Regional airlines enhance opportunities in the cabin interiors supply chain

Paul Boughton
Experiencing a business class service from a small regional airport through to a final international destination is no longer a pipe dream.
“In the US there is a strong trend for regional airlines to offer more ‘major airline’-like service with enhanced inflight service including Wi-Fi,” said Kelly Murphy spokeswoman for the Regional Airline Association (RAA).

“In particular, regional airlines are also upgrading their aircraft interiors to dual-class configuration in both regional jets and turboprops, like the ATR 72 and Bombardier Q400. US Airways Express, for example, has added First Class service to 110 of its regional jets including the Embraer 170/175 and Bombardier CRJ700/900 fleet."

Speaking at the Airport/Regional Airline Summit held in the USA at the end of last year, SkyWest Airlines’ President and COO, Russell ‘Chip’ Childs backed up the move towards this trend. “Major [regional] carriers are very motivated by dual-class configurations of aircraft,” he said. He also predicted that the regional industry was going to continue to grow into larger aircraft.
The introduction of dual-class cabins is one area that has been boosting activity in the interiors supply chain and several of these suppliers will be exhibiting at the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this March. They include Zodiac Aerospace’s C&D Zodiac division as well as 328 Support Services, which has been refitting a number of Dornier 328 aircraft for Nigerian charter airline SkyBird Air recently. Two of the aircraft were 32-seaters and have been given contemporary features such as LED external lights and veneer panel interior design to match the styling of the VIP interior in the fleet.  The original seats have been repaired and refurbished as well as new paint and covering finishes for the interior panels.
Kim Fuller, Sales Support Manager at 328 Support Services, said “We support Dornier 328 customers worldwide with most of the fleet shared between the Americas and Europe; recent enquiries have been primarily from Europe with customers looking to invest in their fleet and product offering. Although we’re going to be displaying two VIP seats, with a pull-out table and side wall in Hamburg, the same level of attention to detail is employed on our regional airline renovations and conversions as for VIP interiors.”
Vern Alg, Industry Consultant to Aircraft Interiors Expo said: “Regional airlines’ move towards dual-class offerings is great news for both passenger choice and the cabin interiors industry. It will be interesting to see whether these enhanced service levels have an impact on catering and onboard amenities.  It could be that things like galleys and onboard stowage could come under increased pressure due to the raised service levels required by these dual-class configurations. I’m hoping to see some clever solutions to these challenges during Aircraft Interiors Expo.” 
Last year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo attracted more than 7,900 visitors, including senior airline representatives. This year the event is co-located with World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo.
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