Premium Economy & IFE In The Spotlight At The Aircraft Interiors Expo Press Conference

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Hamburg, Germany – April 5, 2011 – Premium economy is here to stay, seats may have reached the limit of their ‘thinness’ and the IFE market could be about to experience seismic change, according to this morning’s press conference panellists on Day 1 of the Aircraft Interiors Expo. The three-day event takes place in Hamburg until 7th April.

The panel all set any scepticisms about premium economy/economy plus firmly straight by confirming that it is not only here to stay but may hold further opportunities to be explored.

Alex Hervet, Long Haul Products Director at Air France, said that 600,000 passengers had already flown on the airline’s Premium Voyager service since its launch in late 2009 and that the airline now has Premium Voyager across 90 per cent of its fleet. “Next month we are receiving our fifth A380 aircraft and this will be the first one to have Premium Voyager onboard.”

United Airline’s Director of Product Marketing, John Yeng, backed this up saying, “There is big potential out there for premium economy.” He added that feedback from the airline’s Economy Plus area showed that passengers were scoring this service significantly higher than traditional economy in terms of rating the overall travel experience.

According to the CAA, for every four passengers who fly for business purposes, three of them are in economy seats – pointing to a significant growth potential for this segment of the cabin space.

Legroom and seating was also raised as an issue. Airbus’s Head of Aircraft Interiors Marketing, Bob Lange, said he felt it was now mathematically impossible to make seat backs any thinner than the latest products already offer.

Tom Plant, VP & General Manager Seating Products at B/E Aerospace said he thought it was entirely possible that a 28 pitch could become standard for economy use in the future, thanks to the latest seating technology. He said: “The challenge is still long-term comfort in that area – a true judge of how comfortable a seat is means it needs to still be comfortable after three months, six months and a year’s worth of use – if it’s still comfortable after that then you have a great product.”

In the inflight entertainment arena, Lumexis’s CEO Doug Cline, said that IFE was getting ready for another seismic change with new companies coming into the market with innovations – the big question was who was going to survive? He said: “Suppliers have to drive down to the lowest cost of purchase, the lowest cost of maintenance and highest levels of reliability.”

Bob Lange commented that cost was also a major factor for airlines saying that the annual costs to maintain IFE could be as much as an aircraft engine. “It’s important for airlines to make the right decisions from the beginning,” he said.

John Yeng added: “There are many companies with emerging IFE technologies – we are looking for partners that can offer reliable products that can be delivered to market in the quickest way.”

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