SCHWÄBISCH HALL — Outside the Recaro Aircraft Seating facility building on a bright sunny day

Recaro sees demand, supply chain and diversification opportunities


SCHWÄBISCH HALL — German seatmaker Recaro Aircraft Seating is more than a company with its finger on the pulse of the industry: as the supplier of more than half of the widebody economy seat market, it is a key artery in the middle of the cabin interiors supply chain.

Given the kinks in the supply chain as the industry seeks a post-Covid new normal, Runway Girl Network sat down with Recaro chief executive officer Mark Hiller at the seatmaker’s Swabian headquarters for a wide-ranging discussion about the state of the industry. Starting with the demand side, Hiller sees a substantial market recovery.

“First of all, if you look at the market, it’s recovering — all of the regions, even in the meantime in Asia, especially in China, which is really good, because we were getting many, many requests from all of the regions,” he tells RGN.

In the couple of years prior to the pandemic, Recaro had identified something of an overheating in demand, driven partly by over-the-curve market growth and partly by the popularity of its CL3710 fully featured economy seat, which now has over 50% market share on the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 alone. The industry has now stabilised to the curve it was taking prior to this overheating, Hiller assesses.

“Also, it’s back to normal in terms of lead times,” Hiller says, noting that demand remains particularly high for the kind of quick-turn, low-customisation shipset seating that Recaro popularised with its SPRINT eight-week turnaround. Touring Recaro’s new customer service centre, it was striking that the seatmaker is also focussing on what used to be called the aftermarket: factory refurbishing its own second-hand seats for onward reuse.

Yet challenges remain: “one is about the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] and new aircraft programme delays,” HIller says. “The other one is, I would say, inflight entertainment: shortages and longer lead times on inflight entertainment.”

When Recaro talks IFE in this context, it means screens — impacted by the global screen shortage — but also inflight power, which is incorporated into fully featured seats at the same time and in some of the same processes as seatback screens. Compounding the problem, entertainment systems and power systems are also affected by the ongoing shortage of computer chips, and the trend towards larger screens further means increased certification challenges when it comes to head impact crash testing.

Recaro's CL6720 business class suite is shown. It offers great privacy. A man is seen sleeping in privacy

Recaro is also in the business of premium seating. Pictured here, its CL6720. Image: Recaro

Recaro itself has also been the source of some delays, with the very visible situation of Iberia flying two Airbus A350s without business class as a result of delays from the seatmaker’s CL6720 doored mini-suite product.

“There have been a couple of issues,” Hiller openly admits. “IFE was for sure one issue. One was the certification programme, and overall the complete ramp up during during COVID.”

The issue, Hiller says, “was really just: get the parts, do the certification, run the tests. There wasn’t any setback or whatever, it was really the just the workload to run it.”

The programme has now stabilised and Recaro is delivering multiple programmes with CL6720. 


The company is also diversifying into rail, following the 2022 acquisition of Polish train seatmaker Growag, a market with which aviation has many synergies, especially around safety and crash impact requirements.

Indeed, “in the last twenty years, I’ve always needed to explain why we are not in train seating,” Hiller jokes. 

At present a medium-sized manufacturer serving mainly the eastern European market, Recaro is looking into expanding both geographically, to western Europe, and in terms of product line. 

With rail as a growing high-demand market — “I was at the trade show in Berlin last year, and it was it was like [the Aircraft Interiors Expo] in 2017, 2018 — it was really booming everywhere, it was very positive, all the investment was flowing,” HIller says — options like business class flatbeds and suite-style seating look increasingly attractive in many cases.

Recaro provided travel and accommodation to enable this interview and factory site visit.

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Featured image credited to John Walton