Boeing moves into the ‘seats and suites’ business

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Fed up with the delays that plague production of luxurious jetliner cabins, Boeing is forming its own company with the leading seat supplier to the auto industry.

The joint venture with Adient – to be known as Adient Aerospace – will design and market seats to airlines and leasing companies that are ordering new planes as well as retrofitting older ones.

The two companies, in particular, are eyeing complex, lie-flat seats that can cost as much as a Ferrari.

“The front-of-a-plane business, full-flat business class is kind of our initial entree,” says Adient Chief Executive Officer Bruce McDonald.

Boeing said the venture was prompted by slow seat production and a capacity crunch that has delayed jet deliveries and frustrated airlines. United’s premium Polaris seats were slow to make their debut on the Boeing 777-300ER last year when Zodiac Aerospace fell behind schedule.

Rival Airbus has its own well-established interiors and cabins arm in Stelia Aerospace, which ironically will provide the business class seats for the very first Boeing 787-10 due for delivery to Singapore Airlines in the coming months.

Adient Aerospace will be based near Frankfurt, Germany, along with a technology center and an initial production plant.

Adient, the leader in the US$70 billion automotive seating sector, has been hinting at a closer relationship with Boeing since the companies announced a collaboration last March.

The company sees itself as a potential “disruptor” in the aircraft seating realm, Mark Oswald, vice president of investor relations said at a conference in September.

“The customers aren’t excited about the current supply base,” he said. When Adient was approached, a board member “was very influential” in spurring the company to look at the opportunity, he said.

Industry analysts forecast the commercial aircraft seating market to grow from approximately US$4.5 billion in 2017 to US$6 billion by 2026.

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