The long-awaited retrofit of JetBlue’s A320 cabin interiors is, once again, delayed. Company CEO Robin Hayes shared the news during the company’s quarterly earnings call yesterday, announcing a “decision point” in November to determine when the program will start. Still, the company is pressing forward with the shift to 162 seats on board and the Space-Flex v2 lavatory, even as the latter is causing troubles for the airline on its A321 fleet.
Indeed, the Space-Flex v2 galley/lav combination, a joint effort of Airbus and Zodiac, is great at delivering more space for seats on board but faces many other challenges for passengers and crew. During the call Hayes noted that the A321s, fitted with the new kit for a year now, are experiencing failures at a rate much higher than expected. Fortunately, a fix is available from the vendors to solve the issues.
Regarding our cabin restyling program, the industry has experienced design failures with the space efficient lavatories that we have installed on our A321s, and we are planning to install on the A320s. In September, we began repairing the existing A321s. We’re working with Airbus and Zodiac as well as other business partners to ensure these repairs are effective and address the problems we and other airlines have experienced. We’re doing this before we begin modifications on our A320s to avoid having to take aircraft out of service at a later date.
When pressed for more details a company spokesman stated “quality hasn’t been up to standard and we’ve seen alignment issues in the installation,” leading to unexpectedly high rates of things breaking and lavs being out of service. While JetBlue is the only airline that appears to be talking publicly about the issue the carrier insists that it is an industry-wide challenge with other airlines also affected.
That the retrofit is now delayed until November is unfortunate for the carrier in its efforts to increase capacity and reduce costs per seat mile, part of a major plan to please Wall Street. But the delays are not only related to the lavs. The entertainment system was significantly delayed earlier this year, pushing off retrofits during the Spring and Summer. It is somewhat ironic that those delays may now end up saving the company further pains as retrofits can be done just once rather than requiring a second visit to the hangar to fix the Space-Flex v2 lavs.
The retrofit delays are also unfortunate for passengers as the A320 cabin interiors are showing their age in many ways. Perhaps the only slight benefit is that the older seats are more plush in the padding and offer an extra inch of pitch over what the new layout will deliver. Passengers on the retrofitted planes will also get access to larger screens (10″ versus the current 5″) and the latest version of the Thales Inflyt AVANT entertainment system, an upgrade from the LiveTV platform that is flying today.
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That move comes as the Thales STV+ solution initially planned for those planes appears to be floundering in development. Thales stated earlier this year that Azul would now be the launch customer, though that rollout is also under question given Azul’s other entertainment equippage.
On the plus side, the legacy lavatories are far more spacious than those that the A320s will carry once Space-Flex v2 takes flight.