Airframers have typically built aircraft and then sent them off, seldom seeing the frames again or doing major over-hauls.
But increasingly their aircraft will come back to the nest, if not physically then through projects as Airbus and Boeing work to capture more after-market support.
Japan Airlines designated Boeing’s support unit Boeing Global Services (BGS) to over-haul two of its 787-8s into a configuration for JAL’s new medium/long-haul hybrid airline Zip Air Tokyo.
JAL owns those aircraft, but other configuration changes will be prompted as initial leases end and the aircraft are replaced, Boeing VP Commercial Sales & Marketing Ihssane Mounir said at the Singapore Airshow.
“The airplane has been flying for eight years, so you’re going to start looking at the first leases return. You will see people starting to repurpose the aircraft,” Mounir said.
“Our BGS is spooling up on making those mods. We’ve done a lot of seat mods already but they were small seat mods. I think what you’re going to see going forward is bigger seat mods.”
Mounir flagged the first 787 lease return will occur in 10 months. He did not disclose the lessor and airline operators involved but said, “They’re going full-fledge through an entire cabin reconfig.”
787 trading has been active. Kenya Airways sub-leased two -8s to Oman Air while more recently a Hainan Airlines -9 joined Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways. Those transfers did not entail significant interior work.
Major over-hauls are occurring without change to lessor or airline ownership. United Airlines is retrofitting its 787s to include its new Polaris Business class and premium economy product Premium Plus.
As part of the work, there is significant movement of lavatories and galleys. Economy is also impacted as seat density is increased. United appears to be doing the work in-house and with its MRO provider.
At Airbus, Qantas delegated the airframer to integrate the upper deck work on its A380s. The work included Airbus adapting monuments for Qantas and renovate its upper deck lounge.
One large 787 fleet movement will not be going ahead. As Qatar Airways received -9s, it planned to transfer some of its -8s to Air Italy, which it partially owns.
The plan lost momentum last year. If there was any remaining hope, it has ceased: Air Italy filed for bankruptcy this week.