Want to know what the new economy class seats for Southwest Airlines will look and feel like? I’m pretty sure a few million passengers are interested in learning all about them, like whether the advertised increased seat width is real or just a math game of narrower arm rests. What does the cushioning feel like and are there power plugs installed. All legitimate questions and all things I hoped to explore during the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2015. Alas, it was not to be.
B/E Aerospace, who designed and engineered the seats, unveiled the new product today at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany.
B/E Aerospace, the manufacturer of the seats spent 2.5 of the 3 days during the event not allowing media access to its booth. Late in the afternoon on the final day access was reluctantly granted and a group of six or so was welcomed by Werner Lieberherr, the company CEO. He brought us through the booth (faster than desired and we were told that recording the interviews was not permitted), showing several of the seating options the company has currently installed and a few new ones, too. We saw windows shades which can provide USB solar powered charging ports at a significantly lower weight than traditional in-seat systems, though also much less effective on evening flights than traditional systems.
We got to see the lighting systems (dancing LEDs like the ANA 787 rainbow mode) and galley inserts for Nespresso machines.
We also saw the new Space lavatory (Delta & Alaska Airlines are the first customers; more carriers will be doing so soon). There really is slightly more width at the hips when seated in the lav though most other dimensions are tighter.
And then we were, in true P. T. Barnum style, asked to see the egress. Having not yet examined the new seats which were advertised as being unveiled at the show I pressed on that topic.
Mr. Lieberherr informed our group that the seats were not available on the booth; they “are still in development.” At this point a true cynic might begin to believe that the product is vapor ware. After all, it is not being shown anywhere publicly. And the CEO of the manufacturer, when asked directly about it, says it is not quite real.
But then there’s the part where multiple other vendors in the show saw and even sat in the seats. So we know they’re real. What we do not know is why B/E Aerospace is refusing to show them in public. What is the company trying to hide?
n.b. A special thanks to Hamburg Aviation for their efforts on behalf of the industry to gain the access which was achieved.
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