According to market research firm Technavio, the aircraft seat market is expected to grow by $13 billion between 2022 and 2026. However, Technavio indicates that the market will slow at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 18, 74% over the same period. Technavio’s research therefore indicates that the seating market is growing, but that growth will slow over the next four years.
OEMs need lots of seats for their order books
Many research reports are available on an endless array of markets, and hardly any of them agree. Even on the primary measure of market size, there are very significant differences. For example, estimates of the annual value of the aircraft seat market range from $4.1 billion to $16 billion. According to their latest reports, Airbus has around 7,000 planes in its order book and Boeing has just over 5,000, so we can see that 12,000 planes will need seats from these two OEMs at any given time. The 200 economy seats in an Airbus A321neo or a Boeing B737 MAX 8 probably cost around $4,000 each or $800,000 for the plane, so regardless of the exact size of the market, it’s a big market. Particularly for business class and first class seats, where costs per seat are in the six figures.
KLM has selected the Recaro SL3710 for its new Airbus A320 economy cabin. Photo: Recaro
Globally, there are approximately 25 aircraft seat manufacturers in an industry where innovation and price competitiveness are paramount. The four major players are Collins Aerospace, Recaro, Safran and Thompson Aero Seating. In June, the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) was held in Hamburg, Germany, where the latest seating trends and designs were unveiled. Recaro, well known in the automotive industry, introduced its CL6720 business class and CL3810 economy class seats, which feature lightweight design methods and materials. Additionally, at AIX, Recaro announced that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM), Transavia France and Netherlands-based Transavia Airlines have selected BL3710 and SL3710 business class seats for their 100 new Airbus A320s and A321s.
Both seats are customized with features including an on-the-go device holder and a high-powered USB-C socket integrated into the backrest, allowing passengers to stay connected throughout their flight. The SL3710 seat features a slim backrest, which improves passenger space and maximizes comfort, while the BL3710’s ergonomic design supports short and medium haul flights. The KLM aircraft will be configured in a hybrid layout, with BL3710 seats up front, while the Transavia Airlines and Transavia France aircraft will have an all-SL3710 layout. The BL3710 has also been selected by Chinese company Tibet Airways for its new Airbus A319neos economy section, with the CL4701 for business class seats.
JetBlue is an early adopter of stretch suites on long, narrow-body flights. Photo: Jet Blue
Narrowbody premium seats are on the rise
In premium cabins, Thompson Aero seats are a familiar sight. At AIX, Thompson launched its next-generation VanatgeXL, which features a new design, a fully flat horizontal bed and direct aisle access. The VantageXL has a minimum seat width of 23 inches (58.4 cm), an extended privacy wing in the side aisle, and a multifunctional folding table with a personal electronic device holder. The new seat can accommodate larger screens up to 20 inches (50 cm), a multi-position cocktail table and a translucent seat divider that can be lowered for passengers traveling together. The advent of long-haul flights on narrow bodies, such as the A321LR/XLR, has spawned the use of stretch-flat seats in the herringbone layout. JetBlue is one of the first to adopt them on its transatlantic flights from New York and Boston to London.
The use of lighter materials, thinner seat backs, and durable synthetic leather, such as e-leather, are all fast growing trends in aircraft seating. With all these late planes, there is plenty of room for these new trends to emerge in the next few years.
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