Gary Smith, Business Lead – NEO and futureCabin, at easyJet provided a detailed insight into the low cost airline’s interior upgrade project. This is a major investment, as futureCabin will be fitted to 42 Airbus A320s to be delivered new (the first arrived in May 2016 and 12 are now in service) and 130 Airbus A320neos yet to be delivered. In addition, 105 A320s currently in service will undergo a retrofit programme under an agreement with the Airbus Upgrade Services division announced in June 2015.
The main reason behind futureCabin is to increase the number of seats by 6 to 186, which provides both a cost per seat reduction and revenue benefits. However, easyJet has also taken the opportunity to carry out a full cabin specification review and to look at other areas of cabin innovation as part of a continuous improvement programme. Moving from Buyer Furnished Equipment to Supplier Furnished Equipment also allowed a full retender of all the cabin elements with the various manufacturers involved.
The first part of the conversion involves little physical change. Airbus received EASA and FAA certification last year to increase exit limits to 65 passengers per door for the forward and aft doors. This raises the maximum capacity to 189 seats, although some aspects of the layout at this density can impinge on passenger comfort, hence the decision to go for a slightly lower capacity. The certification was granted by taking advantage of exits that are significantly larger (73in x 32in) than the original Type C certification requirements (48in x 30in). However, this does require wider evacuation slides or slide/rafts and the increased size of the cover decreases the floor area in the rear galley by 7.5%.
The biggest change comes from incorporation of the Space-Flex v2 modification, which uses previously unoccupied space in front of the rear pressure bulkhead. This curved area can now be utilised thanks to modern composite manufacturing methods that have made the forming of complex shapes more economical, Smith explains. The biggest engineering challenges include cutting an extra window in the starboard rear fuselage for the triple seats made available in rows 30 and 31 by the removal of the standard lavatory, and the modification of the floor structure under the new rear galley and lavatory complex.
To fill the space, the Space-Flex v2 unit is installed across the rear of the cabin. On the left hand side, facing aft, is the galley. This incorporates space for three full and two half trolleys, with six spaces above, four of which contain three storage canisters. There is an additional storage space on the lower left of the unit with a high power water boiler from B/E Aerospace.
On the right hand side are two lavatories, with the outboard unit having dedicated PRM facilities. A crew seat is mounted on the inboard lavatory door, allowing a clear view down the cabin aisle. Other changes in this area include a full height partition with a double cabin attendant seat immediately behind the extra seats and a solid under-bin partition on the other side. Previously, this had a window but the centre seat means this can be removed, reducing weight and cost.
For new build aircraft only, Zodiac Aerospace is providing an improved forward galley unit, with three trolleys, water boiler and a convection oven, also from B/E Aerospace. A cupboard provides additional stowage space for crew personal belongings.
The boilers replace three beverage makers and Smith notes that the pipework was pretested following previous experience when leaks were found. The convection ovens replace mini-ovens with a capacity for 12 meals. They feature easyJet custom designed trays that extend capacity to 48 meals – early morning flights in winter generate high demand for hot bacon baguettes, he says. This should also make the crew’s life easier as the previous oven was one of their biggest complaints.
Also common to the forward and aft galleys are a redesigned ice drawer and drain, and new non-textile flooring, which is non-slip and eliminates doormats that need to be regularly removed for cleaning.
As part of general cabin improvements, a partition has been added in front of the first row at the L1 door to provide privacy and more protection from the elements during boarding when the aircraft is on a remote stand. The airline has been fitting the Recaro SL3510 lightweight seat since 2013 and all A320s will be fitted by summer 2018. These are now being modified with new seat pockets and a new tray table design that incorporates a PED holder. Changes to the furnishings include curtains and fabric seat covers in a smart grey and orange scheme from Lantal and new carpets from Botany Weaving. There is also LED lighting throughout the cabin and an updated colour scheme.
The new galleys also provided stowage space for emergency/safety equipment. This was previously located in the overhead baggage bins and its removal provided 5% more space for passenger luggage.
The retrofit programme started in October and inputs are divided into two packages, with 49 aircraft to be converted during winter 2016 and 56 in winter 2017. SR Technics Malta is the current provider of heavy maintenance for the airline and will receive 32 conversions, including 13 in combination with heavy and six year checks (the aircraft range from 1 to 7 years old). Next door, Lufthansa Technik Malta will get 11 aircraft for conversion/overhaul. Iberia Maintenance in Barcelona will receive 36 conversions while Adria Tehnika in Ljubljana gets 18 conversions. The final eight aircraft are yet to be allocated.
Airbus personnel will be on site for the first aircraft at each site while easyJet representatives will have a permanent presence. As experience grows, turnaround time for the conversion is expected to drop from an initial 21 days to a steady 14 days. The airline’s AMOS MRO software from SWISS AviationSoftware will be used to manage the project, including electronic sign off. >>
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