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AIX AMERICAS 2014: Aircraft manufacturers focused on pax more than airlines

During one of the panel discussions at Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) Americas in Seattle, airlines and aircraft manufacturers attempted to shed light on topics such as the current recline wars in the U.S.Seat manufacturers such as Zodiac seem caught in the middle, having created what they say are more comfortable seats, even if they are narrower (which is a big complaint among passengers).Jim Cangiano, VP of sales and marketing at Recaro Aircraft Seating Americas, indicated that while seats used to look more comfortable, often they weren’t. He claimed that seats today are more ergonomically designed to accommodate passengers, saying that in reality the “fixed living space” of the seat hasn’t changed that much.Boeing’s regional director of passenger satisfaction and revenue, Kent Craver, seemed to agree, noting that the problem may not be seats are getting smaller, but passengers getting bigger.However, during the conference both Boeing, also represented by its director of brand and advertising, Jeff Robinson, and Airbus, represented by Paul Edwards, head of industrial design, remarked that passengers themselves were the ultimate customer, rather than airlines.Robinson said the aim now was to bring back the magic of flight. He explained, “Flight has become such a negative experience, in which you endure a flight. But when you think of your first flight it was magical. We want to bring that magical experience back. Our big question is what can we do to drive a different experience, to boost the entire industry; that the airlines can’t screw up. We need to design a passenger friendly fuselage, window treatments, altitude, to which an airline can then layer on their brand experience.”Contributing to this is the new holistic approach to design, said VP of Zodiac Aerospace, Jean-Marie Daout. “Industry consolidation has allowed us to work more closely with component manufacturers and OEMs on the entire cabin experience. We can now integrate seats and lavs and the entire interior.”In describing their new philosophies, Airbus, Boeing and Zodiac used four words – customisation, revolutionary and customer centric. “We are looking for a way to dramatically and positively change the way the world flies,” said Robinson. “We are revolutionising the industry for the betterment of the passenger.”Edwards agreed, “If you get it right for the consumer, you get it right.”One wonders if Robinson’s caution about airlines screwing up the experience was aimed at the airlines’ focus on the front of the aircraft. Billions of dollars have been invested in making the business and first class experience more luxurious to justify the thousands of dollars needed to enter that rarified air. Seemingly lost is the economy passenger, which is where air rage occurs.There was a glimmer of hope for the huddled masses at the back, however. Mark Krolick, United’s director of marketing and product development, noted that for the past few years the battleground has been around business class, but today and into the future it will be around the economy plus sector. “We are seeing the tide turn from the premium to the economy, as businesses tell their travelers they won’t pay for business, but will pay for economy plus.”Kathryn Creedy, reporter, Inflight / Inflight-Online.comSeattle, USA

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