Aerostructures firm FACC has created a new aftermarket services unit and named Lufthansa Group subsidiary Austrian Airlines as its launch customer for Airbus A320 overhead bin modification work.

FACC is a well-established player in aerostructures, interiors and engine nacelles, supplying all the major manufacturers, including Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer.

Two years ago, FACC decided to branch out and supply retrofit structures direct to the airlines, rather than purely focusing on the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Building on that strategy, FACC’s aftermarket services unit will directly supply MRO, modification and spares work for airlines around the globe. One of the division’s selling points is that it is the original manufacturer for many of the structures, so it can deliver quick, high-quality repairs, based on years of experience.

“We are simply faster, because we have the original design data,” FACC CEO Robert Machtlinger said, announcing the new business unit at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, Germany. He added that most repairs can be designed within 24 hours.

The unit’s launch customer is Austrian Airlines, which will begin testing FACC’s larger retrofit overhead bins on three A320s from when the shipsets arrive in November 2018. If the three-month Passenger Luggage Space Upgrade trial is successful, Austrian plans to order the modification for around 30 A320s. The upgrade work takes just one night to be completed and a decision will be taken in spring 2019.

“We wouldn’t go through the trial if we didn’t think it would be a success. We want to see who uses it on board,” Austrian VP-technical operations Michael Kaye told a small group of trade media.

The new bins have a curved door, increasing the stowage of a four-frame bin from three to five cabin bags. This has the potential to speed up boarding, cut turnaround times and improve the cabin appearance.

FACC’s new unit will focus on smaller cabin modifications with the airlines directly. For full-cabin projects, FACC will continue to work directly with the OEMs. For example, FACC recently did a complete A320 cabin overhaul project for US carrier New York-based JetBlue Airways in partnership with Airbus.

“We are not competing with the OEMs. We are nicely lined up. If we are doing an entire cabin refurbishment, we will only work with the OEMs. OEMs have the strongest sales force; we know we can’t compete with that,” Machtlinger said.

FACC, which already has regulatory clearance for repair work in most markets, is seeking a repair approval for its Chinese facility near Shanghai to better serve the Asian market. “China is the largest market that we are missing certification for,” Machtlinger said.

The direct airline work is expected to deliver double-digit millions of revenue within four years, by 2021. Over that time, FACC is expecting to add another 50-100 staff to support this growth area.

FACC is a $920 million company, which has been around for nearly 30 years.

Victoria Moores