American Airlines has started looking for a new vendor to supply Business Class seats for its Boeing 787-9 aircraft and the remainder of its Boeing 777-200 retrofit aircraft, after grappling with chronic delays from seat vendor Zodiac Aerospace.
“Zodiac has not been able to deliver new seats in a timely fashion according to the terms of its contract,” a spokeswoman with the airline confirmed to RGN, after frequent flyers flagged the change on FlyerTalk.
“Our Business Suite supplied by Zodiac is an excellent product with good reviews, but the seats are far behind schedule and continue to cause significant delays to our plans to improve the travel experience for our customers. We’re confident that selecting a new vendor now will provide enough time for our partners to install a new seat-type on the 787-9, which is scheduled for delivery in 2016,” she explained.
“The 787-8 program will remain unchanged and deliver in its entirety with the Zodiac Business Suite. This will include the last three aircraft that deliver in 2017 after American takes a break for some 787-9 deliveries.”
The carrier has already taken legal action. Zodiac in a statement says its Zodiac Seats division has been informed that American has filed a petition in the District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, “seeking a judicial determination of the contractual situation between them, concerning business class seats, which may lead to the sharing of this activity with another supplier.”
Adds the embattled seatmaker, “Zodiac Seats’ legal advisors are reviewing the filing. Meanwhile, the teams are in discussion with American Airlines to assess the possibility of a negotiated issue. Zodiac Seats regrets this situation, especially since the revised delivery agenda established a few months ago, was met.”
About 13 777-200 aircraft are being retrofitted with the Zodiac Business Suite – these aircraft will have 260 seats, notes the airline. “As we work with Zodiac and a new vendor on seat deliveries, we’ll determine which 777-200s with the 289 seat configuration will have the new seat type.”
Rival seatmaker B/E Aerospace previously said it expects to pick up fresh work as a result of Zodiac’s delays (exacerbated by a 2014 strike at its Texas plant), but it’s not clear if B/E Aerospace will win American’s new business.
RGN previously flagged #PaxEx concerns about the seat on the carrier’s new 787-8, noting that while the seat’s direct aisle access is appealing and praiseworthy, the problem is that the wall at the end of the bed doesn’t allow taller passengers to tuck their feet past the edge of the cushion.
It should be noted that the airline sought a patent on the customized Business Suite; but it’s unclear if the bespoke nature of the seat contributed to the delays.