Passengers and cabin crew hate them. Airline accountants love them. And this month the market for new, compact aft galley/lav combos became a bit more crowded. The Diehl Aviation SKYPAX offering will soon take to the sky. Delivery of the first shipset (for an unnamed Latin American carrier) took place recently for customer airline installation..
The similarities between SKYPAX and the Airbus/Zodiac Space-Flex v2 offering are significant.
- Both fit the A320 family of aircraft. Space-Flex v2 is available for both new installs and retrofits; SKYPAX targets the retrofit market only.
- Both are developed as a partnership. Zodiac coordinated with Airbus to ensure the design would work as well in implementation as it would in design. For Diehl Aviation the partner is Lufthansa Technik. LHT handles installation of the SKYPAX kit as well, bringing further value to that partnership.
- Both deliver a pair of lavatories in the rear setup that can be converted for use by passengers with reduced mobility (PRM). The PRM offering on a single aisle aircraft is a positive development. It is also generally seen as the only positive passenger experience development from the new kit, and it is a challenge for crew and PRMs to use in many cases.
- Both deliver two extra rows of seats for the airline. Space-Flex v2 promises 15 extra seats while SKYPAX only offers 12. In at least one case (JetBlue) reducing the extra seats to only 12 was a compelling move given other cabin layout challenges.
Diehl Aviation SKYPAX delivers notable differences from Space-Flex v2 as well. The “Virtual Outside View” for the last couple rows of the plane is perhaps the most significant upgrade SKYPAX offers. The kit creates a virtual window view for travelers on a digital screen. Passengers seated in the last couple rows of the new cabin, the seats where the lavatories used to be, do not have real windows available. Virtual Outside View fixes that problem with a synthetic view.
Additional options include modular components to allow for additional crew luggage storage, expanded galley space or a wardrobe closet on board. Diehl also includes the “Digital Direct View Camera System” which allows for cabin crew to be better seated in the galley while still monitoring passengers during critical phases of flight. A new exit slide configuration rounds out the SKYPAX offering.
The company delivered the first kit for installation earlier this month. It plans a production capacity of 14 ship sets monthly with the ability to increase for temporary peaks if necessary.
More slim options
Diehl Aviation also offers a new “normal” slimmed lavatory for the A320 family of aircraft. That product recently was on display at Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas and will soon fly on American Airlines. It does not allow for as many extra seats on board because it remains in front of the rear exits rather than embedded in the rear bulkhead galley.
With all of these new lav/galley consolidation efforts airlines are forced to balance the economics of operations against passenger and crew comfort. JetBlue faced significant push back from its flight attendants over the new galley design, to the point that CEO Robin Hayes admitted that it is not an ideal offering.
Do I love the fact that we have to go to Space Flex [v2]? No, of course not. It creates a much bigger challenge for our crew members to provide that service. – JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker chose a different tack in playing off the many complaints about his company’s new slim lavs. He simply argues the complaints do not exist. It is a media issue, not a customer issue.
"We haven't had complaints about [the lavs]. We've had press about it." – Parker on the 737MAX lav sizing. Rightly points out same lavs fly on DL, WN. But that doesn't mean pax like them. #PaxEx #APEXEXPO pic.twitter.com/tSV9I5AODa
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) September 24, 2018
United Airlines looked at the Space-Flex options a couple years ago and passed on the opportunity, owing in large part to protests from the crew after reviewing the kit in cabin mockups. And at the same time other airlines around the globe seem to be installing the new systems with minimal complaints. Or maybe they’re just not in English so less publicized.
None of this is good news for passengers, except that it might help fares stay relatively low a little bit longer. It turns out that’s what most passengers care more about anyways.