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Re-Imagining the Passenger Experience in a Post Coronavirus World

Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus.

It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology.

While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with.

This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens.

New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with.

Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise.

More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash.

The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board.

One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited?

The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor?

While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed.

Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards.

There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open.

Stay safe and healthy!

Valour Consultancy

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5303|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/12c51ea9ed7611a127aa27f26be64ef1e9390fd9-scaled-e1585144762134.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="none" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus. It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology. While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with. This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens. New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with. Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise. More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash. The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board. One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited? The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor? While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed. Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards. There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open. Stay safe and healthy! Valour Consultancy [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Press Release: Huge New Opportunities for Aircraft Seatmakers and In-Seat Power Vendors – Valour Consultancy

June 19, 2019 14:30 British Summer Time (BST)

London. A new two-part report from Valour Consultancy predicts strong growth in the aircraft seating and in-seat power markets over the next ten years. The market intelligence firm’s latest data reveals that the commercial aircraft seating market will be worth $4.9 billion in 2028 – up from $3.8 billion in 2018. The proportion of total in-service seats with in-seat power, meanwhile, is set to increase from about 38% to 66% over the same timeframe.

Both markets are set to become markedly more competitive over the next few years according to report author, Craig Foster. “Today, the aircraft seating market is an oligopoly dominated by three companies – Safran Seats, Collins Aerospace and Recaro Aircraft Seating, which together, account for about three-quarters of annual revenues. However, with aircraft OEMs now more open to adding new products into previously impenetrable airframer catalogues and a series of well-documented delays to seat deliveries caused by engineering, supply chain and certification issues, barriers to entry have come down significantly. As a result, a clutch of new players are seeking to chip away at the dominance of the big three.”

“And with airlines keen to avoid their passengers falling victim to so-called ‘low-battery anxiety’ and continued growth in the adoption of in-flight connectivity and wireless in-flight entertainment, the retrofit opportunity for in-seat power – especially in the largely untapped single-aisle segment – will represent an increasingly fierce battleground going forward. 2018 saw Astronics and KID-Systeme generate a combined 98% of total revenues with six or seven companies fighting over the remainder. But with the likes of IMAGIK, Burrana and Inflight Canada all winning sizeable contracts recently, concentration of power is set to shift” continued Foster.

A blurring of the lines between categories as the industry moves away from four clearly-defined cabin classes (economy, premium economy, business class and first class) is also creating opportunities. “Super first class is emerging and mini-rooms, rather than seats, are seen to represent the ultimate in comfort and a way to differentiate top-tier service from an ever-improving business class where suites with sliding privacy doors are becoming more commonplace. Furthermore, premium economy and fully flat business class beds with direct aisle access on single-aisle aircraft will become increasingly important as longer-range narrow-bodies like the new A321XLR and 737 MAX are deployed more frequently. The likely knock-on effect is increased demand for multiple in-seat power options in these more premium cabins” Foster concluded.

Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Future of Aircraft Seating and In-Seat Power” is the newest addition to the firm’s well-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 93 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment. For a full table of contents and report scope, visit: http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/The-Future-of-Aircraft-Seating-and-In-Seat-Power-2019-Brochure.pdf

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4805|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="left" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/business-1031754_1920-1.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_text] June 19, 2019 14:30 British Summer Time (BST) London. A new two-part report from Valour Consultancy predicts strong growth in the aircraft seating and in-seat power markets over the next ten years. The market intelligence firm’s latest data reveals that the commercial aircraft seating market will be worth $4.9 billion in 2028 – up from $3.8 billion in 2018. The proportion of total in-service seats with in-seat power, meanwhile, is set to increase from about 38% to 66% over the same timeframe. Both markets are set to become markedly more competitive over the next few years according to report author, Craig Foster. “Today, the aircraft seating market is an oligopoly dominated by three companies – Safran Seats, Collins Aerospace and Recaro Aircraft Seating, which together, account for about three-quarters of annual revenues. However, with aircraft OEMs now more open to adding new products into previously impenetrable airframer catalogues and a series of well-documented delays to seat deliveries caused by engineering, supply chain and certification issues, barriers to entry have come down significantly. As a result, a clutch of new players are seeking to chip away at the dominance of the big three.” “And with airlines keen to avoid their passengers falling victim to so-called ‘low-battery anxiety’ and continued growth in the adoption of in-flight connectivity and wireless in-flight entertainment, the retrofit opportunity for in-seat power – especially in the largely untapped single-aisle segment – will represent an increasingly fierce battleground going forward. 2018 saw Astronics and KID-Systeme generate a combined 98% of total revenues with six or seven companies fighting over the remainder. But with the likes of IMAGIK, Burrana and Inflight Canada all winning sizeable contracts recently, concentration of power is set to shift” continued Foster. A blurring of the lines between categories as the industry moves away from four clearly-defined cabin classes (economy, premium economy, business class and first class) is also creating opportunities. “Super first class is emerging and mini-rooms, rather than seats, are seen to represent the ultimate in comfort and a way to differentiate top-tier service from an ever-improving business class where suites with sliding privacy doors are becoming more commonplace. Furthermore, premium economy and fully flat business class beds with direct aisle access on single-aisle aircraft will become increasingly important as longer-range narrow-bodies like the new A321XLR and 737 MAX are deployed more frequently. The likely knock-on effect is increased demand for multiple in-seat power options in these more premium cabins” Foster concluded. Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Future of Aircraft Seating and In-Seat Power” is the newest addition to the firm’s well-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 93 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment. For a full table of contents and report scope, visit: http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/The-Future-of-Aircraft-Seating-and-In-Seat-Power-2019-Brochure.pdf [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Despite Densification Drive, There’s Plenty of Space for Innovation in Aircraft Seating

The commercial aircraft seating market is an oligopoly dominated by three players – Zodiac Aerospace, B/E Aerospace and Recaro Aircraft Seating – which, together, control an estimated 80% of the market. With Safran completing the purchase of Zodiac Aerospace earlier this year and UTC Aerospace Systems about to finalise a deal to buy Rockwell Collins, which acquired B/E Aerospace in 2017, one might assume that the mere presence of two of the world’s largest aerospace equipment suppliers would suffice to ensure new entrants desist in their attempts to upset the status quo.

However, with aircraft OEMs now much more open to adding new products into previously impenetrable airframer catalogues and a series of well-documented delays to seat deliveries caused by engineering, supply chain and certification issues, barriers to entry have come down significantly. As a result, a clutch of new players, many of which propose hugely innovative and fresh designs, are seeking to chip away at the dominance of the big three and ensure that the aircraft seating market becomes a markedly more competitive place over the next few years.

Two companies that have benefited hugely from airframer frustration with seat delivery difficulties are LIFT by Encore and Jamco. The former displayed its first prototype seat at the 2015 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg and shortly afterwards, was approached by Boeing about partnering on a preferred seat for new 737s. Since then, the pair have combined to develop two products: 737 Tourist Class Seating and 787 Tourist Class Seating. Jamco, which has a similarly close relationship with Boeing, has gone on to win the business of both Air France-KLM and LATAM Airlines after entering the industry when invited to supply seats to Singapore Airlines when the airline ran into quality problems with fellow Japanese supplier, Koito, several years ago.

And now, a number of vendors with automotive heritage are looking to address the aviation industry’s needs for greater capacity and on-time performance by bringing to bear their experience with much shorter delivery windows and greater variability in the product mix. Auto seat makers such as Recaro and Mirus, for example, have already started successful aero divisions, while the leadership teams at Pitch Aircraft Seating and Aviointeriors cut their teeth in the automotive market. Add into the mix TSI Aviation Seats in Turkey, Toyota Boshoku in Japan and the new Boeing/Adient joint-venture, and you start to get a sense as to the extent aircraft seat designers will increasingly take cues from the automotive industry going forward.

As more and more airlines seek to heavily densify cabins, the race is on to develop seats that unlock hidden dimensions to maximise so-called “micro spaces” within them and create unexpected differences to the overall passenger experience. Acro Aircraft Seating, now part of China’s Zhejiang Science and Technology Investment Company, likes to think of itself as a “spatialist” that approaches seat design somewhat differently than much of the competition. Its philosophy is that comfort is not found in the seat itself, but rather in the space between the seats. This approach has found favour not just with LCCs like Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines, but also amongst flag carriers such as Air New Zealand.

The aforementioned Pitch has a similar ethos and is banking on an appreciation of innovation in marginal gains. To this end, it is offering seats with a series of subtle features that help eek the most out of the space associated with even the smallest of seat pitches. The PF3000 product, for example, comes with a curved cushion front edge to aid passenger access, cantilever tray table with chamfered back edges that obviate the annoyance of tray table arms against knees, and a rear spar that sits three-quarters of an inch higher than competing designs meaning taller people benefit from increased legroom by being able to place their feet on the baggage bar.

Molon Labe Seating offers a somewhat different take on space maximisation. Since unveiling the famed Side-Slip Seat in 2015, it has gone on to develop two additional products and all three share the same underlying staggered architecture where the middle seat sits slightly behind and below the two adjacent seats. This means the centre passenger’s shoulders are offset from the shoulders of the two passengers either side, which provides a greater feeling of space without occupying a larger cabin footprint. It also means those sitting in the middle benefit from a wider seat, which has the added advantage of being able to accommodate a bigger seatback screen. Another distinctive feature of Molon Labe’s seating is a two-height armrest, which aims to eliminate so-called “elbow wars”. On its long-haul seat, “S2”, the lower portion of the middle armrests are sculpted and curve towards the centre to preclude those sitting in the aisle and window seats from using them.

Rebel.Aero has also unveiled a concept seat with a staggered formation. The difference being that the middle seat sits forward instead of backwards. Like Molon Labe, the UK upstart is aiming to speed up boarding times with a design that ensures passengers can get into their seats more quickly. While its rival, with the sliding Side-Slip Seat, has opted to increase aisle width, Rebel.Aero’s approach centres on foldable “booster”’ seats that allow passengers to stand in their own footwell so that others can more easily pass by. As opposed to the standard fixed height, the seat can fold on top of itself – thus creating a child’s booster seat, or a seat at an extended height for taller people.

At the other end of the spectrum with a design that unabashedly aims not to be the most comfortable in its class is Aviointeriors. In 2010, the company came up with the “Skyrider” economy seat – a concept that can increase passenger capacity by 20% thanks to an abbreviated seat akin to a horse saddle. The initial design for Skyrider allowed for a 23” pitch but failed to garner much interest and was never certified. Even so, the company has persevered and at the 2018 Aircraft Interiors Expo, unveiled Skyrider 2.0 featuring the same pitch but with a more sturdy and padded version of the original seat and poles securing it to the cabin floor and ceiling.

Though the latest innovations in economy class seating, by virtue of their slimline designs, weigh much less than seats of old, some companies believe that weight can be further reduced without compromising space. Billed as the world’s lightest passenger seat, Expliseat’s TiSeat E1 was launched in 2013 and due to a patented combination of carbon fibre and titanium, weighs in at just 4kg in a three-seat configuration for Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft, or 5kg in a two-seat format for ATR aircraft. Expliseat has since applied its design techniques to target flights of up to five hours with the TiSeat E2, a successor product devised in conjunction with Peugeot Design Laboratory for retrofit on the A320 family, A330, 737 and 747 aircraft.

Clearly then, and contrary to popular belief, there is still plenty of room for innovation in the last cabin, which no longer deserves to be considered the “forgotten class”. However, it is the premium classes where some of the aforementioned names could, arguably, struggle to gain traction. Here, the barriers to entry are that much higher – mainly because airlines are increasingly keen to make a fashion statement in order to differentiate products from the competition. As such, seatmakers are required to make substantial investments in research and development to come up with a one-of-a-kind customised seating solution for each and every customer – no mean feat for a small fish in a big pond. Nevertheless, those that make a success of their respective economy plays may soon find themselves snapped up by a bigger fish with much more clout.

Valour Consultancy’s forthcoming report The Future of Aircraft Seating and In-Seat Power” considers the future evolution of the seating market in considerable detail. The study is currently in the interview phase and we’re keen to speak with as many relevant companies as possible. Feel free to contact us if you’d like more information on our work in this area or in related areas like in-flight connectivity and in-flight entertainment.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4874|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Economy-Class-Seating-min-1024x717-1.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text]The commercial aircraft seating market is an oligopoly dominated by three players – Zodiac Aerospace, B/E Aerospace and Recaro Aircraft Seating – which, together, control an estimated 80% of the market. With Safran completing the purchase of Zodiac Aerospace earlier this year and UTC Aerospace Systems about to finalise a deal to buy Rockwell Collins, which acquired B/E Aerospace in 2017, one might assume that the mere presence of two of the world’s largest aerospace equipment suppliers would suffice to ensure new entrants desist in their attempts to upset the status quo. However, with aircraft OEMs now much more open to adding new products into previously impenetrable airframer catalogues and a series of well-documented delays to seat deliveries caused by engineering, supply chain and certification issues, barriers to entry have come down significantly. As a result, a clutch of new players, many of which propose hugely innovative and fresh designs, are seeking to chip away at the dominance of the big three and ensure that the aircraft seating market becomes a markedly more competitive place over the next few years. Two companies that have benefited hugely from airframer frustration with seat delivery difficulties are LIFT by Encore and Jamco. The former displayed its first prototype seat at the 2015 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg and shortly afterwards, was approached by Boeing about partnering on a preferred seat for new 737s. Since then, the pair have combined to develop two products: 737 Tourist Class Seating and 787 Tourist Class Seating. Jamco, which has a similarly close relationship with Boeing, has gone on to win the business of both Air France-KLM and LATAM Airlines after entering the industry when invited to supply seats to Singapore Airlines when the airline ran into quality problems with fellow Japanese supplier, Koito, several years ago. And now, a number of vendors with automotive heritage are looking to address the aviation industry’s needs for greater capacity and on-time performance by bringing to bear their experience with much shorter delivery windows and greater variability in the product mix. Auto seat makers such as Recaro and Mirus, for example, have already started successful aero divisions, while the leadership teams at Pitch Aircraft Seating and Aviointeriors cut their teeth in the automotive market. Add into the mix TSI Aviation Seats in Turkey, Toyota Boshoku in Japan and the new Boeing/Adient joint-venture, and you start to get a sense as to the extent aircraft seat designers will increasingly take cues from the automotive industry going forward. As more and more airlines seek to heavily densify cabins, the race is on to develop seats that unlock hidden dimensions to maximise so-called “micro spaces” within them and create unexpected differences to the overall passenger experience. Acro Aircraft Seating, now part of China’s Zhejiang Science and Technology Investment Company, likes to think of itself as a “spatialist” that approaches seat design somewhat differently than much of the competition. Its philosophy is that comfort is not found in the seat itself, but rather in the space between the seats. This approach has found favour not just with LCCs like Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines, but also amongst flag carriers such as Air New Zealand. The aforementioned Pitch has a similar ethos and is banking on an appreciation of innovation in marginal gains. To this end, it is offering seats with a series of subtle features that help eek the most out of the space associated with even the smallest of seat pitches. The PF3000 product, for example, comes with a curved cushion front edge to aid passenger access, cantilever tray table with chamfered back edges that obviate the annoyance of tray table arms against knees, and a rear spar that sits three-quarters of an inch higher than competing designs meaning taller people benefit from increased legroom by being able to place their feet on the baggage bar. Molon Labe Seating offers a somewhat different take on space maximisation. Since unveiling the famed Side-Slip Seat in 2015, it has gone on to develop two additional products and all three share the same underlying staggered architecture where the middle seat sits slightly behind and below the two adjacent seats. This means the centre passenger’s shoulders are offset from the shoulders of the two passengers either side, which provides a greater feeling of space without occupying a larger cabin footprint. It also means those sitting in the middle benefit from a wider seat, which has the added advantage of being able to accommodate a bigger seatback screen. Another distinctive feature of Molon Labe’s seating is a two-height armrest, which aims to eliminate so-called “elbow wars”. On its long-haul seat, “S2”, the lower portion of the middle armrests are sculpted and curve towards the centre to preclude those sitting in the aisle and window seats from using them. Rebel.Aero has also unveiled a concept seat with a staggered formation. The difference being that the middle seat sits forward instead of backwards. Like Molon Labe, the UK upstart is aiming to speed up boarding times with a design that ensures passengers can get into their seats more quickly. While its rival, with the sliding Side-Slip Seat, has opted to increase aisle width, Rebel.Aero’s approach centres on foldable “booster”' seats that allow passengers to stand in their own footwell so that others can more easily pass by. As opposed to the standard fixed height, the seat can fold on top of itself – thus creating a child’s booster seat, or a seat at an extended height for taller people. At the other end of the spectrum with a design that unabashedly aims not to be the most comfortable in its class is Aviointeriors. In 2010, the company came up with the “Skyrider” economy seat – a concept that can increase passenger capacity by 20% thanks to an abbreviated seat akin to a horse saddle. The initial design for Skyrider allowed for a 23” pitch but failed to garner much interest and was never certified. Even so, the company has persevered and at the 2018 Aircraft Interiors Expo, unveiled Skyrider 2.0 featuring the same pitch but with a more sturdy and padded version of the original seat and poles securing it to the cabin floor and ceiling. Though the latest innovations in economy class seating, by virtue of their slimline designs, weigh much less than seats of old, some companies believe that weight can be further reduced without compromising space. Billed as the world’s lightest passenger seat, Expliseat’s TiSeat E1 was launched in 2013 and due to a patented combination of carbon fibre and titanium, weighs in at just 4kg in a three-seat configuration for Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft, or 5kg in a two-seat format for ATR aircraft. Expliseat has since applied its design techniques to target flights of up to five hours with the TiSeat E2, a successor product devised in conjunction with Peugeot Design Laboratory for retrofit on the A320 family, A330, 737 and 747 aircraft. Clearly then, and contrary to popular belief, there is still plenty of room for innovation in the last cabin, which no longer deserves to be considered the “forgotten class”. However, it is the premium classes where some of the aforementioned names could, arguably, struggle to gain traction. Here, the barriers to entry are that much higher – mainly because airlines are increasingly keen to make a fashion statement in order to differentiate products from the competition. As such, seatmakers are required to make substantial investments in research and development to come up with a one-of-a-kind customised seating solution for each and every customer – no mean feat for a small fish in a big pond. Nevertheless, those that make a success of their respective economy plays may soon find themselves snapped up by a bigger fish with much more clout. Valour Consultancy’s forthcoming report The Future of Aircraft Seating and In-Seat Power” considers the future evolution of the seating market in considerable detail. The study is currently in the interview phase and we’re keen to speak with as many relevant companies as possible. Feel free to contact us if you’d like more information on our work in this area or in related areas like in-flight connectivity and in-flight entertainment.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
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