In this round-up of the prevailing trends in cabin design, director of market development at Cirium Andrew Doyle talks us through how the aircraft interiors and retrofit market can prepare for better times ahead. Meanwhile, Colette Doyle rounds up the latest developments so far this year from ABC International, FACC, El Al Israel Airlines and Diehl Aviation
Staying ahead of the curve
It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to every segment of the aviation industry. The cabin retrofit market, in particular, saw an abrupt halt to activity at the end of March, as airlines entered ‘survival mode’. Both 9/11 and the global recession in 2008 taught us cabin retrofits are viewed as a discretionary, even luxury, spend – especially when demand may take years to recover.
Covid-19 is no different, with 44 per cent of the global passenger jet fleet still in storage as of 26 June. In a recent webinar discussion with Gary Weissel, managing director at Tronos Aviation Consulting, he identified that we should expect to see a 60 per cent drop in spend on aircraft interiors from the original 2020 forecast. Looking further ahead, we are unlikely to see any signs of major recovery until 2023.
Broadly speaking, Cirium’s current data indicates the global aviation industry is heading towards a four-year recovery. As demand for travel remains at a record low, airline exits could mean a large surplus fleet in 2021 and 2022, with roughly 750 airliner retirements a year – some 350 or so more than a typical year.
This outlook is particularly bleak for OEMs. In April, Airbus cut production on its single-aisle line by a third, to a rate of just 40 aircraft a month. But because of the surplus fleet, OEM production rates could see further cuts in 2021, with no significant ramp-up in production until 2023 at the earliest.
While airlines are turning their focus towards operational requirements, some interior components will remain indispensable. According to Tronos, the global spend is predicted to be split with 43 per cent on seats, 20 per cent on IFEC, 10 per cent on soft goods and the remainder on other structures.
With so much at stake, there’s no time to wait for information from airlines to develop a recovery plan. It is more important than ever to stay ahead of competitors using data insights and analytics to build a pipeline of leads and prepare for a return in demand.
First of all, accurate fleet data can help OEMs research aircraft by lease-end date and operator to find assets that require retrofitting in the next one, two or five years. Cirium’s datasets go into even more detail on the market, with information on order backlogs, or on current seat OEM or IFE providers for each passenger jet.
This can be fused with detailed schedules data to see when airlines expect to fly certain aircraft, as well as with airframe utilisation data to monitor what aircraft carriers actually flew by individual manufacturer’s serial number.
When demand in the aircraft interiors and retrofit market does recover, accurate data and analytics will be key to staying ahead of the curve.
ABC reshapes the concept of comfort
Italian design firm ABC International is aiming to redefine the comfort associated with on-board seating with its new Boom headrest. The headrest can be adjusted to various positions as desired throughout the flight, providing full support for the neck and nape, meaning that passengers no longer need to carry orthopaedic pillows on board.
A multi-functional mechanism within the headrest, called the ‘gooseneck’, provides the user with a choice of neck and head support options in-flight that can be accessed by applying a light pressure on the arms of the seat.
Weight is another essential key aeronautic design factor that needs to be taken into consideration. In order to create what it is calling “the lightest headrest in the market”, ABC used state-of-the-art materials and processes. The Boom headrest is is manufactured in aluminium alloy, with steel and polyamide inserts, which is designed to grant long-life functionality, integrity and uniformity, despite the intensive use of the mechanism.
Accentuating brand values
Another ABC International project involved working with Irish legacy airline Aer Lingus to install cabin branding elements on its A330s and new A321neos, following the branding specialist’s design and manufacture of the iconic shamrock symbol. The Irish shamrock has been restyled to underline and represent the Dublin-based carrier’s values of modernity, confidence and strength.
ABC International’s collaboration with Aer Lingus began on the A330s as a branding project, with the aim of refreshing the interiors on long-haul routes. The successful outcome of this project led the carrier to extend the branding to its A321neo fleet with a different-sized shamrock, again designed and manufactured by ABC International.
Based on Factory Design’s new Shamrock design guidelines, ABC International translated the brand image into an airworthy product compliant with the aviation environment and ready to be installed on board.
The newly designed shamrock has been installed on 14 A330 and eight A321 aircraft and approximately 30 branding elements have been manufactured and delivered to date.
Breaking down barriers
Aerospace technology company FACC has introduced Lav4all, a 100 per cent, barrier-free aircraft lavatory available for retrofitting that offers more internal space without taking up extra room on board the aircraft. The new facility caters for the well-being of all passengers, including those with special needs.
Aircraft lavatories are sensitive pieces of interior equipment and people with limited mobility, or other impairments such as poor eyesight or hearing difficulties, often find them difficult, or even impossible, to use during a flight. The Lav4all aims to address this issue by offering improved accessibility, increased space and enhanced ease of use, meaning the facilities can be used with less stress and more dignity.
One brand new feature is the way the door opens at a right angle, which blocks off the view from the aisle, affording more privacy. As soon as the door is closed, other passengers and crew can enter the galley again.
Product development experts at FACC worked with external partners, including Netwiss OG, Rodlauer Consulting, TU Wien, Raltec research group, FH Joanneum and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency, to offer a more generous lavatory area, while ensuring that the maximum on-board seat capacity and size of the galley remain unchanged.
Lav4all has initially been developed as a retrofit solution for the A3SA aircraft family; the company says that solutions for additional aircraft types flying short, medium and long-haul routes will soon follow.
All change at El Al
El Al, Irael’s national airline, recently renovated and altered the configuration of 13 Boeing 737-800 aircraft in its fleet. Renewal and changes in the aircraft’s interior include new seats in business and economy class; a redesign and replacement of partitions, carpets and curtains; and the swapping of fluorescent lighting for bluish LEDs.
In addition, the airline has added a varied selection of on-demand entertainment content via the DreamStream streaming system available on passengers’ personal devices, with charging outlets and a stand for tablets and smartphones on every seat. Upper storage bins have been upgraded for new ones that can hold extra hand baggage.
Installation of new seats
Economy class offers 150 new Meridian seats manufactured by Collins Aerospace. Featuring an additional row of 18 ‘preferred’ seats, premium passengers who have purchased a ticket upgrade can enjoy expanded comfort.
The remaining economy class seats offer a pitch of 29-30 inches and a recline of three inches. The use of ergonomic, advance geometry seats is said to afford “an enhanced experience” as compared to the earlier configuration.
The newly introduced Silhouette Move cabin divider enables maximum recline of the backrest for passengers in the last row of business class. Due to the fact the partition does not go all the way to the floor, it provides improved legroom and under-seat stowage for passengers in the first row of economy class. According to the airline, El Al is the first carrier to install such a partition on its aircraft.
Flying with confidence
In the wake of the ongoing corona pandemic, Diehl Aviation is stepping up its efforts to improve hygiene standards in aircraft cabins, aimed at making post-Covid 19 flying safe, secure and sound.
The company has launched a product innovation initiative, dubbed the Cabin Confidence Concept, to address the operational challenges that airlines are facing in the post-coronavirus environment, as well as the health concerns of the travelling public.
Diehl has identified several fields of competence in its portfolio that it says will help to enable airlines to enhance passenger well-being on board. These include numerous touch-free features for the aircraft cabin, particularly for lavatory environments.
The Laupheim, Germany-based company is now working on specific product solutions that will shortly be available to the market. In addition, the company offers features for immediate application such as corona placards for cabin hygiene and hands-free lavatory handles.