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“Feel good” factor returning to aircraft interiors industry?

Jan. 27, 2011, Hamburg, Ger. - An improving economic environment and rising passenger expectations are two of the factors expected to help fuel the aircraft interiors industry during 2011.


January 27, 2011
Carey Fredericks

Aircraft Interiors Expo, which is being held at the Hamburg Messe from 5 to 7 April this year, will once again provide the industry with the opportunity to showcase its latest products and services to the world’s largest gathering of airline procurement representatives. Examples of new business class seating and advanced inflight entertainment and connectivity systems are expected to be two of the trends that airlines are particularly interested in seeing this year.
 
In terms of passenger numbers, both of the major airframe manufacturers – Airbus and Boeing – are predicting passenger growth levels of around 4.8 percent over the next 18 years, which will help to boost travel demand. Added to this many airlines have been holding onto legacy fleets that are now not only less fuel efficient than modern aircraft but are also starting to look tired and dilapidated inside.
 
With airlines taking an ever more holistic approach to their customers, looking at all the points at which passengers interface with the airline – from the pre-flight experience to transitioning through the airport and the flight itself – yet the cabin interior remains key.
 
Vern Alg, Industry Consultant to Aircraft Interiors Expo says: “The recent economic downturn caused many airlines to drastically cut their spending on cabin interiors.  This reduced investment is really starting to show in some areas including cabin maintenance and product upgrades. Now, these airlines are going to have to play catch up or they risk getting left behind as passenger expectations continue to increase.”
 
Vern points out that expectations – beyond the budget-only traveller – have continued to rise even in the downturn. These expectations are about more than just whether the inflight entertainment system is working during the flight. Tatty seat covers and dilapidated carpets, worn looking washrooms, and obsolete premium seats are noticed by passengers.  These things do have an impact on their perceptions of an airline and drive their buying decisions.
 
Indeed, what Vern describes as “the whole airline product” is expected to become more segmented for passengers – in the same way that visitors to a restaurant chose their preferences from a menu of options. This trend is already underway in areas such as choosing to pay for food on flights or paying less if you have less baggage. It is going to be an educational process to promote these initiatives to passengers, but it will become more and more normal for passengers to pick and choose options they want as they create their own personal travel experience.
 
“We are going to see a resurgence in the industry over the next two or three years,” says Vern. “Even mature markets such as North America could see 3 to 4 per cent growth while younger markets in Asia for example could see growth rates of as high as 7 per cent.  The business traveller will be back in force as we progress through this economic cycle.  It’s a great time for companies to be ramping up their research and development as airlines are looking around for innovative ideas to enable their growth plans.”