Air New Zealand's stand-alone aircraft interiors business, Altitude, has secured a multi-million, five year deal to design customised furniture for up to 20 new Boeing 747-8 aircraft.
Boeing appointed Altitude this month, with a firm order of 20 aircraft to be delivered to a major Northern Hemisphere carrier between 2010 and 2013, with 20 additional aircraft options available to the carrier.
Boeing has historically required airlines to supply their own customised interior equipment (known as Buyer Furnished Equipment - BFE) to its factories during the production process. This sometimes adds complexity to the schedule.
"We believe there are major efficiencies to be had if we assumed greater control of the customisation process as part of the aircraft's overall build. Boeing's recent appointment of us as an approved supplier of customised interiors components (known as Supplier Furnished Equipment – SFE) reinforces our belief," says Altitude General Manager Michael Pervan.
Altitude is creating customised drinks cabinets, stowage units and closets for the first class cabins of the 747-8 aircraft, to be designed and manufactured to a very high standard to meet the customer's extremely rigorous aesthetic requirements for the units to look and feel like high quality furniture.
The 747-8 Intercontinental is the new high-capacity 747 from Boeing providing airlines with the lowest operating costs and best economics of any large airplane, as well as enhanced environmental performance.
"Our appointment as an SFE supplier and to undertake this first customised contract for Boeing proves their faith in us," says Mr Pervan.
"We are also the first southern hemisphere aircraft interiors business to become European approved to design and certify aircraft interiors, opening up the other big aircraft manufacturing market place. It will all help our profile immensely, especially with the key industry trade event the Hamburg Aircraft Interiors Show coming up at the end of March."
Altitude's previous track record as a BFE supplier has been proven with the successful design and build of various customised features for Air New Zealand's 777-200s and new bar units for V Australia's 777-300s.
"We manage the process from start to finish. One of Altitude's unique features is our ability to provide highly customised aircraft furniture that meets both rigorous regulatory standards for commercial jet aircraft, yet also meeting the customer's expectation for differentiating their premium cabins, taking their concept all the way to fruition including design, engineering, certification and build," says Mr Pervan.
About 10% of the world's airlines create customised interiors.
"Innovators like Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa want these interiors, usually focused in the premium cabins, as a point of difference in the marketplace," says Mr Pervan.
"It's a niche, but lucrative market, especially with Boeing's new 787 and 747-8 aircraft coming on-stream soon, as well as the hugely popular 777 aircraft type."
Mr Pervan says the size of the market could easily grow to about 50 aircraft sets of furniture a year and tens of millions of dollars or more of customised build business.
"While the global economy is certainly making things tough for airlines at the moment, with more than 3,000 aircraft on back order for Boeing, Altitude's plans are certainly one of growth.
"We currently employ 60 engineers, designers and programme management staff and will be looking to employ more staff in the near future."
Altitude was previously Air New Zealand's in-house Design and Engineering division. It was formed as a subsidiary of Air New Zealand in 2008 to meet the growing demand from third party airline customers and private jet owners.
Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs phone 09 336 2761
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