China’s Shandong Airlines has become the first carrier to accept aircraft seats from Recaro Aircraft Seating’s new production facility in Qingdao.
Delivery of the so-called BL3520-RAC economy class seats to Shandong comes at a time when the aircraft interiors industry is working at breakneck speeds to meet unprecedented demand.
A modified version of Recaro’s best-selling slimline BL3520 seat, the –RAC model has been adjusted with additional features to meet the demands of the Asian market.
“Due to the fact that short-range flights in Asia last several hours and compare to medium-range flights in Europe, the seat features a reinforced foam thickness in the backrest and seat cushion, and has an integrated headrest,” says a Recaro spokeswoman. “The seat reclines up to 6 inches. Furthermore, Recaro considered the design preferences of the region’s customers, for example the seat is offered with a fabric-covered backrest.”
Shandong has ordered about 3,400 units of the –RAC model, which will be installed in 21 new Boeing 737, with the option to equip additional aircraft. The first 737 with these seats took off on its maiden flight last month. “Each aircraft carries 162 passengers (economy class seats),” says the Recaro spokeswoman. “The seats are being installed only on new 737-800s aircraft.”
Recaro Aircraft Seating CEO Mark Hiller says the delivery to Shandong represents an “important milestone” for the new Recaro facility in Qingdao, as the first seat were produced “only a few months after officially opening the facility at the end of 2013 and obtaining certification for it in early 2014”.
Further expansion of the facility is planned, with the ultimate goal of gradually offering the complete Recaro product portfolio from Qingdao to the Asian market.
“Other projects are already in the pipeline,” says Manfred Büchner, general manager of the Recaro location in China. “We are currently negotiating projects with more than 20 airlines in China. Beyond the Chinese market, a number of customers in the Asia-Pacific region have expressed a strong interest in our products.”
Importantly, Recaro will not only concentrate on economy class seats, “but will also supply airlines with our products for the business class”.
It’s not immediately clear when China’s own aircraft interiors products will feature in the Boeing catalog, but the US airframer previously told RGN that it fully intends to offer AVIC-made products on its aircraft. “We anticipate that AVIC-produced interiors products that we are working with AVIC to develop will be offered on Boeing aircraft in the future. These commodities will be designed and manufactured by suppliers, and airlines will choose these items from Boeing’s catalog,” said a Boeing spokesman. “Most of [these products] will be ‘buyer-furnished equipment’, which means our customers will choose what they want and purchase them directly from a supplier to be installed by Boeing.
The global market for commercial cabin interior market is estimated to be worth over $12 billion, but is expected to reach over $17 billion in 2019, according to a ‘Markets and Markets’ report. While the largest share of the market is held by North America, the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Latin America regions are expected to be the “fastest growing” in the coming years mainly due to the increasing number of aircraft orders and increasing air travel in the regions, it says.