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Aviation News Aircraft Interiors 2019: The current major cabin upgrade programmes

Aircraft Interiors 2019: The current major cabin upgrade programmes

Romain Guillot and Emilie Drab
11 APR 2019 | 1829 words
Aircraft Interiors 2019: The current major cabin upgrade programmes
As the twentieth edition of Aircraft Interiors Expo opens in Hamburg from 2nd to 4th April, Le Journal de l'Aviation casts its eye over the main cabin upgrade programmes currently being implemented around the world.

Delta Air Lines
Last year, America's Delta started to modify the cabins of its 18 Boeing 777-200ERs and -200LRs to enable them to accommodate their new Business seats (Delta One Suites - Thomson Aero Vantage XL seat) and premium economy seats (Delta Premium Select - Collins Aerospace MiQ seat), two products which emerged with the arrival of its A350-900s. Two thirds of these planes are still due to be modified by the end of the year. The project costs are estimated at 100 million dollars.

United Airlines
After the introduction of its new Polaris business class (Optima from Safran Seats - ex-Zodiac) during the reception of its first 777-300ERs in 2017, United had just introduced a full premium economy class (Premium Plus - Collins Aerospace MiQ seat) on some of its 777s (retrofit) and its new 787-10s (linefit). The installation will cover the majority of its 777s (-200ERs and -300ERs) and some 767-300ERs. Its 787-8s and -9s are not affected for the moment. Note that the American airline has also started refitting the three Boeing 767-300ERs it bought from Hawaiian The modifications are being carried out at HAECO in Hong Kong. These planes will now have a 167-seat international three-class cabin (with 99 seats in economy only). As for Polaris, the new seats have now been installed on a third of its 51 777-200ERs and on fifteen 767-300ERs. The Polaris and Premium Plus refit programme is running until 2020.

American Airlines
At the same time as it introduced its new business product offering and set up its Viasat connectivity, in 2017 American Airlines launched the installation of a full Premium Economy class on its long-haul planes, a project which included the retrofit of its 777s and A330s and which has now been rolled out to its 787-8s over the last few months. The US airline is also renovating the cabins for its narrow body aircraft with the installation of new luggage lockers on 200 Boeing 737NGs (Oasis project), a project which was not without issues last year. Similarly, American Airlines is the first customer for Airbus's XL Bins, an integral part of the future introduction of the Airspace cabin on A320 narrow body planes. 300 planes are concerned, with 200 in retrofit.

LATAM Airlines
The LATAM group's airlines have launched a major programme to upgrade their plane cabins to match them to the planes which are currently being delivered. The programme covers more than 200 planes in over two years, with investment costs estimated at 400 million dollars. In particular, the A320/A321s (addition of Recaro seat installation connectivity) and also around fifty Boeing 767s and 777s are concerned. The long-haul planes will be equipped with new seats in business class (Thompson Vantage XLs) and economy class (Recaro), accompanied by new IFE.

Last year, Emirates launched the complete overhaul of the cabins for its 10 Boeing 777-200LRs for an amount estimated at 150 million dollars. The project involves the removal of the First, the replacement of seats in business and economy class, new lighting, modification of the galleys and the removal of central luggage lockers in the front cabin. Boeing, Jamco, Panasonic, Rockwell Collins, Zodiac and ATG are taking part in this project which should conclude before the summer.

TUI Group
TUI will be replacing the economy class seats on its fleet of Boeing 767-300ERs which it operates in the United Kingdom (TUI Airways), Belgium (TUI fly Belgium) and the Netherlands (TUI fly Netherlands) with the Hawk seat from the British company Mirus. Four planes are concerned, with modifications scheduled to start this year.

Qantas is preparing to launch reconfiguration of the cabins of its twelve Airbus A380s. While the retrofit programme's launch has slipped back by four months, it is still scheduled to run from mid-2019 to the end of 2020, with the withdrawal of the first Super Jumbo in July to be relaunched into service in October. The project, which is being supervised by Airbus, will refresh first class with the installation of new covers and also a 27% increase in the Business and Premium offer. The upper deck will lose its small economy cab at the rear and its door 3 will be taken out of service (Cabin-Flex option) to accommodate an additional six business and 25 Premium Economy seats. Business class will be stripped of its SkyBeds in 2-2-2 to accommodate the suites based on the Vantage XL (Thomson Aero Seating) that have already been installed on A330s and 787s, laid out in 1-2-1, providing more space and a wider screen. The lounge at the front will be reconfigured to give the impression of more space and privacy. The A380s will also be fitted with Premium Economy seats (also from Thomson Aero Seating) which are currently flying on Dreamliner.

Singapore Airlines
While the withdrawal from the fleet of the first A380s delivered to Singapore Airlines was major shock for the programme, the presentation of the new cabins on the five new planes which replaced them generated to less surprise. With these planes the Singaporean airline is returning to a 471-seat configuration: six first class suites produced by Safran Seats (which house a bed and an armchair), 78 business class seats supplied by Jamco, 44 Premium Economy seats produced once again by Zim and 343 economy seats from Recaro. The five new planes have been equipped with this configuration and time should now be given over to retrofitting the fleet's fourteen other A380s. In fact, in November 2017 Singapore Airlines and Airbus had announced that the planes would be refitted by SIA Engineering from the end of 2018 and until 2020 with the assistance of Airbus, in charge of the Service bulletin and the spare parts kits. No work has yet been launched on any of them.

British Airways
The British Airways long-haul fleet is practically a constant work in progress. In 2015, part of the 747 fleet was refitted (eighteen planes) and the others are currently being refreshed with a view to keeping them in service until February 2024. Part of the 777-200ER fleet (mainly the planes based at Gatwick) is being densified in economy class (change to ten front seats) during a project running over 2018-2019 and which also provides for an increase in Premium Economy capacity. With the arrival of the A350-1000s this summer, a new business class will be appearing in the fleet, based on Collins Aerospace's Super Diamond seat, laid out in 1-2-1 (instead of the current 2-4-2 dense configuration). The introduction of the A350-1000 will launch a vast refit programme for the whole long haul fleet in business class, a programme which will be starting this autumn with the retrofit of the first two 777-200ERs. The modification work will be upped to a whole new level from 2020 and the entire fleet will be equipped with the new seat when the latest 747 is released.

There are currently two retrofit programmes for Swiss International Airlines. The airline launched the redesign of its fleet of five A430s at the end of 2018, one year late due to delays in certifying the first class seat. It will now be able to move on from an obsolete product and offer a service harmonised with the 777-300ER fleet and a connectivity system. The first reconfigured plane was launched at the start of March with eight first and 47 business class seats, all produced by Thomson Aero Seating, and 168 Zim seats in economy class. The second project will be launched during winter 2020-2021 on the 777-300ERs and will see the installation of a fourth Premium Economy class, which will nibble away at the space given to economy class and will be deployed across the fleet in the medium term. The ten 777s will be the first to be equipped, from spring 2021, with 35.2 million Euro investment.

Brussels Airlines
Brussels Airlines will be putting its first refitted A330-300 into service this month. The airline has decided to refresh the cabins for its A330 fleet and to bring them closer to those of its Lufthansa group partners. It has invested 10 million Euro in each of its six planes. It is keeping the Vantage seats from Thomson Aero Seating but is adopting the Lufthansa configuration, which alternates between individual seats (throne-style) and double seats and is reworking the entire cabin atmosphere to produce an art nouveau effect. The major new feature is the arrival of a full 21-seat Premium Economy class.

Air France
Air France's current major project relates to its fifteen A330s. The planes are currently being refitted (by AFI KLM E&M) with the Best cabins which comprise 36 Stelia Equinox 2D seats in business class, 21 seats in Premium Economy and 167 seats in economy class - both provided by Safran Seats. The refit will increase capacity (the old cabins had 40 Business seats, the same number in Premium Economy and 147 in Economy). The airline has opted for Safran's RAVE IFE, accessible via HD touch screens. The A330s will also be fitted with an antenna to provide a connectivity offer. The first plane was refitted in three months and brought back into service in February, but the process should be sped up as Air France wants to modify one plane per month by February 2020. Total investment is estimated at 142 million Euro. The A380s should be the next on the retrofit programme list, even if three of them are scheduled to be withdrawn from service at the end of their lease. At the same time, the whole fleet is being equipped with Wifi.

JetBlue has long been wanting to reconfigure its A320 fleet's cabins, but the work suffered two years of delays and only started in 2018. The project involves providing higher density for the cabin (where the pitch is reduced from 34 to 32 inches) to add two rows of seats. But it doesn't stop there, as a mood lighting system is also being installed, along with sockets on the seats and larger screens. The in-flight entertainment system is also being enhanced, in particular through the addition of new television channels. The retrofit work should pick up speed in 2019 and be completed within three years.

Saudia is reconfiguring seven of its A320s which fly to Europe to modify their business class. The airline has decided to fit these planes with five specific rows of seats laid out in 2-2 that can be converted to flat beds, providing a pitch of 63 inches and with a 16-inch screen and sockets. They are also being provided with a connectivity system.
Emilie Drab
Assistant editor
Civil aerospace, Air transport

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