines need time to reflect on how they might implement the offering, and how they would position the concept across a single-aisle fleet that might be comprised of different types of narrowbodies.
Noting the single-aisle triple idea is roughly about six months old, Hrnkova says, “We will see with time” how airlines respond to the wider seat offering.