Head on view of Recaro business class seats in a widebody. The seats are greyish in tone with a light brown headrest and detailing.

A spiky 2023 for business class supply chain, production and demand

SmartSky - Finally WifI that Wows

SCHWÄBISCH HALL — Airlines that offer a business class product, by and large, rely on their front cabins for the majority of their revenue. Their seatmakers’ acceleration away from the effects of Covid lockdowns, while gathering momentum, has however involved some grinding gears.

In advance of the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Recaro Aircraft Seating head of strategy and products Markus Höllerer sat down for a remarkably open conversation with Runway Girl Network about the current picture, the challenges that Recaro and other seatmakers are facing, and the widebody market in particular.

Overall, Höllerer says, this part of the industry finds itself in a “very good situation at the moment. It’s a great environment to be in after all the years of the of the pandemic and business going down. The actual requests from the airlines around the globe have increased significantly. There are many widebody requests for offers coming back, from all regions. With Asia-Pacific, it’s the last region coming now, because with China the lockdown was very long — obviously, international travel was impacted there.”

Recaro’s staggered, slightly angled CL6720 seat, an evolution of the 2018-era CL6710, is now flying on Air China. Within both China and the rest of the Asian market, the company is seeing “a lot” of requests for seat proposals.

When it comes to aircraft mix, Höllerer says, “we see a lot of 787 and A350. Those two aircraft types are probably the main requests. Not so much 777X: there are requests coming in, but really more of, I would say, the legacy carriers, the really large carriers putting requests for offers out there.”


As one of the final links in the aircraft supply chain, Recaro has been experiencing delays — both as the result of delays external to its own supply chain and as a result of its own internal supply.

The Iberia A350 installation of the CL6720, for example, was delayed to such an extent that the airline took aircraft without a business class cabin, installing unused economy seats in the first zone of the aircraft to serve purely as handholds for the crew.

This resulted, Höllerer says, from “a mixture of multiple things: supply chain related, also from our side for shells, for example, which are coming from South Africa from AAT Composites [a part of the supply chain Recaro has controlled since 2004]. There were also many other supply chain related topics — plus, you take longer with your certification [than] expected, because to start with certification, you need all the parts for the test seats and so on.”

Overall, however, “the in-service performance of the 6720 is way better than a few years ago with the 6710, where we had our teething problems with TAP and El Al. Here with the 6720, it’s significantly improved and it’s up to the Recaro standard, where we want to be.”

Recaro's CL6710 debuted at AIX 2015 on the show floor. The seat is beige with a bright yellow pillow sitting atop it.

Recaro’s CL6710 debuted at AIX 2015. Image: John Walton

At present, the 6720 product is being installed on one retrofit 787 programme, with a further two linefit 787 programmes in the pipeline.

The A330neo, meanwhile, or indeed retrofitting older A330ceos, is more complicated — especially when it comes to options with doors within the narrower cabin. The A330 is the narrowest currently-produced widebody commercial aircraft.

“Because of the size of the fuselage, we have our concepts where we think we can have a zero degree straight orientation,” Höllerer says. “We could make that work. But when you have a request for three or four ship sets, the amount of investment to get a straight concept out — the business case is very hard.”

As for Airbus, he notes, “I think they’re a bit under pressure there when it comes to the offering, because they’ve already approached us there as well. They’re not so happy with what they can currently offer in the cabin product.”

The crux is that business case, which Höllerer suggests would probably balance out at some twenty widebody shipsets. Recaro has “something in a drawer”, he notes, but “we are not there yet.”

Recaro provided travel and accommodation from London to Schwäbisch Hall to enable this interview and a site visit, but all opinions are, as ever, those of the author.

Related Articles:

Featured image credited Recaro Aircraft Seating