Recaro lands 9000-seat BA, Iberia shorthaul Airbus fleet order

An impressive nine thousand Recaro SL3510 9-kilo ultra-lightweight barebones slimline aircraft seats are arriving from 2018 for British Airways and Iberia’s Airbus A320 family fleets following a large order on the Monday after this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo. The SL3510 won a Crystal Cabin Award in 2009, was first ordered in 2010 by Air France, which jointly developed the seat with Recaro, and is also in service on key BA competitor easyJet.

The Recaro seats will be installed on forthcoming A320neo and A321neo aircraft for delivery starting in 2018, and will also be refitted onto the existing Iberia A320ceo fleet. Interestingly, the images supplied by Recaro do not offer either in-seat power, an eye-level literature pocket, or space for BA’s and Iberia’s buy-on-board menus.

For BA, the move seems set to reduce the mediocre consistency of the airline’s 30”-pitched B/E Aerospace Pinnacle seats, which appear across the airline’s shorthaul A320 family fleet. Overall, the initial reaction from BA flyers RGN spoke with has been relatively positive given the knee crunch of Pinnacle. Much less consistent Iberia has a better opportunity to standardise its fleet.

Recaro had been dropping hints about a large order being finalised during this year’s AIX, but the size of the order is impressive, as is the fact that these seats have won out over longterm BA supplier B/E. It is not clear whether the BA and Iberia order includes the Smart Cabin Reconfiguration flexible pitch option that Recaro and Airbus developed on the SL3510 platform, which won a Crystal Cabin Award last week in Hamburg.

Slimlines like the SL3510 have proven controversial for customers. Taller passengers like the fact that the thin seatback provides extra knee space compared with thicker seats at the same pitch. Other passengers, particularly those not of ample posterior, have found the relative lack of seat cushion in existing implementations of the product to be disappointing in the comfort stakes. An opportunity, perhaps, for BA and Iberia to add some extra cushion for what BA’s CEO promises will be “an outstanding level of comfort”.

“The SL3510 model from Recaro fulfills all of our expectations and offers our demanding customers an outstanding level of comfort,” BA chief executive officer Alex Cruz says about the deal. British Airways’ economy customers, who have seen across-the-board #PaxEx cuts under Cruz’s tenure, are unlikely to take much comfort from these promises.

“Recaro is a premium seating manufacturer and partner that offers outstanding customer service and optimum delivery times,” Cruz continues, and indeed Recaro is one of a very small number of suppliers in the seating business around which rumours of delays and airline frustration are not swirling.

Luis Gallego, Iberia chief executive, is just as superlatively enthralled as BA’s Cruz: “We are especially proud of the balance between comfort and economy achieved by the new Recaro SL3510 seats. The design makes the seats incredibly comfortable, while freeing up extra legroom for all our passengers.”

“With its innovative and both environmentally and economically attractive characteristics, the award-winning SL3510 sets global standards and is one of the best seats in its class. Which makes me all the more pleased that IAG, which sets the benchmark in the market, has opted for our solution,” Recaro CEO Mark Hiller enthuses.

It is unclear how BA’s adoption of an eight-year-old product seven years after others in the market is benchmark-setting.

Recaro did not immediately respond to queries about whether the deal included the Smart Cabin Reconfiguration system, or about whether the seats ordered would be outfitted with power for passengers. While BA’s existing Pinnacle seats do not offer power, some of Iberia’s more disparate shorthaul aircraft do.

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