The world in which we live is constantly changing and we are forever being bombarded with the latest gadget, gizmo or instant makeover. The effect on the aviation industry is played out by passengers demanding more and more from the products they fly on, putting the airline under increasing pressure to provide better products and services.
It is not economically viable for an airline to be replacing expensively installed equipment on too regular a basis and so we at MGR have been promoting the idea of “Mid Life Refreshes” for a number of years and it seems to be catching on. It has been standard practice in the car industry to cosmetically refresh a model every few years to keep the brand fresh and present something new and different to their customers on a regular basis. It is a well-known phenomenon in the marketing world that the public’s perception of a product decreases with familiarity.
When Cathay Pacific introduced its award-winning long haul Business Class product onto their B777 and A330 it left them with the dilemma of what to do with the older B747 and A340 fleet which are to remain an important part of the fleet for many more years. To complement the success of the new Business Class product, Cathay Pacific decided to embark on a mid-life refresh programme for their old Business Class product installed on the B747 and A340 to provide customers with a consistent experience across its long haul and regional Business Class products. Cathay Pacific approached MGR Foamtex Ltd to provide seat refresh kits to match the same standard as those already installed on the B777 and A330 aircraft. B/E Aerospace provided the lead and the three companies worked in unison on a very aggressive timescale to deliver what to all intents and purposes appears to be a brand new cabin. The great teamwork amongst the three companies has enabled the initiative to be delivered in less than a year.
We feel the Mid Life Refresh is a valuable tool for the airlines to avoid hiatus’s between major cabin changes and is very cost effective in keeping the cabin fresh and appealing to the passengers but they fundamentally differ from new build projects in that airline often wants to introduce them across the fleet/specific aircraft as quickly as possible which puts a strain on manufacturing capacity, but also places a burden on the airlines engineering and maintenance capabilities, as demand to bring to market often negates the opportunity to align it with planned maintenance programmes, and as such can significantly drive up installation costs. MGR Foamtex is conscious of playing a role in driving down associated costs. One such initiative is the provision of replacement parts in kit form specific to each individual aircraft. This allows what can often be a complex series of replacement component part numbers to be dealt with by simple top-level kit part numbering system, and parts can be supplied in boxes that are identified right down to specific row numbers, even allowing the packaging to be used for removal and disposal of the previous surplus parts. By simplifying the supply of parts, which on occasion has included colour coded packaging to define the difference between different aircraft type kits, MGR is able to reduce the installation costs and lead-time to help speed up the entire process making this type of approach very viable.