Airbus Pushes for Standardization in A350 Interiors

 - April 9, 2014, 11:08 AM
Airbus says that, at 221 inches, the A350 cabin is six inches wider than that of the competing Boeing 787. Unlike earlier Airbus widebodies, it can also accommodate 10-abreast economy-class seating. (Photo: Airbus)

Airbus has added Recaro and Sogerma passenger seats to the A350 supplier-furnished equipment catalog, which includes seats, galleys, cabin “monuments” and other items, but hopes to limit furnishing options to keep assembly lines flowing, officials said at the company’s unveiling of the airplane’s interior in Hamburg on April 7. It also emphasized increased width in the A350’s twin-aisle fuselage—thus boosting a claimed advantage over the competing Boeing 787—and confirmed that the twinjet will accommodate 10-abreast seating.

The European manufacturer has introduced modular Recaro CL3710 economy-class seats, said to offer “maximum living space and comfort” with exceptionally low weight, while Sogerma has improved its premium-economy Celeste “cradle” seat, which provides a “high level of comfort at an efficient pitch.”

Seven A350 customers have frozen cabin plans after sampling a dedicated Airbus Customer Definition Centre (CDC) established last year at its assembly plant near Hamburg. A further seven customers using the CDC, which can accommodate two customers simultaneously, have yet to finalize layout preferences.

The Hamburg CDC’s “cabin configurator,” installed in a renovated pre-Second World War “heritage” hangar, gives A350 customers a “one-stop shop where all customization can be completed under one roof,” according to Airbus head of cabin and cargo Jorg Schuler. Customers can test and compare all elements of cabin furnishing and equipment.

Schuler conceded that Airbus needed to tighten arrangements for supplier-furnished equipment (SFE) selection after cabin-configuration complexities delayed completion of early A380s. “[The CDC] combines all the lessons learned from previous programs and will provide an efficient tool to [support production of] ten A350s/month,” he said.

Marketing senior vice president Chris Emerson said Airbus recognized the need to “manage” the catalogue, because customization on the final assembly line can lead to delays of as much as six months. A byproduct of the process is residual-value stability. If a manufacturer adopts a more standard cabin layout, it reduces the need for large-scale re-configuration between operators or lessees.

Presenting the development interior fitted to flight-test aircraft MSN2 in Hamburg on April 7, Emerson went to pains to promote the A350’s “221-inch” cabin width. Until this week, Airbus had specified 220 inches: the growth, as Airbus confirms the possibility of 10-abreast, seems little but has encouraged the company to boast an increased, six-inch advantage over the Boeing 787 cabin—a 20-percent gain over the previously claimed five-inch difference. Airbus still expects the A350 to enter service with Qatar Airways at the end of this year.