A Space-Flex setback: carrier chooses comfort for crew

Earlier this year RGN learned that a major carrier was evaluating the Airbus/Zodiac Space-Flex v2 lavatory/galley option and had less than stellar overall impressions of the product. The airline suggested that “no group other than finance was enthusiastic about it”. RGN has now confirmed that for this airline, “Zodiac space galley for the A320 has been killed, at least for the time being.”

Kontron NOW - VIDEO Avionics_300x300_watchVideoWhile Zodiac and Airbus – partners on V2 – may be disappointed to lose out on the order for 100+ cabin retrofits, the move should keep passengers and inflight crew happy. And both parties are significant when it comes to such decisions.

Most of the objections previously disclosed to RGN about the Space-Flex v2 offering were related to catering and crew safety challenges. Interestingly, Delta Air Lines recently acknowledged that certain changes to its cabin configurations were bad for the crew and the carrier is reversing course. This was the first significant public nod to the importance of recognizing crew needs in cabin layout decisions, and a good reminder that such considerations are part of the process. Clearly other airlines are thinking similarly.

But the decision may also be tied to limiting capacity growth. Most larger airlines today are pursuing a path of limited capacity growth, particularly in the markets served by A320 family aircraft. JetBlue is, for instance, adding some seats to its A320s, likely through installation of the Space-Flex v2 arrangement together with newer, slimline seats. But even with this move JetBlue is keeping a generous seat pitch in economy (33″) and not adding the maximum number of seats to its aircraft. Likewise, other airlines control capacity in this fashion.

In unrelated news, Zodiac is separately facing delays in delivering toilets to the Airbus A350 XWB program, Reuters reports. It’s the latest challenge to afflict the company. Zodiac has grappled with supply chain constraints unique to the firm, including a strike last fall at its Gainesville, Texas plant formerly known as Weber, which led to the delay of thousands of aircraft seats. In September, American Airlines announced it is sourcing a new vendor to supply Business Class seats for its Boeing 787-9 aircraft and the remainder of its Boeing 777-200 retrofit aircraft, as a result of the chronic delays at Zodiac.

In releasing its fiscal first quarter earnings results this week, Zodiac assured it is continuing to implement its transformation plan, called Focus, “which will help improve operational and financial performance”. This plan, added Zodiac, “is designed to enable the Group to draw lessons from the crisis that affected the Group’s Aircraft Interiors activities in 2014/2015.”


Space-Flex v2


  1. Zodiac strategists (Olivier Zarouati and his team) should take distance from Suzana Hrnkova (Cabin interiors strategist, Airbus) because she perceives erroneously the market trends in the feeder segment, where cabin service ergonomics, APEX (pax-appeal = well-being & comfort) and cabin Safety are being restored as the three driving factors to cabin product quality, meaning that the ethical controls of feeder service strategy are passing into the hands of feeder End Users (away from the producers, the aircraft OEM and the feeder Operator) ie into the hands of all those who cash out the price for the ticket (the travellers) and those to whom aircraft and airports are their workplace. Hrnkova’s focus – onto operator paradigms of the yield equation – is misleading, explaining a.o. why Airbus e.g. has missed altogether the pertinence of H2XQR Series, the only correct strategy response available sine die for feeder operators going for Leadership in their Markets. SpaceFlex was a short-sighted and rather awkward move to boost cabin density onboard A32X Series aircraft, in an attempt to antagonise the HQR twin-aisle quick rotation IP (external to Airbus) gaining favor in feeder spheres. At little avail, as is shown here by Seth Miller …

    • Seth Miller

      Twin aisle narrow body isn’t going to happen. Space-Flex 2 has nothing to do with that product; there’s no reason for AIrbus or Zodiac to even really think about it, much less focus on trying to beat it.

      The SF2 layout has some value to a niche market. But many carriers also see that it is a bad choice. Turns out having those choices available is a good thing for the market.

  2. Frequent Traveller

    TwinAisleFeeders showcased a difference A321 vs H21QR of 19 seats @ equivalent APEX, whereupon Hrnkova came forward with her extravagant 240 seats in the A321, up from 198 seats (3+3) @ 32″. To reach this number, Hrnkova deactivated doors 2L/R which is the TwinAisleFeeder design. In comparison, John Leahy is pushing A321LR, in the realistic 186 -198 pax bracket. Evidently, Premium 2+2 and Premium 1+2+1 at identical pitch gives identical seatcounts. Why exactly Hrnkova bravely diverged into ULCC configurations is unclear to most industry observers. I’m offering you a backstage explanation, Seth : NB, for insiders only … handle with caution ! Wizz Air’s A321 business plan based on a LOPA @ 234 pax is wishful thinking, they’ll soon come around to reason ?! I agree that SpaceFlex or no SpaceFlex is neutral to the A321 vs H21QR debate : we both gain some 9 seats, if dispensing with the Trolleys is compatible with operator service minima and if Lavatory interaction with Flight Attendants’ reserved quarters is acceptable to Wizz Air cabin crew Union standards ?

  3. Frequent Traveller

    Wizz Air have spoken : in January their A321 was deployed on a couple of routes, featuring 230 seats … down 4 seats from the originally intended 234. But Wizz Air will experiment and learn, until eventually they come back to realistic cabin densities. The function CASK = F(cabin size) for A321 is levelling out to flatness from 209 seats upwards, due to a deterioration of trip costs as cabin seating is densified, implying that Airbus are making an “offre de Gascon” when ULCC LOPA standards are said to improve the competitivity of A321. Wizz Air strategists will get negative feedback from their cabin crews concerning interferences between aft Lav access queuing and cabin crew’s private quarters in the aft cabin. In the end, Wizz Air will again revise their LOPA, to end up closer to a reasonable 220 seat+/- CQFD. Time will tell … The question eventually will arise : why all this ramdam around 240 seats in the A321, promoted by Hrnkova of Airbus, don’t Airbus know the limits of their own aircraft ? Airlines are guided by tainted advise from the airframer’s “experts” into $$$-intensive cabin reshuffling projects, until they realise to have been lead into a blindway ?