A380 delays come as galley engineering constraint is apparent

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Conspicuous in its absence at the Farnborough air show this week is Qatar Airways’ first Airbus A380, the spring delivery of which was delayed in part because the carrier wants additional work completed on the interior paint, wallpaper and non-textile flooring in the galley area. In order to remedy the latter issue, galleys must “now have to be removed to lay new flooring in a time-consuming process”, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker is notoriously demanding about the jetliners he orders, and their interiors. So it’s not entirely surprising that he is being exacting about things like interior wall coverings and galley floors. But the laborious galley removal work in particular – which Airbus said must be done carefully – comes at a time when the industry is already grappling with a constraint in galley engineering resources, which have resulted in galley delivery delays.

Japanese carrier Skymark faces a six-month delivery delay of its A380 due to problems with interior fittings. Asked specifically whether any galley fine-tuning is impacting the Skymark A380 delay, an Airbus spokesman told RGN, “The industrial schedule of Skymark’s A380s is on track. But we monitor the cabin supplier situation, together with the airline.”

A380 galleys are essentially like working on two A340s at once, and the level of customization is often high. The number of engineering drawings to be reviewed and approved internally at the supplier is quite significant, like a small mountain. And in Europe you can’t just tell people to work longer hours or have two shifts, due to labor laws and unions.

Early this year, Air Lease Corp chief Steven Udvar-Hazy sounded the alarm about constraints in the overall supply chain, highlighting buyer furnished equipment (BFE) galleys and seats, specifically. “There is a huge issue in lead times certification and engineering product testing of BFE galleys and seats, and what we’re finding is that both Airbus and Boeing are imposing longer and longer lead times on the customer to designate specific model numbers of seats and galleys and I think those manufacturers that make seats and galleys are working literally in three shifts a day to meet the demand and it is working at full speed ahead and we don’t see a lot of cushion in that [situation],” he said.

In April, Zodiac Aerospace announced that the financial performance of its galleys and equipment segment was below expectations due to difficulties in its premium galley activity in Germany. Zodiac Premium Galleys – the new name of Zodiac’s Sell unit – provides the A380’s customizable galleys, and “was in fact impacted by some issues with a union, resulting in lower productivity and therefore in delays with some galleys”, said Zodiac Aerospace executive VP, communication & investor relations Pierre-Antony Vastra.

Such challenges can be compounded when a galley supplier is doing HOV (Head of Version), i.e., the very first ship set, for several airlines at once. It’s a bit like the “beta version” when all glitches must be found and tweaking must take place so that subsequent ship sets can be simply copy/pasted.

However, Vastra stressed that to his knowledge, even if Zodiac is delivering some galleys later than the due date, “this was not impacting the delivery of the aircraft itself”.

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