Boeing has teamed up with automotive interiors company Adient to explore a future aircraft seating partnership.

Adient employs over 75,000 people across 230 manufacturing sites worldwide and performs work for all major manufacturers in its sector, covering more than 25 million vehicles annually.

“There are a lot of things that the seating market for aircraft has been lacking, so [we would like] to see what they can create for aircraft seating. It’s all about creating more choice and value,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes seat/IFEC team director Alan Wittman told a small media gathering at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg.

Wittman said Adient is working quickly, but it is too soon to say which aircraft types or cabin class they will target, or when their initial designs might go public.

“They are a large and capable company, so they are looking at the whole market. This is where the collaboration comes in. They are relying on us to teach them how the [aviation] industry works from a certification and technical perspective,” he said.

Adient chairman and CEO Bruce McDonald said his company is keen to leverage the expertise it has built up in the automotive industry in other mobility markets. “Through discussions with Boeing, we believe there’s an opportunity for Adient to raise the bar on the aviation passenger experience, building on our leadership in the automobile seat market,” McDonald said.

In 2016, Boeing’s seating suppliers achieved a record performance, with 10 months of on-time deliveries to its factories, but Wittman said issues still remain. Two weeks ago, in mid-March, Boeing held its third annual seating symposium, assembling all its suppliers in Seattle to discuss design and build quality expectations.

“In the seating world, this has been a challenge. There has been a big focus on design and build quality. It has been a lot of hard work for suppliers and for us, internally, to meet our production rates,” Wittman said. “We have been working with new companies, developing new relationships over the last three or four years. These companies are producing products for line fit. We are really happy with their performance and partnership. We have put a lot of energy into developing new suppliers.”

At AIX 2017, Boeing also announced a 787 economy seating partnership with LIFT by EnCore, building on the 737 seating partnership that was unveiled between the two companies at last year’s Expo.

Boeing has also teamed up with Jamco on two business class seats, Journey-B and Venture, for the 787, set for 2018 entry into service.

“Jamco have really grown their seat business over the last few years; they have got a lot of capability,” Wittman said, adding that the two new Jamco designs should be in the Boeing catalogue by June.

Victoria Moores