Aircraft Seating Market Heating Up!
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Muhammed Yılmaz

Aircraft Seating Market Heating Up!

Issue 3 - 2020
Aircraft Seating Market Heating Up!

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of passengers traveling by air will reach 7.2 billion by 2035. This means that the number of passengers today will increase by nearly 60% in the next 15 years. The increase in demand is expected largely from the Asia-Pacific region, especially India and China. According to Boeing`s future projections, over 39,000 new aircraft will be demanded over the next 20 years, and about 15,000 of this demand will be from the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, as the number of passengers and aircraft increases, airlines will try to make travel as comfortable as possible, especially for those traveling in economy class. In light of these two key estimates regarding the market, analysts expect that the commercial passenger aircraft seating market will see an average annual growth rate of 9% during 2020-2024. This means the market will grow approximately by US$ 4.7 billion dollars within the specified period. Based upon these forecasts’ experts anticipate that market volume will reach an exceptional level of nearly US$ 13.5 billion dollars in 2026. The global upward trend in air travel is a key factor that also triggers the growth of the seating market. This increase in demand for air travel is attributed to the rapid growth of the urban middle class of the worldwide. According to the Brookings Institute, the number of people in the urban middle class globally will reach 5.4 billion by 2030. Zodiac Aerospace-Safran (France), B/E Aerospace-Rockwell Collins, Inc. (USA), Geven S.p.A. (Italy), RECARO Aircraft Seating (Germany), HAECO Americas (USA), Lufthansa Technik (Germany) and Stelia Aerospace (France) stand out as the major actors in the commercial passenger aircraft seating market. These manufacturers have gained considerable power in the market due to their varied product range from economy class to first class. These companies also have well-equipped production facilities and very effective distribution networks in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. These features are strong enough to make them the most demanded companies in the overall market. Why is the aircraft seating market growing? There are several main reasons for the growth in the seating market. While the increase in demand for comfort and luxury in air travel stands out as the most important reason, the increase in the rate of use of new generation innovative materials is another important factor. Materials such as composites in the design and manufacturing processes of aircraft seats also are another important detail in the growth of the global commercial aircraft seating market. It is possible to define economy class in an aircraft as an area of opportunity where airline companies often strive to place more seats in the cabin in order to increase profits, but in doing so some comfort standards are inevitably reduced such as seat pitch and legroom. The in-flight entertainment system is not available in the overall aircraft for most passengers traveling in this class. Therefore, many airlines today aim to increase the comfort level in economy class by offering wider knee space and legroom as well as better entertainment system options. Qantas, for example, recently replaced seats with a reclining mechanism for more comfortable sleep in the economy class of its A380 fleet. You can considerably increase the comfort of your travel when you move the bottom of the seat forward and tilt the back (to the extent possible). Similarly, Virgin Atlantic renewed the seats of the Boeing 747 aircraft flying from Glasgow, Manchester and London in the Premium economy cabin. The airline placed 21-inch wide seats in their Premium economy cabins and increased passenger comfort. According to analysts, these developments lead to new business opportunities that could bring serious profits. Factors affecting the development of the seating market Areas such as the global increase in the number of passengers and flight traffic, the increase in aircraft deliveries to airlines, the increase in focus on the sensitivity of cabin improvements in existing aircraft, cabin modifications, seat changes, maintenance of aircraft seats, and the developments in after-sales services stand out as the main factors impacting the growth of the market. On the other hand, there are various factors that negatively impact potential growth in the seating market. These include; the limitations caused by regulations in developing economies, bureaucratic procedures created by certification processes, and the decrease in airline companies` profit margins for many reasons. Additionally, there is an expectation by airlines to limit the market growth of in-flight entertainment systems and mobile connections. Which region will dominate the seating market? In the commercial aircraft seating market, North America generated revenue worth US$ 2.7 billion in 2017 and has been dominating the market for a long time. As for many components of the aviation industry, the Asia Pacific region stands out as the region that will make the greatest leap in the seating market in the next 20 years. Market growth in this region will be largely due to the increase in passenger traffic in countries such as India, China, Japan and Indonesia. Airlines in this region have been witnessing significant growth in the domestic travel market, particularly in the last decade. Emerging markets need new aircraft to meet rapidly growing air traffic demand. Therefore, while new airlines start their operations in developing economies such as India and China, where passenger traffic has increased above the average growth rate, considerable seat demand has also emerged for these airlines in their aircraft. On the other hand, the figures show that travelling in the business class cabin has increased in recent years and this increase will continue in the upcoming period. A serious demand increase to the North American region is expected in the next 10 years, which is the locomotive of the sector also for the business class seating market. In Asia-Pacific, it is likely that aircraft OEMs such as Mitsubishi will increase their business volumes and gain a higher market share. Global airlines are increasingly demanding high technology products for the seats they place in aircraft cabins. This, as a result, gradually increases competition among the key players in the market and gives rise to increased comfort for passengers, and an expanded option and reduced costs for airlines. In May 2019, for example, Etihad Airways selected Acro Aircraft Seating to procure innovative Series 6 economy-class seats with an excellent seatback curve, providing passengers immense legroom and knee comfort. Some airlines offer innovative ideas to their passengers. Lufthansa, for example, introduced thinner seats in the cabin, made from mesh fiber for extra legroom for passengers. The highest demand will be for Premium economy seats! For the next 10 years, the biggest breakthrough in the commercial aircraft seating market will emerge in the area of Premium economy cabin seats. This will occur in direct proportion to the demand boom in this segment, as passengers pay less than first and business class seats and have the chance to travel more comfortably than in economy class. Many global airlines are exerting efforts to integrate the Premium economy segment into their cabins. Emirates, for example, is preparing to introduce this innovation in its cabins in 2020. At the Dubai Airshow held in November 2019, it was announced that Premium economy class will be introduced in Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Singapore Airlines has started work in order to reduce the number of first-class seats in A380s and increase the number of Premium economy seats. Lufthansa also plans to completely eliminate the first class segment on Boeing 777-9 aircraft, which will join the fleet. Thus, the highest class on the aircraft will be business class. All these changes present concrete examples of a new trend in all airline companies, where the first-class cabins are replaced with Premium economy and will become more common in the upcoming period. Seats for narrow-body aircraft will be more in demand! In the next 10 years, a substantial increase demand for seats produced for the narrow-body aircraft market is expected. The increasing demand for narrow-body aircraft from low-cost carriers operating especially in developing countries can be shown as the reason for this growth. Low-cost airlines tend to procure narrow-body aircraft due to short-haul flights and lower maintenance costs and this creates a boom in the number of orders that single-aisle aircraft manufacturers receive especially in the recent period. Additionally, the challenges encountered by Boeing with its newest 737 MAX aircraft for the narrow body aircraft market, and its grounding across the world for nearly 1 year has increased the demand for Airbus A320 aircraft extraordinarily, and it has completely upset the market balance. The effect of seat change is unarguable! Leading airlines have critical process management know-how in the periodic replacement of seats. Seats that have been used for a long time are being updated with new generation seats. In other words, the renewal of seats certainly is an important area of focus. Replacing seats in an existing aircraft with the latest technology seats available which are made of smart, advanced and lightweight materials provides substantial dynamism to the market. Furthermore, many airlines make moves to personalize the seats and seat manufacturers carry out activities considering such demands. Modern aircraft seat components such as IFE systems, actuators and seat structures are able to reduce the total weight of the aircraft considerably, as they are made of lighter materials. Therefore, renewals in the cabin with seat changes can significantly contribute toward reducing the airline`s operating costs. Considering that more than 30% of operating costs are fuel expenses, the fact that airlines fulfill such improvement projects in order to reduce costs and maintain competitive power creates a positive atmosphere with a domino effect throughout the sector. A Unique seat for Turkish Airlines` Dreamliner! Economy class seats of Boeing B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, which Turkish Airlines added to its fleet last year, were produced by the Turkish aircraft seat manufacturer TSI (Turkish Seat Industry). Economy class seats will be Epianka model seats produced by TSI in all of the 30 Dreamliner aircraft that are scheduled to join the airline`s fleet. Epianka model economy class seats with 11.6-inch screens are produced by TSI which is a joint venture of Turkish Airlines, Turkish Technic and Assan Hanil established in 2011 to design, manufacture, replace and commercialize aircraft seats and spare parts. TSI obtained the approval of Boeing after passing challenging tests and were handed over to be placed in the aircraft. The new seats will transform the cabin and create a new perspective for economy-class seats with new features focusing on comfort and practicality. The 11.6-inch modern screens for in-flight entertainment system will be replaced with 13.3-inch screens as from 2020 Q1. This will make the Epianka a global leader in providing a seat model that has the widest screen used in the economy class in the entire world. TSI, aiming to reduce foreign dependency with the support it provides to domestic suppliers, continues its design, engineering, production and R&D activities at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport and its facilities in Utah, USA, with a team of 140 people. Delivering seats to Boeing 8 months earlier than the industry average, TSI achieved another success in this respect. The company`s objective, with an annual revenue that is expected to reach US$ 50 million in 2020, is set to double this annual revenue figure by 2023. Having received an order for about 400 aircraft from Turkish Airlines, the company also has agreements with Freebird Airlines, Azerbaijan Airlines, Nordavia Airlines and Nordwind Airlines. Aiming to be amongst the top five aircraft seat manufacturers in the world by 2023, the company also has a target to increase its annual production capacity to 100,000 seats within the next few years. What kind of seats is TSI producing? TSI has the capability to produce different products both for economy and business classes. In economy class, 3 different models, Elesa, Elesa S and Miligram are produced only for narrow-body aircraft. Epianka for economy class is produced both for narrow and wide body aircraft, while Skysofa is produced only for the economy class of wide-body aircraft. For business class seats, only the model Royalux is produced for narrow body aircraft. With its features such as electrically controlled recline capability and leg rest extension, a mechanically operated 4-way head rest, an electrically controlled lumbar support and massage function, a bi-fold in-arm table with sliding and swivel mechanisms, a recess for a beverage glass, a back mounted monitor (15.5”) with tilt mechanism, an 11.6” in-arm monitor (optional), a personal wireless charging module on side pockets, a rotatable privacy divider, a stalk switch reading light on privacy divider, a cocktail table, full provisions for handset, USB, RJU, a seat power unit kill switch, a power supply system, IFE system requirements, and a literature pocket for each passenger, overall it has the same features as its competitors in this field. Epianka started to be used in 2018 by obtaining the necessary certificates for Airbus A321neo and Boeing 737 MAX type narrow-body aircraft. Thanks to the agreement signed with Airbus in November 2019, TSI was entitled to take its place in Airbus’ BFE (Buyer Furnished Equipment) catalog. With the Approved Seat Supplier Agreement, Skysofa and Epianka model economy class seats of TSI are also now entitled to be included in the catalog as of 2020 Q1 for Airbus A350 XWB, A330 and A320 aircraft. The Elesa S model will also be included in the future products section of the catalog. Royalux, TSI’s first Business Class product will take its place in the catalog after the completion of the certification phase

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